Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kong Hee in the limelight

Standing in the limelight on a stage is not uncommon for a self-styled clergyman of an independent church, City Harvest, which is said to have the largest pool of parishioners of all the churches in Singapore (if you count each church as an individual building and you don't group them by denomination).  Nor is it uncommon for his wife, Ho Yeow Sun, who is an entertainer.

But what Kong Hee probably didn't bargain for is getting arrested and charged with criminal breach of trust.

Let's look at what the Straits Times has to say:

Source:  Straits Times:

I did a search on youtube and I found this video of the church celebrating Kong Hee's birthday in a big way.  (blogger doesn't seem able to link this video to the blog).  But here's the video:

I'm just amazed at the huge differences between the average parishioner in one of these independent mega churches and a parishioner in a traditional church.  For traditional church goers, if the church decides to hold a birthday celebration of this proportion for any clergyman, all of us will feel that something is seriously amiss.  The giving of glory to a clergyman is totally unheard of.  Come on, I don't even know when my bishop's birthday is.

I'm not interested in whether Kong Hee is guilty of the charges against him.  That's for the court to decide.  What I'm interested in is what makes a worshipper in one of these independent mega churches so different from the rest of us.  I did a bit of search on the internet just to understand what makes them tick and I think I have the answer.

We all know that the Bible can always be used to justify anything.  Matthew 10:41 says this: "Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward".  It's not difficult to include the pastor into the definition of a "prophet" or at least a "righteous person" and by increasing the ambit of "welcome", one can almost accommodate that sort of a birthday celebration and parishioners will think it's all perfectly in order to glorify their leader in a way that will make a traditional Christian frown.

I've heard many stories about mega churches and their pastors but I can't be sure they're all true.  I was told that one of them bought a million-dollar sports car (I'm sure it's probably a cheaper sports car).  Another goes skiing in the US once a month with his entire family (again, I'm sure this is an exaggeration).  Ho Sun herself is no stranger to the good life.  She rents the house she lives in in Hollywood for $28,000.00 a month.

The Bible is hardly where you can find justification for wallowing in the lap of luxury.  What Jesus says to the rich young ruler about wealth and Jesus' statement that you can't serve God and Mammon (ie money) are all uncomfortable sayings that the church has to live with.  These verses don't attract worshippers who like the rich young ruler in the Gospel story, aren't prepared for a change of lifestyle.  Mega churches need to preach a new kind of gospel if they really want to be mega.

Prosperity gospel which is preached in many of these independent mega churches teaches that wealth is a symbol of righteousness.  He who obeys God and is righteous will be blessed by God with wealth.  With that sort of teaching, it is no shame for a pastor in one of these churches to throw away his cassock and strut around in the most fashionable outfit styled by award-winning designers.  Pastors in these independent mega churches don't wear cassocks anyway.  To those who preach prosperity gospel, the trappings of wealth are but a symbol of one's inward righteousness.

That may go some way in explaining why nobody bats an eyelid in City Harvest Church despite the publicity given to the lifestyle of Ho Sun in Hollywood.  These are all God's blessings to reward her for her righteousness.  If Kong Hee were a clergyman in a traditional church, his wife would have at least had the decency to choose a more modest place to stay in.

When these independent mega church pastors or their wives make forays into an arena which is usually dubious by Christian standards and would normally be viewed as secular, the reason given is that Christians must "claim" everything for God.  Ho Sun's involvement in the entertainment industry is one such example.  She's doing it for God so that the entertainment industry is not monopolised by non-believers.  And there are believers who really believe that.

A friend who worships in another independent mega church tells me that his pastor has put in a lot of time and effort (not to mention money of course) to turn his magic show into a huge success. What? A pastor has a magic show?  There is a lot of heavy equipment which has to be bought for the magic show and it's not just a simple pulling of a rabbit out of a hat kind of trick.  It's more like a David Copperfield kind of magic show.  His pastor has even had performances of his magic show in the Esplanade and all the church members eagerly bought up the tickets.  What possible religious motive can there be?  The magic show is totally secular, so my friend assures me.  What the church says is that the entertainment industry has gone too much the way of the world and it's now time for the redeemed of the Lord to claim back the entertainment industry from non-believers.  This is their rallying cry which of course will be answered by the pious with fervour as they buy tickets to the magic show and invite their friends to the Esplanade.

Some supporters of Kong Hee say the same thing in the newspapers today (see page 7 of today's Straits Times - 27 June 2012).  They say that it's a way of reaching out to the secular world through the music of Ho Yeow Sun.

I just did a simple search on youtube for one of Ho Sun's pious videos and I have linked below the first video of hers I came across.  Let's get our Bibles, sit back and enjoy this delightful video performed by Kong Hee's wife.  Observe her revealing clothes and the implication of her being a bar girl in a bar frequented by Afro-American customers. 

How has Ho Sun or Kong Hee, through her music, reached out to the secular world?  How instructive, profitable or edifying is this video that you have just watched?  It seems more to me that Ho Sun simply wants to realise her dream of becoming a successful entertainer of Hollywood proportions.  I have no objection to that.  But placing a self-righteous veneer over an otherwise legitimate secular dream just sickens me.  And it puzzles me to no end that Kong Hee's parishioners can't see this.  Do they really think she was glorifying God in this video?


  1. I honestly thought the videos I saw were a joke. Now I understand why I've not heard or seen her music on the radio or on television. Her image (dressing, language and behaviour) are almost unbelievably racist and offensive.

  2. It doesn't surprise me if she insists that her foray into the entertainment industry is motivated by religion. Of course as a pastor's wife, she would want to say that. But how the congregation can really believe that is something I find totally bewildering.