Sunday, 1 February 2015

What if it is a "not-guilty" verdict...

In an alternate universe, I can imagine that all the six accused from City Harvest Church charged for misappropriation of church funds via sham bonds were duly acquitted. I can further imagine that the prosecution’s appeal against the acquittals were duly dismissed by the Appellate Court. This means that the accused are all free men and women and they are at liberty to return to their Church to lead it. If such is the outcome of the trial, where would my imagination take me? What can I expect the CHC leaders to do after this incredible victory?

Considering that they were subjected to the most grueling and exhausting trial that had protracted for two years, and was divided into three tranches, spread over many months of cross-examination, defended by senior legal eagles of the land, and having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on both sides, isn’t this an amazing, unbelievable, and some may even say, miraculous turn of event? What is next for the Church and their beleaguered leaders, especially Kong Hee and his wife, Sun Ho?

Well, if I am at liberty to push my imagination a little further, I foresee the reporters and journalists, both the local and foreign press, clamoring for an immediate interview with the CHC leaders. I also foresee the whole Church coming together in an unprecedented celebration of praise and worship to give thanks for answered prayers after many months of fasting, travailing, persevering and steadfast believing. Surely, most of the members’ faith will increase by leaps and bounds.

Last but not least, I further foresee a marked increase in church attendances as those who had once left in disillusionment quietly returned to the fold because a so-called miracle of this unlikeliest outcome cannot but be perceived by them as a demonstration of the most wondrous hand of divine protection on the accused. You can say that all six of them have been placed in the fiery legal furnace for more than 100 days and have come out of it unscathed, fully delivered.

What will this then mean for the future of the Churches in Singapore as a whole? Is this a resounding endorsement (or a begrudging acquiescence) of the Crossover Project, and will the same be replicated in varying degree by some of the independent churches here? I mean, who wouldn’t want to hop onto the bandwagon of world-immersive evangelism that seems to promise a godly harvest?

Of course, a lone victory of this nature will not a revolution make, and one blanket acquittal - even for a trial of this notoriety - will not a mass conversion bring. This is not exactly Calvary mind you. I will no doubt expect many to be wide-eyed with disbelief at the verdict and how the Courts could have arrived at a not-guilty pronouncement. In fact, it will not be a stretch of my imagination to say that many traditional, and even independent, churches in our conservative society - not to mention atheists and agnostics – will come to this conclusion that an acquittal in this case does not in any way vindicate or validate the controversial Crossover Project.

But that is really besides the point. My imagination will nevertheless be relentless in trying to uncover the spiritual resolve/conviction of the leaders after this Jericho-like victory. How will they see this new-found freedom for their personal faith and public ministry? How will Kong Hee and his team – with the exclusion of their ignominious Judas-like "fund manager" of course - reinvent themselves after that?

Will they be encouraged, deeply emboldened even, to take the Crossover Project to the next world-penetrating level? Will they raise more funds for it – this time doing it openly, more daringly and no less zealously? And will Kong Hee interpret this legal deliverance of sorts as a glowing sign that God has wholeheartedly approved of what he has been doing since day one? 

If the birth of the Crossover Project since 1999 is of any indication, then I would expect the answer to be in the affirmative since Kong Hee had claimed the same for the birth of this world-saturation project when he received more than three unmistakable signs to confirm its divine endorsement.

The first sign he received was a godly call for revival in Taiwan. This seems normal enough, expected even. The second was after 911 when both the husband and wife team were strolling in the streets of Kowloon. They were passing by an electronic shop displaying huge TV screens showing the performances of secular pop-rock groups from mainland China.  At this time, the couple claimed that the presence of the divine fell on them with these confirmatory words, “Sun, you will do better than this. I will send you to sing before millions of people and you will lead them to Jesus Christ.” 

Well, it is anyone’s guess as to the real motivation or agenda behind this message.

The next two confirmations were directly from men, that is, after a worship leading in Church, the managing director of Decca Music approached Sun and offered her a full professional singing contract. And around the same time, Kong Hee’s three mentors, one of whom was Phil Pringle, all gave him the same Bible verse in Mark 4:35, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 

(It’s a good thing that all three of his mentors did not converge on the Bible verse in Matthew 14:30 where Peter cried out to Jesus because he was beginning to sink into the water. It would then be renamed as the sink-under project).

These were the confirmations that Kong Hee single-mindedly sought after, and unsurprisingly found them. 

So, if my imagination permits me further remit, I am tempted to ask: How will Kong Hee and his team interpret this decisive legal victory over those who strive to stop God's alleged plans? Wouldn’t they take this watershed moment of their church history to confirm that God’s ways are indeed higher than men’s ways, and God’s thoughts are unquestionably higher than men’s thoughts? If so, I am afraid my imagination may lead me by the hand to a place where my heart will scarce to enter.

It will be a world where megachurches may be too big to fail, or in this case, jail. They may take the world by storm in their no-hold-barred evangelistic missions, which will differ little with the things that are done in the secular entertainment and music industries. In fact, if China Wine and Kill Bill are anything to go by, I will not be surprised to find Christians of this uninhibited charismatic movement using their body in ways that will make even our local nightclub dancers squirm or cringe. 

I will also expect godly songs to take on a rather worldly, or even decidedly carnal melody, tempo and lyrics. The youth of this particular faith may also be openly audacious, even provocative, in their mannerism, dressing and interactions.

In the spirit of fully crossing over and total world immersion for the sake of evangelism, they may end up more loose with their tongue, more open about mature and adult-themed discussions, more accommodating in their conduct in order to connect with the world, and more flexible in their faith so that they will not run the risk of being identified by the unbelievers as a Jesus-freak, a religious nerd or a holy joe.

My concern here is that they may bend over backward so much that they may fracture the crucial spiritual spine that has been holding them up as the light and the salt of this world. In other words, they may be so immersed in a world they so desire to transform that they may themselves be the ones who are transformed by it without knowing it until it is too late. The risk is therefore always there and it is always there to ensnare.

Let me end with this Martin Luther King’s quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

I believe the power of love will change everything He touches. Love has created this world. Love has offered His begotten son. Love has overcome. Love will ultimately deliver. But love cannot change His nature to hate because in love, there is no hate. And in the same way, light cannot change its properties to darkness because in light, there is no darkness. 

Using this as a metaphor for the Crossover Project, it is therefore unwise to use the methods of the world to change the world in the same way that one cannot use darkness to drive out darkness. And by extension, neither can one borrow darkness to brighten a room nor shine a light to darken it. Imagine an archer's shadow trying to shoot a real target with an arrow.

So it is with the misguided conviction of the Crossover Project, whose noble evangelistic intention will not be enough to save it from the shaky foundation upon which it is premised. For 1 John 1:5 has already made it abundantly clear that “God is light; and there is no darkness in him at all.” In other words, if one is to go out to win the world for Christ, it will have to be done with the light of truth, and not to cross-over under the covers of darkness. Cheerz.

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