Friday, June 29, 2012

Reacting to Reactions to the City Harvest Case

Expectedly, there has been an outpouring of reactions (mine included, I guess) towards the latest news involving alleged financial misconduct at City Harvest Church (CHC) (But strangely enough, I have yet to see any letters published in the local newspapers about the case). Although I have not seen all the reactions, I would say that broadly speaking, these reactions were either condemning or supportive in nature; with a few "neutral" reactions.

If I may, I would just like to respond to some of these reactions...

Firstly, as implied above, the CHC case is most polarising - attracting a large amount of both "offensive" and "defensive" comments or reactions. And to make use of a concept I recently learnt, these reactions appear to be caught in a reinforcing loop. As the "offensive" comments become more offensive, the "defensive" comments become defensive which in turn contribute to "offensive" comments becoming even more offensive and so on.

Specifically, as more people pass critical remarks about the CHC case, the more "victimised" the supporters of CHC become, thus increasing the likelihood of them making "defensive" comments, for example: that the allegedly misused $50.6 million is just the price to pay to enter heaven (true comment  I saw online), which attract even more critical comments. This is likely to escalate, making the situation worse and even more worrisome.

Also, while I understand the preference by CHC supporters to want to stand by and support their beloved Kong Hee, there is, I think, a clear distinction between being supportive and trying to justify what he and the four others have done as correct or God-inspired and alleging that there is a "conspiracy" against them and the church/religion. If I may use an analogy, it is perhaps okay for a wife to stand by a philandering husband but wholly different for the wife to try to justify what her husband did or for her to start alleging that those who criticising the husband's behaviour as trying to spoil their marriage.

In addition, I have also seen comments about how people should not "pre-judge" Kong Hee et al., that they are innocent till proven guilty. Well, I would definitely agree that they are innocent till proven guilty. However, as I said in my earlier post, the probability of them being eventually found guilty is quite high, in view of how the authorities only made their move after two years of investigation. This is similar to how while we cannot be totally certain that the Sun would rise from the east tomorrow morning till it happens so this way tomorrow, the probability of this happening is most high based on previous years of observation and experience.

Moving on, some have quoted John 8:7 to perhaps argue that people have no right to be critical of what Kong Hee et al. have done when we all are not perfect and have made mistakes before. However, I suppose those who cite this principle violates it even as they cite it because, by citing it, they are criticising others for criticising others, if you all get what I mean. And although I am no Bible expert and am not a Christian, I recently come to the realisation that beyond asking us to not criticise others because we too have made mistakes, John 8:7 is perhaps more about asking us to acknowledge our own deficiencies even as we point out the deficiencies of others. Meant as a shield against all criticism, John 8:7 was perhaps not intended to be.

Finally, just yesterday, I read a Facebook post in which the author perhaps made the case that the authorities' recent move against Kong Hee et al. is perhaps a repeat of Operation Spectrum 1987. While I can understand why the author would see them as somewhat similar (government action taken against church members), I would think that these two incidents are separate and different. This is because although Operation Spectrum could arguably be seen as a move to clamp down on a political threat or challenge, the political motive is perhaps absent from the CHC case. While I am not entirely familiar with CHC teachings, my impression is that it preaches the gospel of prosperity (God wants you to be rich!) and the use of popular secular culture to appeal and reach out to non-believers. Neither of these would seem to be politically subversive or threatening; it is a cultural and money-making/materialistic mandate CHC preaches, not a political or social mandate. While Kong Hee as the leader of CHC is undeniably influential, his influence does not appear to extend into the political or social sphere where the state may feel challenged or threatened. I would thus say that the probability of the CHC case being a repeat of Operation Spectrum to be most low.

To end off, I suppose as the court case involving Kong Hee et al. unfolds, there would be further interesting developments. We will just have to wait and see...

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