Oops, he did it again. Kong Hee said sorry for the second time last evening. Yes, he did. He said he was deeply sorry. This time, instead of the three bows, his voice was trembling slightly.
He said: "I've so much to say but if I can sum up in one sentence. Pastor wants to say: I'm sorry for all the hurt, all the disappointment and all the painful ordeals you've been through."
He continued: "I really, really, really wish that I was and am a better, wiser, leader. Pastor is deeply sorry and sincerely asks for your forgiveness. Please forgive me." This apology came a day after the High Court appeal decision on Friday.
His first apology came after his conviction in the State Courts in October 2015. The first apology goes like this:-
"I am so sorry for all the pain and the turmoil you have had to endure under my leadership, under my watch, You have had to answer questions, and criticisms from family, from friends, from colleagues. Pastor is so very sorry. So so sorry. That you have to endure through all these under my leadership."
While the two apologies are largely similar, the second apology goes a little deeper – not necessarily into the right depth though, or the right trench of remorse mind you.
You see, he admitted, to some extent, that he should have been a wiser, better leader. He even said that “in the midst of the church’s quick growth, he had not “slowed down, paused and prayed more” and made “unwise decisions” in the process. “”
Now, we all know that he is apologetic about dragging his church members through the 7 years of painful ordeal, that is, the hurts and disappointments. He also regrets that his leadership should have been wiser, better.
What makes it even more poignant is that he asked for forgiveness. That should amount to something right? You don't ask for forgiveness unless you have done something wrong right? I guess to the masses who gave him a rousing applause yesterday, they were and are contented to leave it as that. To them, their pastor and founder has expressed remorse, he has apologized, and they readily forgive him fully. Let's move on.
Now, while I can understand how readily (and eager) his congregation are prepared to forgive him, and most will even forgive him without a formal, public apology, Kong Hee's apology however still leaves many questions unanswered. In other words, it creates more confusion than clarity, more suspicion than serenity, and more questions than resolution.
More importantly, it leaves those who have left the church in disappointment and anger (and the public at large) wondering this:-
"Is he admitting to his congregation that he is guilty of falsifying the accounts, that he has misled the people he had said sorry to, that he has concealed from them the truth about the album sales and his wife's singing career, that he has misrepresented to his current and former members about the success of the Crossover Project, that he has set up sham bonds and companies under his de facto control, and that he is now asking for forgiveness for pushing the blame to others, for leading the other appellants astray, for dragging the case hoping to avoid facing the music, and for failing to set an example expected of a spiritual shepherd based on honesty, sacrifice and integrity – and not a globetrotting head rancher who believes in his unalloyed innocence?"
Or is Kong Hee asking for forgiveness for what his members have to go through when the church was under his watch (and absurdly still is, that is, vicariously)? Or worse, is he sorry that he was caught, even sorrier that he was convicted and his appeal against conviction dismissed, and the sorriest for having to serve time for his crime (which till this day, he is the least remorseful about)?
As you would know by now, the difference here is one between a specific admission of wrongdoing(s) and a general apologetic sentiment of regrets that leaves much unsaid about what he is specifically regretting or apologetic about.
At this juncture, you may ask me this: "Mike, stop splitting hairs? Let it go and move on, please. You are being calculative, narrow minded and petty. The man has apologized. All's squared now. He is God’s anointed and he has done great for evangelism as a whole."
Well, pardon me, but I take all things with a pinch of salt. You should too. Surely, the seven long years of criminal investigation, trial and appeal, and the millions of dollars spent on a failed evangelism project to elevate one's matrimonial partner (not to mention the astronomical legal costs, agonizing tears and time expended by the other appellants) cannot all be swept under the charismatic rug just because of a brief evening of showmanship-like apology that neither demonstrates one's conviction of guilt nor pins down what one is specifically guilty about in the first place.
While Ye Peng, looking contrite, hugged and shook hands with church members, Sharon Tan and Serina Wee teared up when they left the Court on Friday. Mind you, these are real lives (with young children) he had led with complete disregard and overwrought ambition just because he was all consumed by two things: his delusional calling, and his even more delusional belief in the success of his wife’s music career on the international stage for an obtuse evangelistic purpose.
What's more, where is the apologies to the daughters of Roland Poon and Chew Eng Han, who cried their hearts out when their beloved fathers were discarded by the wayside under Kong Hee's leadership, with one paying S$30,000 for telling the truth, and with the other being left to shoulder the full blame despite devoting his life, time and money to the Crossover vision led by the pastoral couple.
Leadership exacts a high price, and he who is unwilling to pay even a fraction of it because his pride and carefully burnished image restrain him is better off stepping down for others more worthy to take over.
Alas, it is said that a man can and will do a lot of right things for the wrong reasons. And for this reason, an apology can serve many purposes, and not everyone of them leads to enduring repentance, restitution and transformation.
Personally, I find Kong Hee's apology (on both occasions) lacking specificity, sincerity and integrity. His conduct after his first apology betrays his conviction of guilt. He went to ordain his wife as the lead pastor, even when she is the cause of the entire debacle. He fought the appeal tooth and nail denying any wrongdoings even for moral and ethical lapses of leadership - even comparing himself to Apostle Paul. And he expressed disappointment at the appeal decision expecting a full acquittal even when the sentence is drastically reduced.
All in all, my impression is that he is still insistent that he is in no way to be faulted for the investigation, the prosecution, the 142-day criminal trial, the leadership and the appeal (notwithstanding his asking for forgiveness for being unwise).
And to put it bluntly, Kong Hee is sorry for the inconvenience caused to the church. He is definitely not sorry, or at all, for continuing to stand firm believing in his innocence after everything that has transpired since day one.
But still, no man is beyond redemption. I trust it may take some time for Kong Hee to process it all. I believe that he is still confronting his own demons, and the greatest battle he faces is not in the public eye, where he gets deafening applause at a snap of his fingers. His greatest battle is within, away from the public eye, where his broken conscience resides.
Let me end with this quote: “All men should strive to learn before they die – what they are running from, and to, and why.”
One day, Kong Hee will have to stop running, and start asking tough questions that would hopefully bring him closer to his own redemption, and not away from it to a crowd that is all ready to affirm and endorse whatever he has to say on stage. Cheerz.