To say the least, I just went “What the f**k happened?” I remember I was having another typically busy day at work, so didn’t bother much with personal matters during those hours. Then next thing I knew a colleague went, “WOMAN! You’re featured on Mothership!!!”
And I still went, “Huh? For what?”
Many things happened during that time. I received endless emails, comments, messages… And I somehow wanted to reply every single one that actually spent time to share their stories. It was really tiring. I actually stayed up till about 4AM for a whole week just reading and replying readers – and I didn’t mind at all. I was happy that my story had touched so many.
Of course I received flak, but it was minimal. And didn’t really ruffle up my tail. Honestly for people to get so defensive and call me ‘Judas’, ‘Satan’… Kind of just proves my point. It was more amusing and affirming to me more than insulting or hurting. #sorrynotsorry
However the thing that really got under my skin was other sites blatantly stealing my content with just a pathetic line that goes ‘Taken from: http://www.gerashen.com’.
Without even having the f**king courtesy of asking for my permission or dropping an “FYI” note.
Creative people will understand; our work is like our baby. And when it’s good, others just grab it and parade it around and take all the credit.
I tried very hard to tell myself, “It’s okay. The important thing is that people hear my story and get touched by it.” But I won’t deny it… It irks me to the core when they just copy everything I wrote fucking wholesale! And “credit” me by just saying, “Oh yea, we got it from here btw.”
THAT’S NOT HOW YOUR CONTENT SITE SHOULD WORK!!!
If I might say, Mothership handled it the best out of all. They only took excerpts of my content and wrote their own – then linking up the original article to be from my site.
Which is the right thing to do!
Most of my friends just told me, “Aiya, they’re like doing free PR work for you.”
Honestly, they’re not. They just took what works, and didn’t care who did the work. I really despise this sort of nonsense. In other words, I am the one doing free work for them.
I was really hurt for a while, but I also wanted people who were affected negatively by City Harvest to know they’re not alone.
But it still pisses me off… And I just have to get it off my chest.
If you’re so great at creating good content, create it yourself. If you need to take it from people:
Don’t bother acting like you’re in the content line
Ask for permission and do it like how Mothership does it
The only sound piece of encouragement I got from a friend was, “If your post wasn’t good, no one would bother stealing it. So it’s really that good.”
I’m sorry if I sound selfish or like some attention-loving whore. But I wrote that article. I went through those experiences. I wept, I suffered major insecurities, I literally spent all my money then… And as usual, I write. That’s what I do. I write.
And some other unoriginal idiots stole my baby from me. And they just act like they fucking did it all. It’s like you put all your hard work in this project – and everyone loved it! But then your colleague/classmate shouted (even louder than you), “I DID IT!!! AWESOME RIGHT?? Oh, btw she did it actually. BUT COME TO ME AND CHECK IT OUT!!!!!”
Of course I’m upset. Who wouldn’t be!
Through my City Harvest post that reveals monsters I’ve met back then, it revealed newer monsters to me. It’s because of monsters like this that quality content are becoming endangered – because writers simply don’t want to write anymore, because their creations just stolen from them shamelessly.
It irks me so much.
But I want to believe that it’s a good way to spread my story to more people who need to hear it. Because I knew that if it were me at that time, it would’ve consoled me immensely if I knew I wasn’t the only one.
So yes, I must tell myself to not care about those content-thieves and focus on the good it’s bringing people.
And while some were super encouraging, with the occasional hate mail here & there… I was more drawn to those who shared with me their own traumatic experiences.
Ahem. I’m not a sadist ah…
Some of you shared your own similar experiences in CHC:
To be honest, I was quite consoled when I read it – because it meant I wasn’t alone. At that time it felt like I was being the difficult one; being rebuked all the time & all that. 😛
However as much as I’m not alone… You guys aren’t either. 🐻
So many people went through similar experiences; so many people understandfirst-hand what you went through as well. You are not alone here. You weren’t some rotten fruit that deserved to be mistreated, you were’t some suay (unlucky) person that was singled out to be picked on.
…Okay, actually maybe there was a certain level of suay-ness here. I consider myself quite suay to spent years of my youth there. Sigh. No refund, y’know. *heart shatters*
But you’re not alone. You’re not a rotten fruit, you’re not that suay… Haha! You just gathered some interesting experiences and you had the brains & guts to say, “Enough of this shit, I’m out.” And for that, you’re super awesome in my eyes. 😉
Some of you shared your own similar experiences in other megachurches:
I was quite depressed when I saw this.
