Discerning the wrong, the doer, the community

Mr Leslie Fong's satirical piece ("A morality tale about religion and fraud"; last Sunday) reminded me of another article published on the same day ("Sim Lim Square: Business plummets despite plunge in number of complaints").

Borrowing the words from retail assistant Mohamad Saifudeen about Jover Chew, and tweaking them for contextualisation here - One person was cheating, but the whole community is suffering a bad reputation. This summarises well how the City Harvest Church (CHC) trial has affected the Christian community.

It's plain to readers that the persona of Hustle in Mr Fong's piece was a reference to CHC pastor Kong Hee.

Though Mr Fong's piece was intended as satire, the discernment of fact from fiction is untenable for readers, unless the writer clarifies the extent of factuality in his article.

Unfortunately, I suspect many readers are, perhaps, happy to draw their own conclusions and add a sensational twist to an already twisted saga involving CHC.

It's unfortunate, because the article unwittingly promoted suspicion towards the Christian community and scorn to those who had been truly called and are committed to be Christian pastors.

We cannot judge a religion by its abuses. The ones who bombed Paris were all Muslims, but that doesn't make all Muslims terrorists.

Kong and the rest of the defendants in the CHC trial were found guilty of breaches in the law, but that doesn't make all Christian pastors and church workers guilty of the same.

Men often use humiliation to humble others, which may explain why many found it difficult to understand that, while Christians don't condone the wrong, they don't condemn the wrongdoer as well.

This can be understood through the metaphor of a father with a drug addict son. The father's love for his son cannot condone his destructive habits, nor will he condemn the son, an act which will alienate his son from the very love that he needs to turn over a new leaf.

As a Raffles Institution old boy, I concur readily with anyone that academic excellence is no guarantee of ethical surety. Likewise, as a Christian, I will agree with anyone that a position of spiritual leadership is not a guarantee of spiritual infallibility.

It's my hope that, ironic though it may seem, the lesson from Mr Fong's article that we cannot dispense with discernment may be one well learnt.

Steve Chiu Shih Tung

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 13, 2015, with the headline 'Discerning the wrong, the doer, the community'. Print Edition | Subscribe