Teo Hsin Yi, a member of City Harvest Church since its beginning, attended the Court of Appeal last Wednesday. She shares her honest thoughts on what she observed.
On Sep 21, the last day of the appeals from the City Harvest team and the prosecution, I sat in the Court of Appeal listening intently to very technical arguments over “genuine or sham” investments, control and bond investments. Each time the DPP said the words, “having caused wrongful loss to the church”, something inside me desperately wanted to say out loud, “No, you don’t understand.”
I held this silent exasperation within my heart until Pastor Tan Ye Peng’s lawyer, senior counsel N. Sreenivasan stood up and started his replies. The “God moment” came in his opening statement. Instead of going headlong into his arguments, he appealed to the three High Court judges to consider the great dissonance (the inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs) in mindsets between the people outside the church and those within.
Mr Sreenivasan earnestly appealed to the judges to take a step back to understand that the way the church thinks and makes decisions may seem rather illogical to those outside the church, but that did not mean that they are wrong. He cited an example of how, when he saw his mother performing Hindu rites, his educated mind did not agree, yet the fact remained that she was not wrong in what she believed and did.
Then Mr Sreenivasan told the judges something that introduced a rare breath of humanity into the cold courtroom. He related how he had, at the start of the trial, visited our church service and how what he saw and heard gave him a glimpse into what had gone on in the minds of the accused when they made certain decisions concerning the Crossover.
The lawyer added that those outside the church should not use their yardstick to measure our intent and actions. He admitted that CHC’s way was not easy to accept, but three years on, it’s all beginning to feel more comfortable. He said something like “This was the world they (the appellants) lived in, since they were 16.”
My heart was moved. Here was a man who did not share the same faith as us, yet he spoke with such genuine understanding.
Perhaps it was God’s way of reminding me that He is still the one who searches the heart and tests the mind of every man. Putting aside religious beliefs, we all have a conscience that can tell between right and wrong, good and evil. The court may demand black and white evidence to prove dishonesty or the absence of it, but in my limited layman’s mind, sometimes all it takes is perhaps what Atticus told Scout in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird.
“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
As the court session ended, I hope that those from the outside would make an attempt to walk in our skin and, perhaps, see that in the light of eternity, the Crossover was never a loss but a gain.