People say I’m quite an idealist…
But the fact is – the world is beautiful. 🙂
Sure, there are weeds in the garden, but look at it this way. After sharing my story, I received tonnes of encouragements to stay strong, be happy & maybe even go back to God. See? There are more lovely flowers than weeds here.
Sure, I received the occasional hate mail – but they totally pale in comparison to all the encouragement & love I got from readers.
And I tried my best to pass it on by replying each of you when the message had something for me to say. 🙂 Stayed up till 4AM for a few days for you guys y’know… 😛
Some of you said you’ve turned your back on God:
Honestly I’m no one to say anything holy… I don’t have a church I really attend, I’m not baptised, I curse & swear, I sometimes really hate people… So if you turned your back… Then oh well. Can’t blame you.
I did as well, somewhat.
However the Old Dude (yes, God) stood by me through some trying periods, so He’s pretty real in my books. But this is entirely my own thing.
Turn your back on God – okay, fine.
But don’t turn your back on your own life.
You still have a life to lead. Take it as an expensive & painful lesson and gear up with the skills you learned. So you learned that even religion can be manipulated; that ‘holy’ people can be tempted; that you cannot buy into everything people say.
That’s why you have eyes, ears and a brain – you understand what’s going on.
And that’s why you have a mouth – you speak up.
I’m not one to shut up when I feel something not right is going on. To me, inaction is an action of advocation in itself.
Some of you reminded me of some ‘extra’ CHC features:
They’re actually quite amusing.
Looking good for God: Haha! Some ladies shared how they were expected to doll up to attend church. I remember this as well! Makeup and nice clothes – must look good for God. And make the church look like town. Very smart, create a ‘happening’ environment which will encourage people to return.
I understand some churches would like presentable-looking attires; fully understandable. But I got rebuked before for not being ‘as dolled up as the week before’, as it seems like I don’t care about how I look for God. HAHA. Oh gosh.
Money-saving lessons: My favourite. They would teach you ways to save money like don’t eat out so often, don’t shop… (Oh, but must show up in nice clothes and makeup!)
During fellowship (meal times) I was also told not to order drinks, so I can save money to give the church.
Because apparently the Ribena juice served during holy communion will quench my thirst or something. *shrugs*
Financial tier giving: To give due credit, they did take into consideration people’s financial limitations. So if you’re a student, you give $xx; if you’re retired, $xx; if you’re working & earning this much; $xx…
GIRO your tithe: Can’t believe I didn’t write about this one; guess because I didn’t use it. But yes, you can GIRO your tithing to God when you’re in CHC! They say you cannot be late when giving to God, because that shows lack of sincerity. So the church helps you along by automatically deducting money from your bank account every month to give to God, or whatever god-worthy-status-thingy.
Think of it like insurance – except for this, you pay for your entry into Heaven rather than your potential accidents etc.
Must SMILE when putting your offering/tithing/pledge fund envelope into the bucket: Apologies – I wrote ‘pouch’ the other time. CHC actually uses buckets to collect the envelopes.
So yes, must SMILE ah! “God loves a cheerful giver!”
Seriously, people. What the royal f**k.
Giving an amount that’s beyond your comfortable amount is good: Because you need to get out of your comfort zone in order to grow – this I agree with in some aspects, not this though!
But yes, you must show God that you love Him so so so much that you’re willing to live uncomfortably so that you can give money to the church.
You – child of God, yes. Live uncomfortably, because that’s what your Father in Heaven wants apparently. For you to live uncomfortably.
All the money you give us goes to Heaven, waiting for you: Y’know at that time I was still thinking, “Hmm! If like that, how will the money I give in this lifetime be enough to sustain me for eternity??” Then I wanted to give some more. -_- So clever, I was.
No reason not to give when there are solutions and not to forget the generous payment options available!
BAH. I’ll be fully honest here – God’s love is FREE-OF-CHARGE. If you believe in God; then you’re pretty much insulting Him right here. Jesus died for you – but you still need to top up cash to gain entry into Heaven? So you’re saying that Jesus blood not worth enough? And I really don’t think there’s anywhere in the Bible that says something along the lines of – “Thou shall present money to gain entry into Heaven.” Got express line, not?
