Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Preposterous Prosperity Gospel

“When they took those jeezobucks and ran to the bank, to the bank, to the bank, to the bank, where every night we can hear them thank their buddy up above, for sending down his love, while you all smell the glove.” --from the magnificent song “Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk,” by Frank Zappa.

Oral Roberts’ death on December 15th followed on the 21st by the celebration of Frank Zappa’s birthday raised the aforementioned song in my head. I thought back to a time of air conditioned dog houses, Swaggart’s lies and Tammy Faye's cries, and Pat Robertson’s 700 silk ties. Oral loved his money too—in January 1987 he took to his tower and extorted his followers with exhortations of “unless I have eight million dollars by March, God will take me up and—boo hoo hoo—I’m just not ready to go be with the Lord.”

Today it’s the Graham family’s Samaritan Purse wingnutting Sarah Palin around in their private jet, and the Focus on the Family hypocrites lamenting the economy destroyed by the despicable politicians they passionately endorsed, then begging for smaller five and ten dollar donations to pay themselve six figures salaries. See some of these Christian executives' compensations, as reported here, compiled from December 2006 till January 2008. Andrew Wommack, Woodrow Kroll, Lowell Davy, William Franklin Graham, Jack Van Imp, Cynthia Swindoll, William Skelton, David Jeremiah, Richard Roberts and two dozen more reported healthy six figure salaries.

Megachurch prosperity gospel preacher Joel Osteen flies around in style promising blessings of riches here and now. (His wife Victoria paid the FAA a fine of $3000 for verbally abusing a flight attendant, but that's a story for google.) In the video clips I’ve seen Joel is inarticulate almost to the point of incoherence, but it’s working for him, so y’all be blessed and buy another book so you’ll be blessed some more.

Then on Christmas this Reverend C Thomas Anderson rears up in the news singing his carol that Jesus couldn’t have been poor—he’d been given gold at birth, Roman soldiers gambled for his expensive garments and even Mary and Joseph traveled in style. “Mary and Joseph took a cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was the donkey,” said Anderson. “Poor people ate their donkey. Only the wealthy used it as transportation.”

It’s so ridiculous that it wouldn’t merit address it if it weren’t so prevalent. So gather round everybody, it’s time for some Jesus 101. First of all, nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary and Joseph were conveyed to Bethlehem on the back of an ass; that is a sort of urban legend that arose in the early centuries AD. Jesus did make his kingly entrance into Jerusalem upon an ass, but contrary to being a luxurious mode of travel, it was in fulfillment of prophecy, and as an aspect of his ultimate display of humility before his exaltation.

Jesus repeatedly denounced the evils of worldly wealth and its corrupting influence over the soul. Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and man." (Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning ‘wealth.’)

Another fine teaching is Luke 18:22-24. A certain ruler asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life, and Jesus answered him saying: “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.’ And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!”

I detect hypocrisy here. Was it Jesus, lining his robe with gold while serving God? I don’t think so. Could it be those whose love of money is the root of their evil, and who shamelessly satisfy that lust by preaching the word of God, the word which they pervert by soliciting cash from their faithful listeners and followers who think they’re giving charitably, in the names of Jesus and God, but whose donations are used to fly their recipients in private jets and pay fat six figure salaries, salaries that in the real world are even higher if tax free with religious exemptions; salaries that are more than most of the people make whose donations pay them.

Jesus also gave these people fair warning in Matthew 7:21, saying: “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Don't these jerks understand that there are no jerks in heaven?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The PrayerCast Freakshow

"Oh the horror!" --Whammer

Have you seen these strange men and women publicly mocking God? PrayerCast

After witnessing that, I was bereft of speech. Those are some bowling ball sized cojones.

If you haven’t seen it, last week Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback, and kook in congress Michelle Bachmann, led by the reverend ‘pastor’ Lou Engel, held hands, chanted in tongues and solemnly prayed to God to intervene and inspire the Senate to strike down health care reform. These are the members of the political party that WTBN Christian radio endorses every election cycle? Say it ain't so. They look like sacrilegious cuckoos to me.

These are the politicians who, when we were bitch slapped by our friends the Saudis on 9/11, retaliated by invading Afghanistan, where the terrorists purportedly exercised on monkey bars and practiced shooting pop guns; and by invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the dictator that your fathers raised up in the first place.

I read the Bible—that book you thump like a drum when you should be wielding it like a sword--the double edged sword that is the word of God. And here's some truth from that book, if you can withstand having your weapon wielded against you.

Isaiah, chapter 1, verses 15-17: ‘And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.’

