Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Dollar Almighty and a Crisis of Faith

 

This week an Inside Edition video interviewing Kenneth Copeland went viral as part of a disturbing investigation of televangelists living upscale lifestyles. Copeland, and others, are part of a movement from decades ago, preaching a prosperity “gospel,” offering false teachings, and thus, false promises, which have caused many followers heartache mentally, financially, and in their faith. 

We hear stories and jokes all of the time about the crazy cat lady that leaves the entirety of her estate to one of these ministries (see, this clip from the 1997 movie The Rainmaker). However, there is a scary truth to this example, in that the message is solely that prosperity is the only way to God, and if one is suffering, that means Satan is in charge.

This is a very skewed view of traditional Christianity and a twisting of the Gospel itself. Of course, one is only prosperous if they give, right? These so-called megachurches run by Copeland, Joel Osteen, and the like seem to pressure their followers into giving to an extreme extent, yet who is it actually helping? It merely seems to be funding (tax-exempt) mansions as “parsonages,” private jets for travel, lavish hotels, etc., and not needy families in the congregation, the homeless in the local community, or feeding children in third-world countries. 

I have had my own personal struggle with this, and it challenged my faith immensely, when I attended a megachurch in Los Angeles about ten years ago. At first, it was great; I was volunteering twice a month, attending classes and events, and making friends. My husband (then fiancé) was skeptical, but agreed to attend a service with me — that felt more like we sat through a timeshare presentation, except for donations.

My husband saw this as a red flag, but I continued attending, thinking it was an “off day.” The services, however, kept turning from messages pertaining to real-life issues into constant pressure for money. A very uncomfortable moment happened during this time: a friend sitting next to me openly handed me a check for an amount more than my rent to put in the container. Not only was I shocked at the amount itself (at the time we were scraping by), but also the act of giving me the check made me feel as if she wanted me to see how much she was giving.

Soon after, I stopped volunteering, lost friends, and after a few more weeks stopped attending altogether. Heartbroken and disillusioned, I went to a Christmas service with the idea of possibly returning, but again felt I was witnessing what seemed more like commercialization instead of church. 

Because of this experience, I “lost my way” for some time. I made terrible choices, fell into a crowd that drank excessively, became severely depressed, and almost lost my marriage (on probably more than one occasion) … all because I desperately wanted to “fit in” somewhere, now that there was a void in my heart.

There were some times when I started looking for a local church again … and was faced with the same things: Overproduced “worship concerts,” advertisements of “the best coffee in town,” sermons poised towards millennials that used false teachings and gave false promises … and of course, pressuring for cash. It all seemed artificial to me. I gave up until just a few weeks ago when I was hurting, angry, and had just quit my job; a friend invited me to an event at their church that brought me to an intense emotional moment, changed me, and brought me back (thank you). 

Copeland, et al.’s idea of being prosperous is not to say God does not want us to be — clearly He does! In fact, today at service, the pastor discussed Isaiah 58, and the difference between conditional and unconditional covenants, concluding with the thought that we shall not be mere “containers” of blessings. Instead, we should selflessly worship, not to make ourselves feel good, but to genuinely help others. Simply put, if you’re following God’s clear instructions without pursuing your own interests, you’ll prosper. Sounds very different than what these televangelists are peddling, doesn’t it?

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  1. Mim526 Member

    I’m so sorry to hear of your experiences in Christian churches. The Church has faltered in recent years in more ways than one, I think.

    Churches I feel best represent the Christian faith are those that first and foremost are Bible-centered, and second are focused on carrying out Christ’s mission for Christians here on earth. I look for a church that communicates God’s Word in its worship, serves as God’s hands to those in their community, and whose members enjoy one another in the faith.

    God bless you, @eringoboro. Sounds like you’re on a good path.

    • #1
    • June 2, 2019, at 9:53 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Stina Member

    Erin: Instead, we should selflessly worship, not to make ourselves feel good, but to genuinely help others. Simply put, if you’re following God’s clear instructions without pursuing your own interests, you’ll prosper.

    My church’s sermon was like this yesterday, as well.

    I grew up where only one Sunday was dedicated to stewardship, both monetary and service, but service was always emphasized more. 

    Somewhere along the way, I started seeing my tithe as benefitting me the same way my savings allowance benefitted me – that if I’m used to doing without 20% (10 and 10 to tithe and savings) in good times, then when something rough happens, I cut back on those to get out of the tough spot before resuming them again. I kinda saw that simple monetary discipline as a God-directed way to handle my money more wisely.

    I am very careful about where my tithe goes… and it isn’t always my church. I want to ensure it goes where it is needed. Luckily, I’m attending a church now where that isn’t in question.

    • #2
    • June 3, 2019, at 6:23 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Vance Richards Inactive
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Erin: Because of this experience, I “lost my way” for some time.

    That is the real tragedy of what can happen when church leaders, or really any professing Christians, act badly. People will not always see it as just a bad person or people but instead will turn against the faith all together. On a lesser note, if you are going to put a fish symbol on the back of your car, don’t cut me off.