The best work of the devil isn’t plotting you against God; it’s making you think he isn’t anywhere near you. Think about this for a minute.
All of the experiences might seem funny & ridiculous right now – but it really hurt people who went through it personally. People; who are supposed to be children of God. Why would you hurt people like that? Really, why?
Sure, you say that you don’t force them to give – it’s entirely out of their freewill. Is it though?
If your definition of force is to hold a gun to their heads and make them give money or else you’ll shoot – then yes, you didn’t force anyone. And in my opinion, you didn’t force them because it was an illegal method. Not to mention, people will stop returning. Why take a big sum once from them; when you can take small to medium amounts for a long time?
My definition of force is that you created an obligation that resulted in negative consequences when not met. It’s only natural that a person would want to avoid negative consequences – so therefore they do their darnest to meet that obligation you set.
It saddens me to see people like this. 😦
Anyways – there are some readers who have shared some innermost feelings & experiences with me. I’m really honoured that you decided to trust me. 🙂 And don’t worry, my lips are sealed. It’s your story to tell/share – I’m honoured enough you trusted me enough to open up. 🐻 Super glad that I’m able to listen & maybe ease your hearts that little bit. 😉
I’ll probably receive some flak from City Harvest people – but through my years I’ve learnt that all they know is to spout out loud their blinded ‘opinions’.
People: They’re not opinions if you were brainwashed into it; that just makes it an influence over a weak mind.
I dare say this.
Why? Because I was one of them.
It was quite a number of years back, when I was still in secondary school. To be honest, I didn’t grow up in a happy home and endless hopes of getting out of my abyss was just part of my daily routine. While there were others who asked me to join their ‘gangs’, I didn’t want my daddy to look down from Heaven and be disappointed that he didn’t live long enough to love & protect me.
Soon enough I was invited to City Harvest Church and was quite intrigued by their style of worship. At that time, Charismatic churches weren’t very well-known in Singapore. So when songs had strong beats, fast rhythms and people grooving to them – it all seemed really new.
And deep down I wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe… They were the family that I lost. Oh, how stupid I was.
It wasn’t too long before the whole hype of their music tuned down a little and other ugly things started to sprout.
Disclaimer: Whatever I share here is entirely my own experiences and from my perspective, which can be limited. So if you experienced anything otherwise or feel that I’m spouting nonsense – you’re welcome to leave. Thank you.
First, I’ll start with offerings.
Quite a norm of the church, yes? So unlike the typical church that lets you put in the money into the little pouches and pass it on – they make you put the money into envelopes, then you put it into the pouches.
I didn’t think too much about it at first, but slowly I began to question – “Why was there this need?” Honestly it just didn’t make sense to spend money printing envelopes with the logos, etc. And the manpower spent inserting those envelopes to every newsletter (granted free labour, anyway).
Then one day I thought to myself, “It just seems like they want to obligate you to give. You were given a wrapping for a present; so therefore you feel you ought to give the present. It is also a way to monitor how much an average person gives during service. So why is there this obligation when it’s supposed to be freewill?”
So the next service, I tried something out – I didn’t give an offering. Oh, badass! 😀
Then my mentor (everyone is assigned one) looked at me when I just passed the pouch over, asking me why didn’t I give an offering. I said I have no more money left for the week, so can’t give anymore. After which, she gave a very disapproving glare.
After service at fellowship (dinner), the cell group leader requested to speak to me. He said he was informed that I didn’t give an offering because I had no more money left. Then he told me it was my duty to put aside money for God every week, it was to show God my love and sincerity in worshipping Him.
HAHAHA! Okay, I’m sorry. Right now I’m just laughing at how pathetic it sounds. But he really did say that! And at that age, I actually thought I did something gravely wrong to God. I failed to realise that it was between me & God.
The following week onwards, they monitored if I gave offerings closely. Even with the friendly reminder before service started.
Somewhere in the bible it says something about giving God 10% of your fortune or harvest… Truthfully quite vague about this. I just know the 10%.
So then every month, you’re supposed to give 10% of your salary/allowance to the church – on top of offerings.
