Some people find Singapore oppressive. I am not one of them. It is true that Singapore has some unusual ways of responding to behavior that is inconsistent with their values and priorities. Their approach to things has created a number of urban myths – such as a law that chewing gum or having it in your possession is a crime. The fact is that carrying or chewing gum is well within the law; just be careful how you dispose of it! Tossing gum carelessly could cost you a lot of money. On the other hand, dispose of it properly and everyone is happy.
I have not always been a fan of the Singapore approach to things. When I was young, long hair was “against” the rules. I couldn’t see the reason or logic but in so many ways I was missing the point. I wanted my approach to be as or even more important than their customs even though I was a guest in their country. Singapore has developed a reputation as a country with strong values that are strictly enforced. Bringing drugs into the country? Anticipate a lengthy jail sentence and the possibility of a death sentence. Steal or vandalize? Again, look forward to swift and fair judgment followed by a strong measure of accountability. Stay within the rules and enjoy freedom and safety.
Singapore holds family values as one of the community’s highest priorities. Everything stems from that center. The fact that many rebel speaks more to their values and priorities than to their actions. Most people don’t steal, vandalize, or exploit others. Everyone can be environmentally sensitive. It is hard to imagine people “wanting” streets filled with garbage and gum randomly tossed about.
Yet we all fear what we know to be inside our hearts. The Joel’s warning plays out when judgment comes. “A black day! A Doomsday! Clouds with no silver lining! Like dawn light moving over the mountains, a huge army is coming. There's never been anything like it and never will be again.” (Joel 2.2)
God offers hope from our fears.