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Cool Flat Earth

“We live in an age where truth is no longer held in high regard.” Hank Hanegraaff, during his segment on WTBN Christian Radio, Monday, December 14, 2009.

Nowhere is that more evident than on WTBN.

The way God guides my mind to answer my prayers for wisdom and understanding of scripture amazes me continually. Last night before bed I was pondering how to address WTBN’s latest crusade AGAINST truth—this time global warming, and WTBN’s public stance that it is not a real phenomenon, and that scientists are lying. Emboldened by the recent release of emails hacked from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, the voices of WTBN are screaming that this proves global warming is a hoax fabricated by fudged science. I fell asleep with WTBN playing softly in the background and when I awoke this morning that statement from Mr. Hanegraaff were the very first words I heard. I couldn’t have phrased it more succinctly.

And thus does WTBN bear witness against itself.

Here are some excerpts of Cal Thomas’ commentaries that were aired on WTBN December 3rd and December 8th. “The global warming fiction is unraveling…the president of the Czech Republic says global warming is a politician’s myth…in Denmark, where the climate conference is being held this week, a local newspaper reports the country is ‘rife with CO2 fraud and the entire global warming myth is a comprehensive tax scam’…look at the people pushing global warming; they are mostly control freaks who want more power and money for themselves and less freedom for you…this is the left’s religion. While denying God, the left is committed to saving the planet. Why? If there is no God, we might just as well eat, drink, pollute and be merry for tomorrow we die. For what are we trying to save the planet?”

Those notions are muddled, weird and frankly, nonsense. If I love Christ, how does it reason that I deny God? Nor am I a control freak interested in power and money and depriving others’ freedoms. But I do believe in saving the planet. Exactly how am I wrong in respecting God’s creation? Dominion over the earth is a not license to destroy.

The Associated Press analyzed the 1073 hacked emails totaling approximately one million words, and said that ‘they show that scientists harbored private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world they were certain about climate change. However, the exchanges don’t undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The scientists were keenly aware of how their work would be viewed and used, and, just like politicians, went to great pains to shape their message. Sometimes, they sounded more like schoolyard taunts than scientific tenets.’

Maybe a little parable will wipe the paste from your eyes and melt the wax in your ears. There was a landowner who lived in a mansion and had a couple of smaller homes he let out to tenants. One of the tenants trimmed the gardens, touched up the paint and maintained beautiful grounds. The other chopped the flowers, watered the weeds, sledgehammered the walls and burned the place down. When the landowner goes on vacation, which tenant will be trusted to house sit the mansion?

For many centuries the church held to the false belief that the earth was flat and the center of the universe. This adherence to an untruth was as it is written in Matthew 15:9 ‘In vain do they worship me, teaching for commandments the doctrines of men.’ The famous Polish astronomer Copernicus advanced the theory that the earth revolved around the sun, but did not publish his work until late in life, in part because he feared the church would brand him a heretic, and after destroying his reputation would sentence him to imprisonment or death.

So goes it today, with global warming scientific fact and WTBN as they represent the belligerent, self-righteous right wing deniers of that truth. There is a massive, expanding hole in the ozone layer. FACT. Once snow-capped mountains are barren. FACT. The polar ice caps are melting. FACT. Arctic and Antarctic wildlife is dying as their natural habitats and feeding grounds are vanishing beneath their feet. FACT. Average temperatures and water levels around the world are rising rapidly. FACT. WTBN’s stand on the issue? WRONG. On this matter WTBN clings to FALSEHOODS and LIES.

Let us take a little stroll down scripture lane and drink in some truth. The teachers and preachers on WTBN are in consistent agreement that these are the latter days as described by biblical prophecy, notably but not limited to the wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places foretold by Christ in The Olivet Discourse, which is the twenty fourth chapter of Matthew.

Now let us move along to a description of the end of the world. “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up.” 2 Peter 3:10.

And finally, on into the Revelation of our Lord and Savior, where the seven angels are pouring out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth in these latter days. “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and repented not to give him glory.” Revelation 16: 9-10.

Back in the sixteenth century it turned out that Copernicus, in the far corner, representing science, was right, and the church, in the near corner, representing the false doctrine of hardheaded men, was wrong. So who are we to believe today: WTBN, or scientific truth as it corroborates the VERY WORD OF GOD?

I will say WTBN is right about one thing: we live in an age where truth is no longer held in high regard.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Disciples of Ronald Wilson Reagan

Biblical Evidence That Republicans Are Not The Party Of Christ Part Two

It is fascinating how and how quickly the human mind works. A while back I was listening to WTBN Christian radio in the middle of the night. It was the top of the hour, three AM, and WTBN was airing a fifteen second clip of their right wing social agenda. This time it was a sound byte from Mike Pence, the republican congressman from Indiana.