“Whatever you have, actually belongs to God. Even your money. But God is so magnanimous that He only wants 10% of it.” Remember those words crystal clear.
So like I said, I didn’t grow up in a happy home. Sometimes my remaining parent would not give me money or take what little savings I had – sometimes I had no money to even eat. Therefore giving away 10% was asking a lot of me.
And on those envelopes that give you for offerings are forms as well. There you will fill up your name, cell group number, contact number and amount you are giving for your tithe.
Yes, they monitor your tithings.
So quite a few times my cell group leader said he was notified that I didn’t give my tithing for this month, or my tithing seemed significantly lesser than usual.
Again – I bought into it and felt like I could do better for God. I failed to realise I wasn’t chasing God; I was stupidly chasing their approval for God knows what reason.
Third, pledging monies.
Everyone should know more or less that the church has building funds. I was there when they just moved to the church in Jurong, near NTU. It was entirely brand new, nice facilities with obviously pricey construction. “Nothing but the best for God,” they said.
Then before I knew it, they had new ideas to build a stadium of some sort. Citing the rapid growth of church members as a reason. There was about a 20 to 30 minute speech on how we should contribute to building the house of God.
Nice words, eh? House of God. So of course I’d want to help! Pledge money that I rely on getting occasionally from concerned relatives? Sure!
What an idiot I was.
And the best part was that they even set a benchmark of how much they encouraged each church member to give. If I remember correctly, it was about $200 a month.
My mentor even sat down with me to plan out how I can somehow give $200 every month – on top of 10% tithing and very compulsory offering… to build the house of God.
Then I started to think, “Am I just here to give them free money; buying the illusion of a family that I crave for?”
Fourth, God the investment banker.
Every time before offering, we were told this – if you give to God, God will give you back 10 times.
So even if you do not have much money, just give what little you have… And somehow God will multiply it and give it back to you.
They preached that God wants all of us to be rich. And also that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. So therefore – to show your sincere love to God, you must give him your money.
I tried asking what if my treasure isn’t money? Then they said, “The bible meant money.”
Fifth, bringing in new people.
Every week we are expected to always bring in new people to service. ALWAYS expected to.
They even presented charts of who brought in new people and who didn’t. Those who didn’t were mildly humiliated, of course.
But it was really difficult and rather ironic. When I had too many close friends outside church, they were unhappy and told me that it was ungodly influence. I should surround myself with spiritual people.
Oh, but still must have a good enough relationship with these non-spiritual people to convince them to come to a religious event.
There was this time my mentor called another cell group member and myself to her house. There, she sat us both down and made us call each and every person on our handphone contact list – asking them to come to church. ‘No’ is not an answer.
If they were sick, we’d give a mask. If they were not free, plan the following weekend or the next. If they were not willing, ask why until they couldn’t give a legit reason.
I don’t know how many people I pissed off, how many friends I lost that day… but I know that month my phone bill was really high. 😦 And those people I called became even more guarded against anything to do with Christianity.
When we didn’t manage to get people, she scolded us. When I said this isn’t the right thing to do, she said I was being selfish and not sharing salvation. When my cell group member managed to get someone, they both said I didn’t care about this hard enough.
Then I asked, “What’s the point of bringing in people who are unwilling? Won’t this just shut their hearts to God even more when you force them like this?”
Needless to say, I was rebuked for not having child-like faith.
Basically what happened here was my mentor was to be kept informed of my whereabouts at all times.
After school, what I was doing… Who I’m hanging out with… It was a tad invasive.
And I wasn’t allowed to meet boys. Other church members in the school were to tell immediately if any of us did something the church won’t approve of.
I was in a girls’ school, but somehow I still got to know boys through friends or sometimes the Internet. However I wasn’t allowed to go out with boys because they do not approve of it. And according to them, I cannot start dating till I turned 21.
And when I asked the cell group leader, “Then why did you start dating your girlfriend at 16?” I was rebuked and told not to question my leader.
There was once I met this boy after school for a movie, it was supposed to be with another girl but she had to go home. So it was just the both of us. A cell group member in school saw and immediately informed our mentor, of which I quickly got a phone call to ask me what in the world I was doing.
Next service, I was rebuked again and I actually felt guilty for it even though I knew clearly he and I were just good friends.
