Friday, June 29, 2012

Important lesson from the Kong Hee Affair.

We must not forget one uncomfortable fact in the Kong Hee Affair.  4 other persons are slapped with charges, some of whom received more charges than even Kong Hee himself because they were in charge of the financial books.  The charges relate to the allegation that monies were diverted illegally for the purpose of boosting and supporting the singing career of Kong Hee's wife.  Nothing is said about the 4 receiving any benefit from their actions.  Now, these 4 persons who have not received any benefit from their actions are charged for offences that carry sentences of life imprisonment.

Even if they are found guilty of doing what they are alleged to have done, the question that looms in my head is "Why the heck did they do it when there's no benefit to them at all?"

People are prepared to incur heavy costs to themselves for their families and loved ones.  A Singaporean actor was willing to go through a hazardous surgery and give half of his liver to his girlfriend (who became his wife) because of his love for her.  I remember reading in the papers about a father who threw himself in the path of a charging rhinoceros in the Terai jungle to divert the attention of the rhino from his young son.  The father died but the son was saved.  But such self-sacrificial acts are perfectly understandable and laudable in that the party performing the acts do so to protect or benefit their loved ones.  These are instances of heroic actions done by someone for his family.

But there are also instances of people who commit crimes for their families and loved ones.  I can think of mothers who steal to feed their children.  I've read of drug runners who risk getting the death sentence to give their families a good life.  But in a normal situation, nobody would do anything illegal and hence expose himself to heavy penalties when that act does not benefit himself and his family but it benefits someone else totally unrelated to him.

But obviously there are people who do sacrificial acts that don't benefit themselves.  Suicide bombers are a good example.  Many Palestinian suicide bombers in fact harm their own families because Israel takes reprisals for every suicide bomb incident and would send the bulldozer to level the homes of suicide bombers' families.

There is only one reason why anybody would do anything insanely sacrificial and even criminal and that does not benefit himself or his family and the reason is always religious.

I must make it clear at the outset that I'm not against religion.  I must also make it clear that I am not commenting in this post about Kong Hee's particular case.  He has not yet been tried and nobody knows if he is guilty or innocent at the moment.  I am only drawing a lesson from his arrest and I'm focusing on the broader picture and it doesn't matter if he is totally innocent; a lesson can still be learnt from the whole episode.

As a devout Christian myself, I'm naturally aware of how the average believer thinks and acts.  When Lee Kuan Yew gave the advice in his book that in his opinion, Muslims should learn to be less religious, I thought it was an excellent piece of advice that he should extend to people of all religions, including mine.  Religion is based on faith and I won't go into the details since I have written extensively on this elsewhere in my blog but in a nutshell, religion is not based on fact and reasoning.  As Martin Luther rightly points out, "Reason is the greatest enemy of faith".  Once a person goes into a system that requires him to lay aside his powers of independent reasoning, he is in fact entering dangerous territory and there is no telling what the outcome may be.

I know too little about other religions so I'll just concentrate on my own.  This is the sort of advice that I'll give to myself and people who bother to listen to me but it's of course extremely personal and lots of people will probably disagree with me.  Basically my advice is simple - if I have to be religious, I must be as moderate as I can and I must choose a time-tested church, particularly a church that has checks and balances in place.  The head of my parish church shouldn't be the overall head.  He must be answerable to someone else.  If he says he is answerable to only God, that's not a good answer because, as we have seen in reality, that usually leads to all kinds of abuses.  It is always possible for someone who is the overall head in a parish church (I use the term to mean a single church building as opposed to a whole church or denomination) to be idolised the way Kong Hee was idolised by his parishioners.  For an understanding of the extent of how he was hero-worshipped, see the video of his birthday celebration in my previous blog entry by clicking this.

So, the pastor of my church must be answerable to someone above him and ultimately the bishop who doesn't run any particular parish church.  There are other checks and balances that can be put in place.  There is something that my church does which I think is really quite good.  They rotate the pastors round the different churches in Singapore.  I've heard stories of parishioners being really upset by this because they have got used to a particular pastor and they want him to remain but of course the parishioners have no say (as should be the case) and the head or bishop has ultimate say on the matter.  But that's precisely how you can prevent a "cult leader" situation - by rotating the pastors every now and then.   Don't forget - religion is antithetical to reason.  It's very easy for people to hero-worship someone when they aren't using their heads.  Incidentally, in the birthday concert the church held for Kong Hee (if you have seen the video link in my blog), they called Kong Hee their "hero".  But independent churches can't rotate pastors because they exist on their own, ie each parish church is all the church they have.  So there must be other mechanisms they should come up with that can remove this potential for hero-worship.

It's very easy for someone to obey without question a hero-idol even if the obedience may lead to a situation where his own interest is seriously compromised.  But alas, the law does not recognise this as undue influence and my fear is the 4 people who are charged with Kong Hee will have to stand on their own.  But it is sad particularly when these 4 did not benefit one bit from whatever they were alleged to have done.


  1. It is extremly important for one to believe and search for God but it is not really necessary to belong to a church,temple or mosque.
    God exists deep inside your heart and you also believe in him,it is very important for one to discover him.

  2. Thanks, Jack, for your comment. Why is it so important for a person to search for and believe in God? I have friends who are responsible and considerate people and they don't believe in God. In Europe, many people have lost their faith in a supernatural being but they continue to be more civic-minded and honest than most Asians who believe in the supernatural. How important can a belief in God be? I can think of one. To provide us with solace and comfort when we suffer bereavement. But that's about all there is to the importance of "finding" God. Don't you agree?

  3. Thank you for your kind words,TL.
    To get back to God from our physical reality,one has to keep searching,my own experience started with the Gospel of Thomas during 2012 after being a baptised Christian since 1989.
    I would suggest our interested readers to start with the following site:
    God bless.

  4. Apostle Thomas

    2 Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]"

  5. Hi Jack, I have read the Gospel of Thomas. It was Elaine Pagels' book on the gospel that got me interested. But the book is not meaningful to me since it does not come within what I've experienced from my childhood. It's no different from the Buddhist sutras. Religion is extremely cultural and anything that is not in line with what I was familiar with as a child, I can't consider it my religion. Non-canonical works and books of other religions are under the same category for me. I'm not saying they are wrong. They just aren't a part of my religious culture. The canonical books of the Bible are only meaningful to me not because they are true but because I was familiar with them as a child and they have formed a part of my religious culture. If I have to weigh everything for its truth, I'd probably have become an atheist. ;)

  6. TL,can you kindly give me your email contact?Thank you.
    God bless.

  7. look at the boob job that Sun Ho got done when she was in US and the satanic brands that they sell through the shops they own. how can this couple be doing the work of God. They are a disgrace to Christianity.

  8. Independent churches do not have parishes unlike the RCC. Therefore, Kong Hee cannot have parishioners, just attendees.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, as I have pointed out, independent churches can't rotate their pastors because there is only one church of their kind in the whole world. I used the word "parishioners" as synonymous with "congregation". I don't know if independent churches might use the word "parishioner" as a vestige of the past before they broke off from whatever mainstream church they were originally from. Kong Hee was an Anglican before he started his new-fangled church. He would have been familiar with "parishes" and "parishioners". For all we know, he might have adopted the same term. It's not just the RCC that has parishes. But I get your point. Terminology is important. I'm careful not to call the ministers of some churches priests. For reasons I can't understand, some people are actually upset by that.