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Harvey Weinstein: Monster or One of us?

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Google the name “Harvey” today and you’ll immediately get a deluge of negative articles about Harvey Weinstein—previously celebrated but now disgraced American media mogul.

Weinstein’s nightmare started a month ago, when allegations of sexual harassment against him by several women, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, came to light in a New York Times article.

Since then, more than 90 women have stepped forward to accuse Weinstein of rape, sexual harassment, or assault starting from the 1970s. And the allegations show no signs of abating.

The spectacular fall from grace of entertainment company Miramax’s founder has triggered a flurry of articles about the power dynamic of the casting couch and systemic abuse of women in Hollywood. And the backlash against Weinstein has been immense.

Not only has he suffered professionally—he has been sacked by the board of his company, expelled by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and kicked out of the Producers Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, among other things—but his personal life has taken a big hit as well. His wife, Georgina Chapman, has announced that she would divorce him, saying that her heart “breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions”.

Weinstein has been called “a monster” and a “beast”, and the shocking allegations about his unbecoming behavior, if true, seem to warrant only one appropriate response: condemnation. Those who have tried to make jokes about the saga—like English talk show host James Corden and Britain’s Environment secretary Michael Gove—have been slammed for being insensitive and making light of the situation.

Sure, it’s hard to sympathize with a man who—if all this is indeed true—has for decades abused his power and gotten away scot-free with his actions against women.

But in a Telegraph article, writer Laura Bates offered an interesting perspective. “Harvey Weinstein is not a ‘beast’ or a ‘monster’,” she wrote. “He is a man who has behaved like many other powerful men. The only difference is that Weinstein’s alleged offences have finally, after decades of shameful silence, emerged into the public eye. But thousands of men like him continue to operate with impunity.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Weinstein is not the only who may be guilty of such misdeeds. In recent weeks, allegations against other high-profile figures in Hollywood, like Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, and Steven Seagal, have also come to light.

If there is anything to learn from such cases, it’s this: regardless of how powerful or important we are, our sins will find us out eventually—if not in this lifetime, then in eternity when we face God. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

In a way, this is both comforting and disturbing. It is comforting, because it means that even those who have managed to keep their misdeeds hidden from the public eye will ultimately face judgment from the ultimate judge. But it is also disturbing, because it means that every one of us will be called by God to account for our actions—no one is excused and no one is exempted.

So, perhaps, it’s wise if we—instead of pointing the accusing finger and casting stones at those who have fallen from grace—put in more effort to make sure our lives are in check. After all, what if we were in Weinstein’s shoes? What if one day you woke up to see all your past sins suddenly uncovered and put under the spotlight for the world to see? Would that make any difference to the way we respond to Weinstein now?

We could take a leaf out of actress Ashley Judd’s (one of the first victims who came out to accuse him) book. When asked in a television interview with ABC news about what she would say to Weinstein today, even as he continues to deny the allegations, she responded with a message full of grace: “I love you, and I understand that you are sick and suffering. And there is help for a guy like you, too, and it’s entirely up to you to get that help.”

You see, though the extent of our sinfulness may differ, we all are sick and suffering. And we all need help (Romans 3:23-24).

Crying Over Nabeel Qureshi

Screenshot taken from YouTube

I never thought I would cry over a complete stranger. But the death of a man whom I have never met had me tearing up a few times this week.

Last night, it happened again while I was watching the live stream of Christian apologist and author Nabeel Qureshi’s memorial service. Hearing two of his mentors, apologist Ravi Zacharias and Rice University chemistry professor Jim Tour, recount their time with the 34-year-old and his love for Jesus as well as his non-Christian family, had me welling up in tears.

Perhaps it was because the tributes were heartfelt and heart-breaking, or because it felt like I actually knew him personally. I bought Nabeel’s book two years ago, and have been following his progress since he first announced that he had advanced stomach cancer. Whichever reason it was, Nabeel has certainly made an impact on my life—as well as the lives of many others.

Here was a man who centered his entire life on Jesus and the gospel even though it meant turning his back on the people he loved most dearly—his family, who were staunch Muslims. Not only that, he went on to proclaim the good news of Christ, through talks and books—such as New York Times Bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus—despite threats to his safety and relentless criticism from those who considered him an apostate.

So many, including myself, were shocked that God would take him home so early on in his earthly life. Like most people, I couldn’t help but wonder, Why? Why now, when he was at the peak of his ministry? Why now, when he had just started a family? Why now, when the world needs gifted and passionate communicators like him to build bridges with the Muslim community?

Though none of the answers that have been circulating online can fully answer these questions, a post I stumbled on provides a deeply encouraging and helpful perspective. It was written by Nabeel’s colleague, the North American Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). In a beautiful tribute to his dear friend, Abdu Murray wrote:

Ravi Zacharias, who loved Nabeel deeply, has written about him in a secular news source. Thousands who had never heard Nabeel or the gospel he loved to preach have now been exposed to Jesus’s life-changing message. People have seen Nabeel’s steely faith remain steelier yet in the face of death. They have seen the “peace that passes all understanding,” as the Bible calls it, in Nabeel’s voice. And they are encouraged to face difficulty with grace. A deaf world is roused through the megaphone of pain to hear the message that God has overcome the troubles of the world through Jesus. Nabeel was a megaphone for that message in his life and he is a megaphone for that message in his passing.

