UPDATE: City Revival removed the video and apologised for its contents on 25 July. See updated story below.
SINGAPORE — Two members of a Christian group in Singapore have met with backlash from viewers and the LGBTQ community after they said in a video that gay people were influenced by Satan.
In the video talk on Instagram by Jaime Wong, founder and director of the group City Revival, and former actress Joanna Theng, the pair said the gay “movement” was a manifestation of the biblical devil’s plan to insult God.
Theng, 22, starred in Mediacorp’s Channel 8 drama, While We Are Young, in 2017. She is also an influencer with close to 140,000 followers on TikTok and over 46,000 followers on Instagram.
City Revival describes itself as a ministry training school for youths under non-profit organisation City On A Hill. Its website says that it is “an inter-generational and inter-denominational Christian community” that seeks “to empower and give Christians the platform, guidance, and resources they need to create content centred around sports, arts, and media to further God's kingdom.”
Netizens have posted many comments on the Instagram pages of Theng and City Revival, criticising them for their homophobic comments demonising gay people as agents of the devil.
In the 14-minute video, Wong says, “Have you ever wondered why the ‘gay pride’ celebrates pride? Because Satan knows that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. So Satan wants mankind to celebrate the very thing that God opposes: pride.
“Have you ever wondered why the gay pride uses a six-coloured rainbow flag as a symbol for love? Satan knows that God is love. In the Bible, the rainbow is a symbol of the peace and love of God...The biblical rainbow has seven colours. Seven is a number symbolic of perfection in the Bible and it appears everywhere in Revelation...On the contrary, the mark of the beast is the number 666.”
Theng said, “Is it a coincidence that the gay pride celebrates taking pride in distorting the true symbol of the love and peace of God with the six-coloured rainbow flag? We believe this movement is one of the ways that Satan the spiritual force has influenced the physical realm to manifest in ways that insult and show contempt for God.”
Yahoo Lifestyle SEA reached out to Theng for comment but she had not replied at the time of this article’s publication. She posted a comment defending herself on Instagram on Thursday (23 July), saying that she has many LGBTQ friends. “I have never hated and never will hate on anyone in the LGBTQ+ community in my midst...Disagreeing with an act does not mean I do not love a person.”
Mission in ‘sharing God’s love and truth’
In another of City Revival’s videos, Theng says her mission lies in sharing God’s love and truth with others through the content that she posts online.
Yahoo Lifestyle SEA also contacted City Revival. An employee said that the group would not be speaking to the media.
Pauline Ong, a pastor at the Free Community Church, the only officially LGBTQ-affirming church in Singapore, said, “What is very clear is that there is symbolism and the use of imagery and metaphors throughout the book of Revelation. This means we need to take extra care when interpreting what the text says, as it can be very damaging when the text is misused.
“Over the years, many have tried to demonise others and look for the Antichrist based on their own readings of the text. Unfortunately, this is what is happening here and we feel it is important to say this is not how most Christians would understand or interpret this text.
“We may each have our interpretation but I think the litmus test is this: if our interpretation oppresses others, if it doesn't give life, then we need to rethink our interpretation. Such interpretations demonise and dehumanise others, and often leads to justification of violence against them – this is not the gospel, this is not love.”
In the City Revival video, Wong and Theng also denounced abortion and glorification of suicide as lies by Satan to kill people. They also said that the Holocaust was a scheme by the devil to eradicate Jews.
Wong said in another of City Revival’s videos that she believed the filmmakers of the blockbuster Avengers movies were led by Satan to create parallels in the story to the Bible’s Book of Revelation.
Activists have said LGBTQ people in Singapore suffer persistent discrimination and stigma. Sex between men is illegal under Section 377A of the Penal Code. The authorities have said the law is not actively enforced but is still in place to reflect the moral views of the conservative majority.
Local broadcaster Mediacorp recently apologised for homophobic tropes in a TV drama following a backlash from viewers and the LGBTQ community.
Several legal challenges against 377A have been heard in the courts over the years. Three such cases were dismissed by the High Court in March this year.
Apology issued on Instagram on Saturday
Wong posted an apology on Instagram in the wee hours of Saturday, and removed the video that had been the subject of criticism.
She said she personally scripted all the three videos that were part of City Revival’s online Bible study series. The video that sparked criticism had been the third video in the series, posted on Wednesday (22 July).
She said she had been part of the queer community and had pursued a same-sex relationship with a woman in the past. She later became a Christian.
In a statement in a video, Wong said, “Dear LGBT community, I’d like to share a personal message with you. If there’s a group of people I identify with the most, it would be the LGBT community, because I was one of you.”
She added, “I understand the hurt and anger that some of you may be experiencing and the motivation behind your comments in my last video. I accept them. And I’m sorry that the video has caused you to feel this way.”
“It was never my intention to hurt or to condemn anyone... I understand that you may disagree with me on my truth, but every person has the right to their beliefs and to speak up for what they believe in... Having said this, I have decided to remove the video from the public domain in the spirit of peace.”
This is the video with Wong’s statement in full: