I have some thoughts about the City Harvest Church Case today, so I’d like to write my opinion here. The intention behind writing this post is not to influence anybody/ start petitions/ go on a rampage but to write down my personal reflections.
In fact I don’t even have a conclusive stance and I’m also no legal counsel–So take my opinion with a pinch of salt!😀 If you want to share your thoughts you can leave a comment under this post.
Basically, after the six defendants presented their appeal, the state prosecutor DPP Ong pointed out flatly today that all six leaders showed zero remorse. And The Middle Ground wrote an excellent article on the top quotable rebuttals by DPP Ong.
From the way DPP Ong phrased his arguments, I can totally imagine him rolling his eyes all the way in the benches as the exact same plea was repeated in this current court of appeal. DPP Ong probably felt a lot of angst and thought that this whole case is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
In Singlish: he felt very du lan. Such eloquence though!
Having said that, I’m not a member of City Harvest Church but actually I can see the perspectives from both sides. So today, I will try to elucidate some points I felt were interesting, from a business perspective.
Point #1: The City Harvest Church leaders probably really don’t believe they did wrong!
The argument is as such:
- Church goers tithe or present offerings to City Harvest Church.
- City Harvest Church collect the tithe, pray for God’s blessings over it, and then are free to use the church tithe on whatever they deem “Godly”.
- Investing in the Crossover Project featuring Sun Ho is deemed by the church leaders as “Godly”. Most church-goers probably do think so as well, if not they’d just leave the church and not offer money/ tithe to City Harvest anymore.
- Main point: Is there anyone still in the church who protests against this? No. Most people who protest against the City Harvest Church funding Sun Ho are “outsiders”.
So from a business perspective, it is clear that people from City Harvest Church and people outside of City Harvest Church have different perceptions related to the value of tithing/ giving money to City Harvest Church.
Therefore, the key here is consent. If the church people are not complaining about their use of money, who are outsiders to complain?
Let’s say I make one bag and call it The Hieno! Bag. The bag takes SGD$10 to make. Because you read my blog and like me and my brand, you want to buy this bag. So I say, OK, there is only one of this bag on earth, and I’m charging SGD100,000. In addition I will bless over this bag and you’d have a blessed life.
I can be sincere while saying all of these by the way, because I really believe that God will bless both of us. The bag is therefore also a reminder of all the blessings that have been proclaimed. If you consent to buying this bag, and I consent to selling this bag, then who are other people to make judgements on this one transaction?
In addition, I’m selling a bag which I prayed over, and proclaimed blessings on! This leads you to believe that you’re blessed and results in your better well-being. What’s so bad about it?
Unless there is a law that states “thou shall not anyhow sell bags at a 10,000% markup”, what I am doing is perfectly legal because there is consent. Even if there is a law that states “thou shall not anyhow sell bags at a 10,000% markup, because people are gullible”, I can still believe what I’m doing is perfectly decent. Because I do things with the best of intentions and I really don’t know there is such a law.
Which is what the six leaders are arguing now– “Don’t know” + “With great intentions”. And I actually believe that they can argue all of these sincerely.
Oh by the way, another sidenote is that someone can buy my bag if I tell them that the bible says they must buy my bag, because buying the bag is to honour God, and the proceeds from the bag will technically go to honour God.
So the transaction is between God and them, not God and me.
Therefore, if I misuse the money made from the bag, then God will punish me, because my misuse of money is between God and myself.
SO it’s not their problem and they are still being good Christians because they offered money/ tithe in accordance to the bible. Therefore, members should still do their good part to tithe to God as good Christians. If the pastors/ leaders did wrong, it’s not the member’s problems because the members did nothing wrong. Leaders are then answerable to God directly.
Point #2: This is where transparency comes in.
DPP Ong makes an excellent point that…then why do the leaders deny that church funds were being used to support Sun Ho’s career?
Yes, there is actually evidence all over the media and internet that they flatly denied that funds were used to support Sun Ho’s career. (One example: Roland Phoon; Another example, how the funding was buried under the accounting reports due to omission.)
Which to me works quite badly against the defendants’ case, because even with consent + “I don’t know” + “best of intentions”, there were missing information not revealed to the public.
So the next question is “What is at stake? Can we afford to give them benefit of the doubt?”
The answer is actually no. Because this case involves “$24 million of the church’s building fund. Then, with an additional $26 million to cover up the first transaction.”
So a total of $50 million is at stake! And do they need to pay taxes on this SGD50 mil? <– this part I am not sure, need to check, let me know if you know.
Then you see ah, they fought the case, and now they appealed, so where does the money to fight the court cases come from? Again this is back to a question of value and consent, and nobody should judge.
Point #3: Then why don’t the City Harvest leaders be transparent right from the start ah?
I think it’s because they really felt that they know best. They probably also felt that they know God’s heart best. As a church-goer, you probably don’t know God’s heart as well as they do. So as a member, you should just follow and there is no need to “waste time” for the leaders to be transparent.
I personally think that maybe along the way, it becomes hard to differentiate personal ego from God’s voice. This is actually pretty possible, because if you can raise at least SGD50 million from preaching ah, damn, you have some persuasive powers man!
And perhaps, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Maybe.
But consider this scenario– If they were perfectly open about Sun Ho’s case, and declare openly that the money is being used to fund her singing career and the Crossover project, would they get a lighter sentence?
Or perhaps, would it then justify everything they do?
Let’s say if leaders openly say this:
“Dear City Harvest members, we need to convert people. Jesus always ate with sinners, never with the self-righteous. Therefore, the crossover project must involve sinners and we are going to Hollywood! We are sending Sun, my wife, because she is blessed by God and God gave me peace in my heart to send her. We are going to do very secular music videos, because it’s only through that that we can reach sinners and convert them. So please offer generously to this cross-over project and let’s ambitiously convert sinners!”
I believe yes leh!
You might call me brainwashed, but I can see that argument, and I do buy that argument. I can imagine people not buying that argument, but I can imagine people buying that argument too.
So if there is good intention + consent + “don’t know about the law” (whatever that means), can they still be jailed? Since people who give them money are fully in the know.
So why don’t they do that initially? I believe it could be due to three reasons:
- One, really guilty conscience; and
- Two, don’t want anybody to question their leadership and plant seeds of doubts;
- Three, really believe there is no need to explain because leaders in City Harvest Church–blessed by God– are always correct and perfect.
To point one, it’s really asking for trouble and they should be jailed.
To point two, I think it’s reasonable, because sometimes it is damn irritating to have people questioning you. However, the point of contention here is that if you pay people, then they should not question you because they take your money. However, what if people pay you? Shouldn’t you be answerable to them and at least attempt to be transparent?
To point three, it’s an ego thing lah and a blind spot caused by group think.That means not really following bible what because bible says must put Jesus first.
Okay~ I think i’d end here because I’m done with documenting my thoughts. Isn’t this a really interesting case though?😀
Let’s watch what happens next.
P.S. Serina Wee is very pretty!