Thursday, 22 October 2015

CHC: All are guilty as charged.

The verdict is out. All are guilty as charged. They have all engaged in covert operation to conceal their unlawful conduct, says the Judge. Sentencing will be in November. The church is disappointed. The accused are still adamant they have done nothing wrong and that only God understands them. The accused may appeal. Prayers are still offered.

Chew Eng Han was seen hugging his daughter, who was crying, in court, while Roland Poon's daughter has this to say, "I feel happy for my father that he is now vindicated, and that after 10 years, we now know that what he did was right...He was brave enough to come out about it. Now, I hope that they can apologize to him, if they still have the heart."

At that time, Mr Poon retracted his allegations and spent over $30k on apologies in newspapers.

Lesson? Three.

1) For me, this saga is about the tale of two daughters, Chew's and Poon's. They are the real victims and the collateral casualty here. Their fate surmises the tragedy of a closed-loop system that only feeds itself to the exclusion of all. Ego, stubbornness, pride and blindness all run this self-perpetuating feedback loop that grows bigger and bigger under the oversight of the self-serving system.

This system is "organized groupishness". It has a head-strong, charismatic leader (sometimes two but no more). It has an ideology that uses everything sacred as a means to its own end. This ideology is fiercely xenophobic (tribalistic even) and unmistakably dualistic, that is, it is always about good versus evil, "they" versus "us", in-group versus out-group, the world versus the church, Caesar versus Christ, and God's will versus man's will.

If this ideology is condensed into a sentence, it would be captured in this CHC'S public statement issued yesterday: "In spite of these challenges, City Harvest Church has an unshakeable calling from God." Unshakeable indeed. This ideology is also exclusive, set apart and self-congratulatory. And lastly, this ideology is unapologetically defensive. It will not take "no" for an answer or acknowledge wrong that leads to repentance, or accept contrition as a posture. And the tears of Chew’s daughter and the agony of Poon's daughter are the painful/unfair result.

2) In CHC's public statement, one sentence reads: "More than ever before, let’s have a unity that is unbreakable. We are not alone as many of our friends and churches around the world are also interceding fervently for us. God knows the way that we take; when He has tested us, we shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10)."

I fear that the real issue here is not about an unbreakable unity but one that stubbornly resists all attempts to break it. The Bible says that a broken and contrite heart, God will not despise. For how can there be true repentance and enduring restoration without self-reflection and brokenness? Isn't this a good time (or about time) to be still and know that He is God?

After the verdict, the misappropriation, the falsification, the overwhelming evidence of dishonesty, the cover-ups, the backdating, the double-speak, the deception on album sales, the sham bonds, the defrauding of auditors, the corporate conspiracy, and the scapegoating and finger-pointing, no one came forward to accept responsibility. No one had the moral courage to turn the mirror on himself/herself and examine his/her heart.

Morally speaking, for the fervent church members, it is staged in such a way that nobody really knows who is right or wrong. Is CHC in the throes of a man-engineered martyrdom or the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt?

Instead, the church sees this as God testing their leaders and that they will one day come forth as gold. I guess for once in my life I get to witness in the public glare "worldly faith" and "reasonable doubt" intermingling in a conspiratorial mess.

Alas, I guess in our desperation to be right, we have conveniently forgotten how wrong we can be about it.


3) Here, I am reminded of the stoning of the adulteress in John 8. Jesus said, "Let those without sin amongst you cast the first stone." However, there are three differences here.

First, that was a set up, a trap. The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus with the Mosaic laws. And the man was deliberately let off. In CHC saga, it is clearly not. The prosecution had no agenda. It was not religiously motivated. They avoided completely and stoically what the defence was so desperate to throw in their faces, that is, theological legitimacy (in other words, God approved Kong Hee's and Sun's behavior). On the contrary, the prosecution respected it (religion that is). They honored it. They played by the rules. They are just doing a largely unseen, unglam and unappreciated job. They spent years investigating and yesterday, they saw the fruits of their labor. For them, it's back to the grind today.

Second, it backfired. Jesus put the trap-setters on trial. He arraigned the Pharisees, laid down their charges on the ground, and one by one, convicted or otherwise, they left - from the oldest to the youngest. Here, in the CHC saga, the accused put our justice system on trial. They tested it. They disclaimed responsibility still. They insisted they have done no wrong; not a smidgen. They implied injustice or a blind one. They managed to get thousands endorsing their so-called innocence. And all this against overwhelming evidence, even their own admission during trial.

And lastly, I believe the adulteress was remorseful. Jesus told her that no one condemn her (neither him) and to leave her life of sin. She did just that. She repented (who wouldn’t after such an encounter with Jesus right?). However, in the CHC saga, none of the leaders stepped up to the plate to be counted as only human, fallible and broken (Jesus or no Jesus). To compound matters, they recently ordained Ho Yeow Sun - the one who was in the eye of the storm, the center of the controversy - to lead CHC 2.0. I guess there is no greater show of "innocence" (or defiance) than this.

In the end, I too walked away just like the crowd from the so-called stoning. I have kept my stones to myself (sometimes, I throw it here just for kicks). I do not see any point. If history has taught us anything, it has taught us nothing. It is not about stoning anymore; it's about stone-walling. And the irony here is that I am not the one doing the stoning. Cheerz.

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