I'd only recently heard of Pence, and what had stuck in my mind was that he'd cited Ronald Reagan as his hero. I've always thought Reagan was one of the more evil characters in recent US history. He started by engineering the October surprise to sabotage Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. Paying the Iranian government in weapons to keep the 53 Americans hostage until after the November 4, 1980 election was downright villainous.

Then there's his war record. Invading Grenada and bombing the Falkland Islands were a real flexing of US muscle, much like a bully smacking a baby in its stroller. Arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq war with weaponry was particularly nefarious; but perhaps most diabolical of all was taking proceeds of the sale of arms to Iran to fund the contras in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Reagan's philosophy of that conflict was to prevent communism from infesting the United States by spreading north through Central America and into Texas. Having spent a fair amount of time in that region I can say from experience that that notion is preposterous; the people of Central America are largely impoverished, and more interested in day to day survival than political theory. They are also predominantly Christian in the civilian regions where the contras were planting land mines. Roughly 135,000 people died in those conflicts, and it is fair to say that innocent Christian blood was spilled in the slaughter.

So as I lay there Mike Pence's voice triggered thoughts of Ronald Reagan, which hearkened me to Spike, who I had been friends with for a couple years in high school. He was a very weird, violent guy whose family was involved with the bizarre 'spiritual' cult Eckankar. For whatever reason, one of the things I most remember about Spike was his bragging about torturing and killing a neighbor's cat with explosives when he was about ten. (What exactly is it about the admirers and mercenaries of Reagan thinking it's perfectly okay to blow up the living creatures that God made?)

So, triggered by Mike Pence's voice, here is what my mind processed in a matter of mere moments: Pence idolizes Reagan, Spike idolized Reagan, Spike slaughtered cats with little sticks of dynamite. These are not good people. And my thoughts proved to be prescient, for following Pence's fifteen second rightwing diatribe, the very next words on WTBN were Steve Kreloff's graphic description of the Roman torture of Christ preceding the crucifixion.

So I got to thinking about some of the voices of WTBN's social agenda and how they regard Reagan.

Mike Pence cites Ronald Reagan as his hero.

A snoop around his website reveals that Cal 'Obama Is A Dictator' Thomas highly reveres Ronald Reagan.

Michael 'I Am Not A Christian And Have NO Business Being On WTBN' Medved calls Reagan 'deservedly beloved of Republicans everywhere.'

Albert Mohler wrote an article entitled 'Leadership Lessons From President Ronald W. Reagan' in which he speaks of Reagan's greatness.

Janet Parshall said: "Ronald Reagan will always be very much a man who represents the American hero to me."

Focus on the Family's James Dobson from a speech on youtube: "We now have a president who does not seem to understand anything that Ronald Reagan stood for. Each of those areas that I talked about, and others, are being undermined and contradicted today. And I grieve about that. As much as I celebrate the progress that was made in the 1980's, I look at what's taking place today and I don't believe there is a single policy decision that Barack Obama has made that I agree with."

Richard Land: On a list of his favorite books, Peter Robinson's HOW RONALD REAGAN CHANGED MY LIFE, comes in at number four. About the book Land said: "Robinson probably does the best job at getting at the essence of that unique, sunny, complex person that was Ronald Reagan. I think reading it made me a better man, too."

Hugh Hewitt cites the same book on Reagan, and said: "Reagan's greatness is anchored in his and his country's goodness."

For more simply go to townhall.com, a website that WTBN advocates and promotes constantly, type Ronald Reagan into the search box there, and you will see the effusive love of Ronnie oozing from every page.

Reagan himself professed to be a Christian. In speaking during the president's funeral service, his son Michael Reagan said: "When he closed his eyes, that's when I realized the gift that he gave to me--the gift that he was going to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Having said all that, let us turn to the words of our Lord and Savior. In Matthew 12:22-26 it is written: 'Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?'

(Two sidenotes: The Pharisees bear great resemblence to today's Republicans, but that's another chapter, which is forthcoming; and scholars agree that the number 666 as described in Revelation is based on an ancient name game called gematria, which correlates people's names to numbers--Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6).)

