City Harvest Church is a very wealthy Christian church in Singapore. It requires its members to donate 10% of their income to the church. It has 24,000 members, so it takes little calculation to realize that City Harvest Church's income from this largely young professional congregation, is vast. Recently there has been a scandal at City Harvest Church. The Star carried an article by Seah Chiang Nee about it that was most odd in its assertions. In response, I wrote the letter below, to the Star, hoping it would be published. Four days have now passed and it has not. Normally the Star publishes letters before then, so I am assuming that they are not going to publish this one, though I am prepared to be surprised. Given my assumption, I have pasted the text of my letter below. Thank you.
"I object, strongly, to Seah Chiang Nee’s bizarre assertion, in his article “The rise of the mega-churches”, that the alleged crime of Kong Hee and his fellow pastors, in misusing 23 million Sing. Dollars, was somehow the fault of the “West”. It was not. It was the simple and direct product of Singaporean greed.
I have lived in many countries, both Western and Asian. I have visited around 20 countries in my life. Of all those countries, Singapore is by far the most obsessed by money. It does not surprise me in the least, that a Singaporean pastor, of a very wealthy church, should be accused of using tax-free charity funds for inappropriate purposes – in this case, funding his wife, Sun Ho’s, pop music career to win more converts.
Seah Chiang Nee argues that City Harvest Church is just copying the fundraising zeal of TV evangelists, in the US. This is nonsense. Had the Americans not pioneered this kind of prosperity theology, it is certain that the Singaporeans would have stumbled on it, themselves. Singapore is highly inventive in all the ways to make money. They don’t need to be instructed in finding money-making schemes, by the Americans.
Furthermore, it is very self-serving, of Seah Chiang Nee, to explicitly defend a fellow Chinese man, by suggesting that his crime was somehow America’s fault. Kong Hee did not allegedly misuse that money because of America – if he did it, it was because of his implicit own character flaws, around the issue of money. The responsibility for this crime does not lie far away, but very nearby. Singaporeans need not look for others to blame, in a rather paranoid fashion, but need to own up to their own crimes and their own criminals, should these be so proven to be. Only then will there be the possibility of addressing the underlying problems. As long as Asians blame the West for their own problems, those problems will remain unfixed. Asians should take responsibility for their own flaws – then try to overcome them.
Finally, it must be said, most clearly, that greed is not a "Western norm", as implied by Mr Seah's article...nor is the misuse of monies. It is deeply offensive to all Westerners that he should suggest so. Furthermore, the "West" is not defined by America, or what transpires there - there are many Western countries, each with somewhat different cultures. Mr. Seah should find out more about the West before making such allegations. In particular, he should note that a typical Western country is far less obsessed by money, than is Singapore."
Perhaps my letter to the editor about City Harvest Church was a little too strong to be published. Never mind, please comment below if you have anything to contribute. Thank you.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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