Friday, August 2, 2013

City Harvest on the English Language

I can't call him "Rev" because he's not been properly ordained.  Kong Hee is a self-appointed leader of his own set-up which he calls the City Harvest Church.  It won't be appropriate to call him Mr Kong Hee either because obviously, he would expect something more glorious.  "King" is the best title for him.  After all, there are many African tribesmen who insist on being called King because of their elevated position within their tribes.  For this post, I'm not in the mood to argue whether King Kong is rightly prosecuted for criminal breach of trust and misappropriating church money.  I'm not interested in discussing if he siphoned money from the church to help his wife Ho Sun realise her dream  of becoming a Hollywood star.  If you are interested in these boring matters, you may want to watch some of his wife's music videos and you can always search on youtube under "China Wine" and see her cavorting in revealing clothes as a geisha in a black men's bar.

King Kong has a way of attracting public attention.  Recently, in a sermon in his church, he said to his extremely compliant flock that he heard God crying and telling him, "My son, Kong, thank you. Thank you for going through this. I need you to go through this alone so that you and City Harvest Church can be the man and the ministry I call it to be. I'm so sorry, but you need to go through this by yourself to bring a change to your generation."

The video of this portion of his sermon went viral and it drew a barrage of angry comments from viewers.  Most people were outraged because they perceived King Kong's words as a presumptuous claim that God apologised to him.

You would have thought the right thing to do was to lie low and let the storm of protests die a natural death as it usually does if you would but let the fury rage over your head while you remain totally silent.  But no, that's not how King Kong and his merry men work for they, like God, move in a mysterious way.  A spokesman from City Harvest Church's Corporate Communications Department immediately emailed the Christian Post and this is what he wrote:

"As anyone with a basic education in the English language ought to be able to tell that the use of 'I'm so sorry' here is not in the context of an apology, but a word of comfort, for example, 'I'm so sorry about your mother's suffering,' or 'I'm so sorry you need to go through chemotherapy.' "

Now, I'm not interested if King Kong's words were irreverent when applied to Almighty God or if they were sacrilegious or even blasphemous.  These are deep matters for trained theologians to discuss in their tight collars.  Neither am I going to comment on the appropriateness of the response by the spokesman for King Kong.  As can be expected, his response triggered a tornado of negative comments from netizens.  But as to whether such a comment is appropriate or offensively arrogant is something the reader can decide for himself.

What I'm going to talk about is the grammar.  I have made it abundantly clear on a previous posting that I'm the last person on the planet who would point out another man's infraction of the rules of grammar.  These things don't bother me in the least.  But when someone purports to put on his papal hat and pontificate on what proper grammar should be or if he arrogates to himself the authority and right to put down other people on a point of grammar, it's only fair that he does the pontification or putting down (as the case may be) in flawless English.

Anyone with a basic education in the English language should know that the sentence made by King Kong's representative can only stand if either "as" or "that" in that sentence is deleted.  Since the spokesman obviously hasn't the benefit of a basic education in English, I will make myself clearer.  The sentence should either read "As anyone with a basic education in the English language ought to be able to tell, [that] the use of..."  or  "[As] Anyone with a basic education in the English language ought to be able to tell that the use of..."

What is interesting to me is this is an obvious case of City Harvest being hoist with its own petard. If the spokesman hadn't been so bitchy and had merely said "As anyone would know, the use of...", it is unlikely that he would have inserted "that" in the sentence, rendering it incorrect.  But because he lacks the Christian virtues of gentleness and humility, he haughtily added that caustic remark without realising that he is not equipped to handle a sentence that is longer than what a five-year-old would normally be adept at constructing and hence the bloomer.

A self-appointed grammarian is very much like a self-appointed pastor.  He must watch his step carefully.

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