 If not for anything, Nabeel, who made a significant impact during his life, continues to make an impact in his death. Many have come to know of him, his books—and his God—after hearing about his life and death over the past week. I believe Nabeel’s legacy will continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Nabeel is no longer with us. We will miss him dearly. But while his passing may seem like a huge loss, let us not forget that he is in a far better place today. And let’s not mourn without hope—for we have the full confidence that God will continue to raise up men of great faith to continue His kingdom work. Just as God can raise up a devout Pharisee like the Apostle Paul and an ex-Muslim like Nabeel to become effective ambassadors for Him, He can—and He will—continue to convict the hearts of men in His own time and way.

Words Can Kill—Literally

Screenshot taken from YouTube Inside Edition


Written By Jasmine Koh, Singapore 

Is telling someone to commit suicide a crime? According to the verdict of a landmark case in US, it is. For urging her boyfriend to take his own life via text messages that led to his suicide in 2014, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter this week.

In dozens of text messages and phone calls, Carter had encouraged Conrad Roy III, who had a history of depression, to kill himself. And when the 18-year-old had last-minute jitters after filling his truck with poisonous carbon monoxide gas using a generator, Carter even ordered Roy by phone to “get back in”. It was these final words, said Massachusetts judge Lawrence Moniz, that constituted “wanton and reckless conduct”.

Many legal experts had expected Carter to be cleared of the charges, and were shocked by the verdict, which sent a strong message that encouraging someone to kill himself can be considered as severe as the act of killing. Some have denounced the verdict as unconstitutional, saying it violates free speech protections.

Whatever we may think of the judge’s decision, what we can probably agree on is this: words have power. The Bible notes this too—God spoke the world into being through His words; Jesus healed many just by speaking through to them; and we are reminded of how words can build up or tear down (Proverbs 12:6). In Roy’s case, Carter’s words clearly played a part in destroying his life.

We need to consider the weight of our words and to control our tongues. James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (NASB, emphasis mine) .

The comparison of the tongue to a fire is apt: it encapsulates the perverse, powerful nature of this tiny part of the body. Just as a fire that starts at one part of the body can burn up the entire being, misusing the tongue can bring about massive and dire consequences on our lives.

That’s why the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:29, urges believers to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”.

May we learn to be mindful to speak words worthy of Christ, and to use our words to show God’s love and saving grace in our daily lives.

Would you make this your prayer? “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

United Airlines: Who deserves to be on that plane?

See #UnitedAirlines trending on social media? If you haven’t heard about it, United Airlines is currently embroiled in a controversy over a shocking video of a passenger being forcefully removed from a flight after he refused to be off-loaded.

According to news reports, the flap started when passengers on Kentucky-bound Flight 3411 were offered US$800 to give up their seats to make way for four crew members. No one volunteered so the airlines randomly selected four passengers. While three of them left begrudgingly, Dr David Dao, a Vietnamese-American, resisted, saying that he was a doctor and that he needed to see patients the following day. Chicago Department of Aviation security officers then yanked the 69-year-old from his seat and dragged him off the plane.

Numerous videos captured by fellow passengers went viral and caused a storm. To make matters worse, a company e-mail was leaked revealing the airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz describing Dr Dao as “disruptive and belligerent”. He also said that he stood behind his employees.

Many are now accusing United Airlines of discrimination, saying that they treated Dr Dao so badly because he is Asian. This was not helped by a news report supposedly highlighting the doctor’s troubled past and brushes with the law.

When such things happen, it is easy—almost natural, in fact—to condemn the airline. After all, it would seem that Dr Dao should not have been subjected to the treatment he received, no matter what his past and ethnicity. Some have also condemned the news site for digging up his criminal past.

Reading these arguments has left me with a number of questions. For example: Should our ethnicity determine our worth? Should we be judged on our past? In short: Who deserves to be on Flight 3411?

As Christians, we can take comfort in the fact that in God’s eyes, the answer to the first two questions are: No. God does not see us based on our skin color nor our past. In fact, we are all equal: all of us are sinners, and all of us are in desperate need of His grace. We can do nothing to make ourselves more acceptable to Him, or to increase our worth. That’s why God does not look at our past criminal records and secret sins, nor our achievements and accolades.

In fact, if God were to judge us based on our sins, we would all suffer the same fate as Dr Dao—mercilessly dragged off the plane. We would not even have the chance to be on that plane.

Our merciful Father loves us as His children and forgives our sins. Instead of hauling us off the plane, He invites us to join Him on board.

Now, if God were willing to forgive and put aside His judgment against us, shouldn’t we, as His followers, be willing to do the same? Do we judge people or treat some as less deserving? Having received God’s love and treatment, do we view them the same way God viewed us?

Today, I would like to challenge you to remember that we are all “equal”—we are all sinners who need grace just as we do.

It’s easy to point the finger at United Airlines and others. But is it time to do the same to ourselves?