Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Some thoughs on the City Harvest Church scandal in Singapore

I wrote this over a year ago when the CHC Scandal broke. This is a re-edit.

I find it very sad to read about the recent alleged financial mismanagement of funds at City Harvest Church  And so I don't want to read too much into it. From the little I know about CHC right from the start - esp. the wife's involvement with the music industry and their style of preaching - I found them dubious and I steered well away from that.

The misconduct of a few should not prejudice our view of the whole. Some churches are very large organizations and there will be many parts of the group that are doing a fantastic job helping the community etc.. like the Catholic Church despite its cohort of pado priests and crazy nuns.

But I'm not too surprised if the allegations are true.

As Christians we shouldn't be too shocked.  Even during the time of Jesus - one of the disciples, Judas, was stealing from the finances and virtually the entire religious leaders at the time - The Pharisees - the ancestors of fundamentalist Christians- were pretty fucked up. Then you have Jacob, Samson, King David/Bathsheba/Solomon etc.. And if you care to dig deeper into church history - you'll find a lot of corruption going on. Just Google "the Sale of Indulgences" - you won't look at the ornate and beautiful Church buildings in Rome and Europe with such glowing wonder.

Scandal (impropriety) easily happens when you give a small group of individuals an excessive amount of power. And of course its not just religious organizations - we only need to look at the Great Financial Crash of 2009 - whole nations were duped into financing a property bubble orchestrated by banks and traders and it all came crashing done. The  banking staff responsible for that almighty catastrophe are still being awarded obscene salaries and fat bonuses instead of being thrown in jail. Where is the accountability there? Before this there was the Long Term Capital Management fund collapse - then the tech crash. Anyone remember Nick Leeson who bankrupted the Barings Bank with unauthorized trades that lost nearly a billion dollars? Why isn't languishing in Changi jail? No one seemed to learn a damn thing.

And what about our own Govt and its investment arms? A lot of people are wondering how the wife of our leader can hold such an important position despite a record of appalling losses. Peanuts maybe. And who says Christians aren't the only ones who plead the need to forgive?

But that's what happens when you give a small group of individuals practically unlimited power - and don't hold them to account. Churches by their very nature are suppose to be spiritual places run by leaders of great spiritual excellence. We trust them to do the right thing. But we should also realize that we're human. We are not perfect and we do make mistakes. Just as we trust fathers not to rape their daughters - just as we trust mothers not to drown their screaming babies in the bathtub - we trust that church leaders will not cover up the misconduct of a Priest who regularly rapes his choir boys and shifts him to another unknowing congregation after he has expressed that he has repented of course!! - we trust and hope that the people in authority do what's right and just and fair.

I've always been a bit skeptical about mega churches - they always seem to have a cheerleading - rah rah zing boom rah attitude. God helps anyone who tries to sing a different song from the hymn book.

And its not just the Charismatic churches that are at fault. When I was a student - the conservative church that I was attending had another church building project fund - and the preacher was urging people to give above and beyond - give in faith. Give! Give!! Give!!!!!!! I was only a student and gave til I ran out of money for food. As people who believe in the power of prayer, in the ability of God to move mountains, to heal the blind and the deaf and the dead, to turn water into wine, all this talk about faith giving, the obsession over money left me as a young fervent believer feeling a tad confused. The verses in the Holy Scripture are there of course to be quoted. But I think the whole emphasis was wrong.

But when we assume too much. When we become complacent. When we see what's going wrong but are not allowed to speak. When the system is designed to shut up dissenters. Things start going awry. Then no one should be surprised about the awful odor.

One of my cousins asked a few weeks back before the scandal broke whether I was concerned where my offering money was heading. Yes of course. But to a certain degree I regard my monetary offering (which is terribly small and irregular by the way) as a duty and obligation before God. I do not want to be like my own father who although he was a high ranking church leader was extremely cynical about Missions and church offering. We give because it is what God wants us to do. We pray that our church leaders will do what is right with our offering. Because on that Day, we are expected to give an account to God for all the things we have done.

And it is also up to us to try and hold the church leaders to account. Gone are the days of Inquisition and church sanctioned torture - nowadays the best they can do is to ostracize members. Sadly sometimes that subtle threat is more than enough to keep people quiet. Don't rock the boat!! Christians forget that Jesus walked on water.

If you ask me - a greater emphasis should be placed on prayer, and personal devotion. Our faith should not be based upon what Pastor KH, the Pope, or whoever says. Our faith should be organic - grown from within. Of course we learn and take what we can from preachers and church teachers - but Christians forget that our faith is a relationship with God.

When Jesus said in Matthew 7:21

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

How can we know the will of God if we don't pray and have spiritual fellowship with Him?

Look at King David - he led a terrible life and did appalling things- yet God loved him because he had a love and passion for God.

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