Christian influencer Joanna Theng apologises for homophobic video before withdrawing from social media

·4-min read
Influencer Joanna Theng in a City Revival video.
Influencer Joanna Theng in a City Revival video.

SINGAPORE — Influencer and former actress Joanna Theng apologised yesterday (25 July) for a Christian video that linked gay people to Satan, before withdrawing from social media.

Theng, 22, had received a lot of flak from netizens after appearing in a video talk posted on Instagram by Christian group City Revival on Wednesday (22 July). In the video, Theng and City Revival director Jaime Wong said the “gay movement” was a result of Satan’s plan to insult and show contempt for God.

The pair associated the six colours in the LGBTQ pride flag with the “mark of the beast” in the Bible’s book of Revelation, saying that gay pride was a sign of the devil’s influence on Earth.

Wong posted an apology on Instagram on Saturday, and removed the video that had been the subject of much online criticism.

Theng posted an apology in the form of an Instagram Story before apparently deactivating her Instagram account and making her TikTok account private.

Theng had over 46,000 followers on Instagram and has almost 140,000 followers on TikTok.

In her statement, Theng said, “Before I go, I would like to publicly say that all I’ve said in City Revival’s video was never out of the intention of my heart to hurt anyone, but I understand how some of the parts had played out and were received... I am sorry that the way it was shared caused so much hurt. I sincerely apologise for that.”

This is Theng’s full statement:

Influencer Joanna Theng posted an apology on Instagram on 25 July 2020 for a homophobic Christian video posted by Christian group City Revival.
Influencer Joanna Theng posted an apology on Instagram on 25 July 2020 for a homophobic Christian video posted by Christian group City Revival.

She has been criticised, however, for what some called an insincere apology.

In a Reddit thread discussing Theng’s statement, one netizen said, “I think even if you disregard the religious aspect, this is simply a non-apology. In brief, it essentially says: ‘I'm sorry you perceived my message wrongly. I stand by the essence of my message, and will find a way to better phrase it in the future.’”

Another netizen said, “She claimed that she never intended to hurt anyone. I find that very hard to believe, words hurt. And from her phrasing and tone, she was definitely there to heavily condemn. This wasn’t an outreach of love, it was there to attack and punch down on the already oppressed group in Singapore.”

Wong, City Revival’s director, told Yahoo Lifestyle SEA that neither she nor Theng would make further comments beyond their apology statements.

Pauline Ong, a pastor at Free Community Church, the only officially LGBTQ-affirming church in Singapore, shared with Yahoo Lifestyle SEA: “We feel it is important to say this is not how most Christians would understand or interpret this text (the Bible’s Book of Revelation). 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 the justification of violence against them – this is not the gospel, this is not love.”

Pink Dot said in a statement on Saturday night, “The broad generalisations cast on LGBTQ+ Pride in this video made outdated allusions to the concepts of ‘sin’ and ‘Satan’. We celebrate pride because it provides a safe space for people to be their authentic selves. It is about people coming together to celebrate love and friendship, and also remember how far progress on equality has come, and how much more work should be done. More importantly, it is about being proud of who we are, regardless of who we love.

“The rainbow in the Pride flag is not about the numbers of colours it has, but it is about representing the many diverse segments in the LGBTQ+ community. Even till this day, the Pride flag is constantly evolving to be more inclusive and diverse as more and more of us in our respective communities begin to find our voices and place in society.

“We hope that everyone can respect and recognise the lived experiences of LGBTQ individuals who have faced discrimination, violence and pain in their lives.”

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.

Related stories:

Christian group in Singapore apologises, takes down video calling gay people agents of Satan

Mediacorp apologises for TV drama containing negative gay stereotypes

COMMENT: Dear Mediacorp, here's a crash course in equal media representation

Singapore's LGBTQ voters call on election candidates to end silence on queer issues

Singapore court dismisses 3 constitutional challenges to Section 377A

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