I tried reasoning with my mentor that it didn’t start out this way, that the other girl was suddenly called to go home.
“Oh what a coincidence. How do I know that you’re speaking the truth? You always had boys, so maybe this was your way to go on a date. If it really wasn’t a date, you would’ve left when the other girl left as well. You don’t respect yourself.”
Seventh, buying Sun Ho’s albums.
Ah, everyone’s favourite.
So our pastor’s wife wanted to enter the music industry to preach the Word of God. Using songs to lead the people honestly didn’t sound like a bad idea.
Then it got to her albums. Every single person in church had to have her album. It was compulsory, really. If you didn’t have her album, then you don’t love your church family. And back then we still used portable CD players. Everyone was supposed to have the CD in their bags.
It seemed quite ridiculous to me at this point. Especially when they pushed us to buy several albums at service. Yes, several copies of the exact same album. Why? To give Sun Ho the support to spread the Word of God.
Everyone had to buy at least 3 to 5 albums. Cell group members collected money from the members to buy the albums. And told them to give the albums to other people to spread the Word.
Slowly, the number of albums each church member had to buy was increasing. Pastors and cell group leaders kept on pushing and pressurising everyone to buy the albums. It got to a point whereby another cell group member actually sold his car in order to buy more albums.
Eighth, Sun Ho’s crossovers.
True to her word, she did go overseas and preached the gospel through her concerts. She would sing some songs, share her testimony and call on people to receive Jesus as their one true saviour.
Every now and then we were shown numbers of souls she saved – tens of thousands at a time.
Then I asked, “Do these people have a church to go to, to continue building their relationship with God?”
“Not sure. We already shared the Word with them. It’s up to them now.”
“But without a spiritually supportive environment it’s easy to lose faith. Won’t they then be condemned to hell for knowing the Word but not believing in it?”
Yup. Got rebuked again.
Back then there was a man (yes, Mr Roland Poon) who told the public about the church forcing members to buy Sun Ho’s albums, of which he was fiercely dealt with in church. His cell group leader and mentor rebuked him to no end, his cell group members ostracised him.
Of which then he was pressured to give a public apology to the church and was definitely treated differently. And to give due credit, Kong Hee did announce in service to forgive and accept him back.
However this social outcasting happened to me when I started asking questions. I started mentally calculating how much money the church was making (10% tithe + offerings of $2 at a conservative amount of per pax), it gave me a rather high number. After thinking through it all, I realised every month the church should have a bit of money left after operational costs. Then why did they constantly ask for money all the time? So how much were they paying the pastors? What else are they spending on? Shouldn’t the leftover money be put into the church’s own building fund, instead of asking for more from the people? Wasn’t the money given to God, for God’s people?
They also showed how well Sun Ho was doing overseas – claiming she was popular in Taiwan and America. Showing us hit charts where she was #1. To me, if she was so popular… Then why did the church make everyone buy about 9-12 albums each to support her? So with the help of the Internet, I went to look around. Only to find that every weekend I was buying into a scam. I chatted up some Americans on IRC and asked about Sun Ho, where 100% response I got was along the lines of, “Who the f**k is that?”
They said the money goes to God. Fantastic. So tell me, do you actually give the money to God? I’m sure our Earthly money means to nothing to Him, who is in Heaven. So if you don’t actually give the money to God… What on Earth do you spend on that you deem worthy enough to be ‘God’?
It was just downright ludicrous.
If they did things the public disapproved of, they’ll say that Jesus also faced this and they need to move on. The devil was fighting against them. Resistance meant they were doing the right thing.
If they did things the public approved of, they’ll shout Hallelujah and how they are bringing God to the world.
In full honesty, they did very good marketing right there. They brainwashed the people into believing every single thing they did, no matter what other facts might state. The people in the church aren’t the bad guys – they were just steered the wrong direction.
To me, I saw the devil doing an excellent job there. I saw so many people leave and strongly shutting their hearts away from the very idea of God. And I saw how those people in church don’t worship God; they worship Kong Hee and the prosperity gospel they’re fed.
Feeling frustrated and powerless, I left and prayed, “God, if You do exist – please save these people.”
I’m thankful for the strength Mr Roland Poon found to stand up for what he believes in, despite all the opposing forces. And I’m glad that at least there’s a little justice out there.