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?

2 comments:

  1. Every time I click on this blog, you have a post identical to what I've been thinking.
    I used to drive for a Limo Service where a lot of the clients were TeeVee preachers. Talk about your false prophets (profits?) These people would fly into a private airport on private planes or jets, have entourages, tons of heavy luggage and stay for free at a "Christian" owned place. (I am unable to say where as I may get into trouble). But you can probably figure it out. The place had it's own TeeVee studio, recording studio, various condos, etc. It was a "Christian" network.
    And they all treated every driver like crap. If they were running late, even though we would be there to pick them up before they even arrived, they would blame us. They acted as though we should feel privileged to be in their company. Most of us drivers did not want the job. But, you have to get paid. No client, no paycheck.
    They ARE the false Prophets that Jesus warned about. How they get so many people to donate and believe them is a question I don't think will ever be honestly answered. It's almost cult like. And it's pathetic how they have no problem taking money from people who are disadvantaged, elderly or on a very low fixed income. The one's who really want to do the Lord's work are the one's being used to line these con men's pockets.

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  2. By the way,

    Happy New Year!

    and Thanks for all the great posts that you write.

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