City Harvest Church – condemn the act, but let’s not damn the people

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.

BBC and the Telegraph both have reports about the case. The BBC tried to give closer look “inside” CHC, while the Telegraph focused mainly on the facts surrounding this case.

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]

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17 thoughts on “City Harvest Church – condemn the act, but let’s not damn the people

  1. No. Until the criminals are repentant and remorseful. They have not shown any of those yet. And, don’t be stupid. If you want to be stupid, be so yourself. Don’t influence others to be stupid like you.

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    • Ah… but if I am stupid, how can I possibly influence others to be stupid? Unless they are also stupid to begin with? If that is the case then did I influence them at all?

      Also, are we saying that if a criminal is unrepentant and not remorseful, then we should not help them rehabilitate, help them heal? That the only thing we can do is to keep on punishing them, beating the living shit out of them, locking them up and throwing away the keys? That love, kindness and education have no part to play in rehabilitating a criminal?

      I certainly hope Singapore isn’t that kind of a society. In fact, I will do anything and everything I can to make sure that Singapore isn’t that sort of society.

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  2. Kong Hee and his wife don’t seem very remorseful. It seems like they are trying to weasel their way out of this predicament.

    I don’t see how they can be “rehabilitated”. They are conniving opportunists.

    Give them a chance and they might do it again,

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    • No one is suggesting that anyone should give them any chance to repeat their offence. Kong Hee and co-accused should be barred from holding any positions that give them fiduciary oversight and financial control in anyway of any organisation. But we should give them a chance (or maybe even more than just one chance) to learn their lesson and become better people. I personally refuse to believe in the complete immutability of a person’s character.

      Liked by 1 person

      • But the fact lies in that the sentence does not stop them from repeating or even continuing to commit the same crimes. They can still return to CHC after the sentence, and I do not doubt that the CHC members will continue to trust them.

        And they have certainly not giving the public any good reason to trust that they repent. Their recent Facebook posts have given no sign of any guilt or remorse, perhaps even fueled the outrage.

        It would not be fair to damned them forever, but… I would feel it would be justified that we have not forgiven and forgotten just yet. ( Even though it doesn’t actually concern any of us. Since the “victims” don’t feel like they are getting cheated at all. I feel the inexplicable need to rage over this injustice on their behalf. )

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  3. As a member of the church, my heart is extremely blessed after reading your article. Indeed, we’re all humans and we all screw up one way or another, just that on such a grand scale of things, one’s screw up is greatly amplified. However, that doesn’t justify us to not be forgiving and condemn them to eternal damnation just because of their wrongdoing, this in itself isn’t a naive perspective. I for one truly appreciate the mature view that you’ve placed on this issue that very few choose to see. Not that I blame them. And I just wanted to tell you that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. this is perhaps the most balance and insightful view of the situation, and you are more “christian-like” than even actual Christians. Yes, we can condemn their acts, but don’t damn them.

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  5. As humans, we have all made mistakes before, some trivial and some serious. Prudent that we have room for compassion for all, including those who have made serious mistakes. There should be rooms for positive aftermath and also for environment and safeguard which would minimize the chance of relapse into erroneous ways.

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  6. Members of chc were deceived of their hard earn money so that these people can live a life of luxury. As a pastor his job is to ensure donations are used properly n towards the needy as much as possible. Even after the Judge has pass judgement they refused to accept the outcome, in other words non-repentant at all. I don’t blame the chc members. The fault lies solely on this 6 as they knew what they were doing was wrong but simply ignored it. To forgive them is not a problem but are they remorseful of what they did n will they repent? That’s the question before forgiveness can be given.

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  7. It is not just the person. The problem is with the institution. When society refuses to address the real issue, the problems of a rogue leader will rise to cause destruction to lives.

    Be it religion or politics, it is the same.

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  8. Generally, rational people, including the people from the court, the judges, can see the crime committed but not the church. Many have been deceived and continue to live in deception and in support of deception.

    What the nation did is to smack the cockroaches but leave the nest untouched. Does that make sense to you?

    CHC, and many others, continues to thrive and yet society would have us believe they care for the people and their well being.

    I wonder what good can come out of a deceived lot.

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  9. The leaders were clearly deluded. They have committed criminal activities knowingly. They were indulgent and full of themselves. Yet, they fathered world wide following that can easily filled dozens of Football stadium.

    Beware, like Father like children. Their house still stands!

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  10. There is a big difference between committing a mistake versus a crime.

    False churches do experience false signs and wonders. People unfamiliar in this Christian ‘industry’ will not know.

    There are certain actions that the genuine Christian God expects of His genuine followers. Watering things down with unconditional love, forgiveness, condoning and non actions are sometimes non biblical. False Christians will advice otherwise with cheap grace.

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