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Since it’s Easter Sunday, allow me to say this not as a journalist, but as a Christian:

As a Christian, the worst thing about the entire City Harvest Church (CHC) saga is the fact that its congregation continues to support an organisation they know to be dishonest.   

Since the start of the trial, I’ve had to deflect awkward questions about my donation habits and about my faith. Why do you even go to church? A friend had asked.

While it is somewhat my duty to defend my religion,  it also feels like I’m cleaning up someone else’s mess.

I am no longer willing to do so.

It is time for the CHC congregation to accept responsibility for their actions.

They are just as dishonest as their leaders

Now that the facts have been decided, the right thing for CHC to do would be to hold its leaders accountable. At the very least, one would expect a change in leadership.

This has not happened.

Instead, we see CHC calling its members to stand “united” in support of Pastor Kong, a man that has been convicted of Criminal Breach of Trust.

We see Sun Ho – the wife of Kong Hee and a beneficiary of the Crossover project, leading CHC in Pastor Kong’s absence.

We see a statement made by a  CHC member which said that “if there is a Crossover launched tomorrow, 15,000 of our congregation will still support it.”

We see a congregation of 15,000 strong still showing unwavering support for its leaders.

It’s one thing to be misled or manipulated, and it’s quite another to remain loyal to an organisation that you know to be dishonest. Some might call it faith, but I see it for what it really is: a complete lack of remorse.

Gamblers and to a smaller extent, investors, live by a similar modus operandi

What is even more troubling is the psychology behind this.

At first, it seemed like a clear case of Stockholm Syndrome. Like hostages, or people stuck in abusive relationships, they feel like they have no choice but to continue to support Kong Hee & co. To renounce him, would be to accept that they had been living a big lie. It would be a straight up existential crisis, a matter of survival.

But to say this lets them off the hook a little too easily. This isn’t a hostage situation and the CHC members did have the freedom to choose their actions.

The real reason why the congregation continues to support its leaders, despite knowing the facts, is because they themselves had enabled the crime.

It is thus in their best interests to maintain the status quo.

The Prosperity Gospel scam

Explaining the above begins and ends with the Prosperity Gospel.

The Prosperity Gospel, which is preached in a fair number of churches essentially says that if you tithe and donate to the church, you will then receive manifold blessings in return.

In fact, a central message of previous CHC services was that tithing would trigger blessings. These blessings could come in the form of promotions and career advancement – they even shared testimonies of church members who had received promotions because they had tithed to the church. The takeaway being that if you tithed / donated to CHC, your life would improve.

Buy 10 Sun Ho CDs, and expect to get a job promotion in return. Tithe 10% of your salary and your company will be profitable by the end of the year.

Gamblers and to a smaller extent, investors, live by a similar modus operandi.

And while there’s nothing illegal about this, it is motivated by a self-centred impulse. If you donate to a church because you want to get that job promotion, then you are motivated by selfishness and not altruism.

if they didn’t treat donations like an investment, this arguably would never have happened

It is this selfish desire to better one’s situation that has allowed Kong Hee & co to execute the Crossover project. The CHC congregation, having spent years donating and tithing in the hopes of God blessing them with a better life, were and are complicit in the scheme.

If they weren’t suckers for the Prosperity Gospel, if they didn’t treat donations like an investment, this arguably would never have happened.

This is something that the CHC members will need to reckon with. But, it might be too late for some of them to turn back.

Hope, like heroin, is addictive. After the many dollars that they have given to the Church, they are now more desperate than ever for some form of vindication or sign from God that their investments will pay off. It is going to be very difficult for the congregation to admit that they were wrong.

And frankly, that’s all we want to hear.

The hard truth is that public perception of Christianity will not improve for as long as CHC’s congregation continue to support its leaders.

Should the congregation choose to stay with CHC and support the same leadership, then they would have effectively endorsed their leaders’ dishonest actions. This would be an indictment of every churchgoer who has donated in good faith.

CHC owes not a duty to their church, but to the Christian community in general. An admission of guilt from them would be the first step in fulfilling this duty.

mark@ricemedia.co

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