Monday, June 14, 2010

CHC: Greed & Faith is a powerful combination

Abraham Lincoln - “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

Without excessive prejudice and prejudgment, the investigation into City Harvest Church by the Commercial Affairs Department of Singapore is a timely reminder to all observers that the law always catches up on you one day. But that’s where the good news ends I’m afraid.

Searching through Wikipedia, I found a list of Christian evangelist scandals dating from the 1920s to present. Though hardly comprehensive, it illustrates the first point in Lincoln’s quote that some people do get fooled all of the time.

In an ever changing world that has witnessed civilizations and dynasties come and go, there seems to remain two constants; Greed & Faith. By ‘Greed’ I refer to the human condition to clamor for more wealth and power and by ‘Faith’ I refer to the blind trust we bestow to both the material and ethereal.

The Faith we place on people blinds us to their Greed and their flaws. When it comes to issues pertaining to religion, human flaws are often overlooked and quickly buried under the blankets of divine trials that are meant to test the resolve of the faithful. A case in point is a City Harvest member that issued a call for arms to fight the oppressors (Government).

Elsewhere, a former City Harvest go-er, blogger Terence Lee, has also been accused for not being objective by what I suspect are die-hard City Harvesters.

A full house City Harvest congregation over the weekend and the almost inconspicuous presence of Pastor Kong Hee, the man in the center of this controversy, is testament to the resolve and absolute faith the City Harvest followers have despite the probe into financial irregularities.

The actual charge on him or his cadre is still not known, but there is a far more important issue to ponder.

If charges are eminent, how far should a person’s faith in his/her God be transfixed onto a group of individuals? Does the allegiance of the City Harvest member go beyond Kong Hee whom is notorious for describing City Harvest as his church as opposed to God’s church?

In many of my conversations with Christians of numerous denominations, the answer I usually get is that their faith transcends the institutions (i.e. even if leaders stray from the righteous path, the faith remains). As with the other high profile financial fraud cases in Singapore’s recent history (e.g. NKF, Ren Ci …) the institutions involved underwent a major PR exercise to divorce themselves from the misconduct of a few. It remains to be seen if City Harvest can do the same.

I am rather confident that the support for Kong Hee & co will remain, unless the CAD unearths massive criminal misappropriation of funds for personal gain. However, I am less confident that justice will prevail as the lack of corporate governance and accountability is not crime in the legal sense. Furthermore, the City Harvest corporate machine is probably so well oiled that every expense can be apportioned to a “mission” or “evangelical” fund of some sort. Therefore, if funds are siphoned to fund Sun Ho’s music career for example, they could label it as funds to support her missionary work in the US. And all those involved in this chain of deceit are so ingrained to realise they are part of what could become the biggest financial fraud case in Singapore involving a religious group/charity; making Durai’s $20,000 and Ming Yi’s $50.00 real peanuts.

In the end the real losers are the faithful who lap of this divine creative auditing and continue to feel obligated to continue with this financial support regardless of the case outcome. And trust me, there will be many of them that will form the people that are fooled all of the time.


Terence said...

Hi Gab,

just a note of correction: I'm still attending City Harvest.

I think like in all churches, CHC has Christians whose faith transcends the church. These are people who will still be Christians even though their leaders fail them.

Also, CHC members are also not afraid to show their support for their leaders. My only concern is that such adoration can rise to unhealthy levels, to the extent that they are blind to the leader's flaws.

Chloe Ask said...

"I am rather confident that the support for Kong Hee & co will remain, unless the CAD unearths massive criminal misappropriation of funds for personal gain."
I disagree with this statement because his supporters are actually convinced he deserves the financial reward for his work done. A similar applies to the die-hard PAP supporters even though the ministers are padding their wallets.

Gabriel Sim said...

Hi Terence,

Apologies for presuming. May i ask you why you still choose to attend City Harvest? You could easily go to another church. Does City Harvest play an important role in your identity of being a Christian.

Please feel free to reply via email if too sensitive.


You have a point. But Im sure there is a threshold whereby it no longer is acceptable. Die-hard City Harvesters would no doubt approve lets say $500k a yr salary for Kong Hee, but would they be comfortable with one million? Two million?

Some tithe with genuine desire that their contributions end up being used for good (church maintenance, charity ..etc) but if its frivolously wasted on excess (which is hardly chrisitan in nature) then they just might be ticked off.