The piece of news in Singapore that is generating the most buzz now is probably the judgement that all six co-accused in the City Harvest Church case have been found guilty. In fact, the buzz is so loud that even foreign media have picked up on it.
The international attention could be a result of a larger global interest in megachurches around the world. As pointed out by the article in the Telegraph, there is a reality tv series about the “bishops of bling“. My current favourite comedian, John Oliver did a wonderful segment on televangelists (not exactly megachurch, but similar in the gospel they preach) to highlight how predatory some pastors can be, the extent they go to increase the money they get and the ridiculous luxury they live in.
I am not saying that Kong Hee and his co-accused were predatory or that they were definitely driven by greed. Though I know that many Singaporeans think that way. And it is understandable why they think that way. Kong Hee and his co-accused seem to lived luxurious lifestyles. In particular, many people questioned whether it was right for Sun Ho to live a life of luxury even though her music career was losing the church millions. And there is the posh $9.3m penthouse in Sentosa Cove that Kong Hee and Sun Ho (after she came back) lived in.
Perhaps if Kong Hee and Sun Ho did not live in such opulence and luxury, the public sentiment against them wouldn’t be so vehement. But because they did, a good proportion of Singaporeans are experiencing epic schadenfreude believing that Kong Hee and his co-accused would be spending time in prison. There are those who even go so far as to make snide remarks about members of City Harvest Church.
And that is behaviour I don’t agree with. Yes, many of us were right in thinking that Kong Hee and the leaders of City Harvest Church did certain things that we felt were wrong. And yes, probably a few of our friends who are from City Harvest Church had been defending their church leaders with all their might, to the extent of saying angry things at us. So fine. We can feel vindicated now that the judgement is out.
But let’s spare a thought for those who are in City Harvest Church.
I am not a Christian, but I know the power of faith. I also know a few members of City Harvest Church who are not naive and gullible people. Many of them stay with the Church because they have truly been moved by the power of faith and blessed by the spirit of the Church. Many of them have found comfort in folds of their Church community when times were tough. Many of them have found peace in their faith when their lives were in turmoil. Many of them have found spiritual nourishment from their Church when they were feeling down and out. Many of them are hurting now. Let’s not rub salt on their wounds.
And even toward Kong Hee and the co-accused, let’s be more merciful. Yes, they may have done something wrong. And we must send a strong signal that we condemn what they have done to deter others who may be minded to follow their example. So Kong Hee and the co-accused will receive the punishment the state deems fit.
Beyond that, let’s not make it impossible for them to get on with their lives. Let’s not damn them forever. Instead, let’s help them with their healing. They are fellow Singaporeans too. After they have faced their punishment, let’s welcome them back to society with open arms, trusting that they have learnt their lesson. Let’s give them chances to be valuable members of our society (amazing things happen when we do that). I hope that Singapore, as a society, will be big-hearted and gracious enough to do that.
[Featured image: CNA file photo by Calvin Oh]