Now, if I hand someone a rifle knowing who they're going to kill, am I complicit in that murder? The courts would find me guilty. Landmines are a particularly barbaric mechanism of warfare. How then does a 'Christian' authorize and fund their use to maim and murder innocent civilians, many of whom we know were Christian? Can you kill Christians in the name of Christ? When Jesus sent his disciples forth to heal and preach and cast out devils, was it in the name of Satan? Why then does WTBN give voice to so many disciples of such a man as Ronald Wilson Reagan?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Socialism in the Bible

Biblical Evidence That Republicans Are Not The Party Of Christ Part One

I first heard of Janet Parshall during the 2008 presidential election. She is a republican, and was very vocal on WTBN in her support of McCain/Palin, and went so far as to say that not voting for them was disobedient to the Bible. I did a little snooping, and when I learned of her great esteem for George Bush, the oil guzzling, warmongering, economy wrecking, lying, antichrist whore of the rich; and that she thinks the rabble rousing, nazi consorting liar Michele Malkkkin is blessed by God with clear insight, I pretty much lost all respect for her views, and rather than letting her rile me up, I simply move up the dial whenever she comes on. (Does anyone at WTBN find it odd that some Christians are tuning OUT specific blocks of 'Christian' programming? I do.)

However, on occasion I am otherwise occupied when she takes to the airwaves, and need a minute or two to reach my radio. So it was yesterday, and I endured a couple minutes of her continued shrill railing against health care reform.

Are you sure you're Christian, Janet? Have you actually read the gospels? You do know that compassion is one of the traits that enters your heart when you invite Christ in, and your stance is not very compassionate at all. Would you choose the emergency room for your primary care physician? You think it's perfectly acceptable for millions of less fortunate than yourself.

You scream at Washington to listen to America, that we do not want health care reform. You're either misinformed--the last poll I saw said that SIXTY FIVE percent of Americans want a government provided public option--or propagating lies, which is a very BIG NO NO according to the Bible. If you like, I can point you to specific scriptures where God elucidates His contempt for liars.

Everything is a-ok in Christian America when the CEOs of the 23 major health insurers pay themselves a whopping FIFTEEN billion dollars over five years? That is roughly FIFTY dollars from every man, woman and child in America.

Do the 123 people who die every day from lack of health care think the system is working just fine? Are they speaking out against health care reform as they slip into the grave?

Janet then went on to scream that government provided health care would turn us into a--GASP--socialist nation! Oh the horror! You mean, everyone would have food, shelter and medical attention as needed? Not in WTBN's America, and certainly not in the name of Christ!

So I got to thinking, and opened my Bible to the Acts of the Apostles, where it is written that after Christ ascended: "...many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2: 43-45.

That sounds like a socialist collective to me. So who am I to believe--Janet Parshall when she says 'socialism' is evil, or the apostles who actually walked with Christ? Sorry Janet, but I think I'll roll the dice with Simon Peter, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanite and Matthias on this one.

Of Bishops and Lofty Titles

Bishop Tobin's recent publicly denying Congressman Kennedy from taking the sacrament of the eucharist in any catholic church resonated poignantly with me. Drifting With Jesus was inspired in part by one of the more profound experiences of my life. When I lived in New Orleans I was homeless for a short time, and was passing one night in a bar on Decatur Street when I met Arthur. He bought me a couple of beers and we had been chatting for a while when he invited me to join him in visiting some friends. Having nothing better to do in New Orleans at four thirty in the morning, I tagged along. We walked to a convenience store where Arthur bought three or four bags of sandwiches, snacks, beer and cigarettes, then we wandered down to the bank of the Mississippi, where he shared his bounty with some homeless people there.

Around daybreak we wandered back toward the French Quarter and into Jackson Square. It was a Sunday morning, and upon seeing the Saint Louis Cathedral I immediately told Arthur that I needed to go in and pray. He followed me, and we came upon a service in progress. In a city of close to half a million, the congregation consisted of about fifteen people. Shortly before the benediction, one of the priests administered communion. I got in line while Arthur remained in the pew. When my turn came up, the priest detected that I was not catholic by my ignorance of the partaker's role in the rite--namely saying 'Amen' when the priest says 'body of Christ.' He asked me directly if I was catholic, and I answered directly that I was not. He pulled the wafer back, made the sign of the cross, and told me that he could not give me the body and blood. I protested that I was a brother in Christ, and he said that it mattered not, and hastened me along. Writing this fifteen years later still makes me say: 'Wow.'

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the pope, cardinals and bishops are to be formally addressed respectively: His Holiness, His Eminence, and His Excellency. In Matthew 19:16-17, it is written: 'And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.' The same also appears in Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

In Luke 14:11 it is written: 'For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.'

Knowing these biblical truths, how will it go for men who insist on being called holy, eminent and excellent? And who did well in God's eyes that surreal night in my life: Arthur, who fed the hungry, or the priest who withheld Christ from a Christian?