    • #3
    • June 3, 2019, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    We have have had two of these “characters” in NE Ohio. The late Rex Humbard, who got into trouble selling unregistered securities, and the guy who purchased his empire, Ernest Angley.

    The latter is a real piece of work. He claims to have cured people of AIDS/HIV through faith healing, is currently embroiled in a homosexual sex scandal and has seen part of his ministry undergo a sheriff’s auction to repay a loan to his television station.

    The station has always rankled me. I have nothing against religious broadcasters. They have their place on the spectrum of free speech, too. What I do have a problem with is running those as commercial enterprises that compete against secular businesses. In the aftermath of Fox launching a successful 4th broadcast net, others made a run at creating them. In 1995, Angley’s Station, WBNX, became an affiliate of The WB – and then after their merger with another netlet – the CW. 

    I was never quite sure how Charmed, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fit into an Evangelical ministry. CBS and Warner Brothers have since moved their affiliation to another station in the market and they’re left running off-network syndicated fare. 

    If you’re running a television station as a commercial enterprise you shouldn’t be allowed to beg for money to run it or divert funds from the bequeath of Grandma’s estate. 

     

     

    • #4
    • June 3, 2019, at 8:16 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m no fan of prosperity gospel people, but they have a long pedigree in America and they play on several old ghosts that continue to linger in the American psyche, which is why they continue to attract people – particularly the vulnerable (I shudder to think how much Swaggart and Baker got from my grandparents in the 80s).

    Perhaps the biggest ghost they conjure is something that, in its way, goes right back to the Puritans. Mind you, I’m not blaming the Puritans themselves for this, merely stating that this is something of a bastard stepchild between their faith and the later Pietism of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

    In Calvinism’s view of salvation, there are the elect who will be saved, and then the rest. Some would reason that if one were among the elect, there would be outward signs of Grace, including material prosperity – thus working hard and achieving worldly success could be a mark of grace, while poverty could be sign that one was damned. This, of course, gives incentive to people to work hard because people do not want to appear to be without grace, but gets twisted in its application into believing that Grace can be earned (something Calvin and his adherents explicitly rejected). These notions of prosperity being a sign of grace, and that grace can be earned, have lingered even where other aspects of Calvinism have been forgotten.

    The Pietists of the 18th and 19th century taught something radically different – that inward faith should be outwardly shown through great emotion, showing that the believer really feels the working of the Holy Spirit. At the time this emotion was frequently invoked through fiery sermons, but this has largely gone out of vogue as being too harsh. However, using highly emotive music to gin up an emotional high has become quite prominent. This too lingers in American thought, even among the irreligious – that one should feel and have an emotional response to faith.

    The Pentecostal tradition adds a 3rd element – the notion that if one’s faith is firm enough, one can call down, or even demand a renewed spirit of Pentecost in oneself. This borrows both from the Puritan and Pietist notions of outward displays of inward faith, and adds another element of agency in salvation – that one should be able to call down Grace, and failure in that is a sign of an inadequacy of faith. Pentecostalism is entirely American in origin too.

    Prosperity Gospelism is the problem child of all 3 historic traditions in American churches. It takes and twists the notion that you should have some outward manifestations of your faith, or that if you are ill or poor then you are obviously of little faith, combines the emotional demands and per of Pietism, and the “name and claim” of Pentecostalism, but turned from God to worldly wealth. It is seductive because it appeals to our sense that we should be able to earn and bank Grace, it gives us an emotional thrill, and it lies and claims that the good things of life should be ours but for our own lack of faith. It is a lie, a powerful lie that plays to ideas deeply embedded in the American psyche, but still a lie.

    • #5
    • June 3, 2019, at 10:29 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Erin: Simply put, if you’re following God’s clear instructions without pursuing your own interests, you’ll prosper. Sounds very different than what these televangelists are peddling, doesn’t it?

    It is different, and better, but we should still be careful in our expectations. In fact, Christian history is filled with those who were following God’s clear instructions and doing anything but prospering – many enduring even death for their faith. I would say they were spiritually prospering of course, but they were otherwise rather on the losing end of things here. Mark 8:34-38 notes:

    Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

    Many Christians today are punished for their faith, and we should remember that to follow Christ may mean to endure much, even to the forfeit of our lives.

    • #6
    • June 3, 2019, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  7. Roderic Coolidge

    By their fruits you will know them.

    If you consider joining a church ask what they are doing for the community. The answer will usually guide you. Some of the mega-churches do a lot, others don’t.

    • #7
    • June 3, 2019, at 10:55 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor

    It sounds like you may have finally found your community, @eringoboro. And that you have once again found your path. Good for you.

    • #8
    • June 3, 2019, at 11:05 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. MarciN Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Many Christians today are punished for their faith, and we should remember that to follow Christ may mean to endure much, even to the forfeit of our lives.

    This is very true. The Wall Street Journal does a really good job giving me nightmares about the Chinese Communists’ persecution of China’s Christians.

    • #9
    • June 3, 2019, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. HeavyWater Coolidge

    Erin:

    Soon after, I stopped volunteering, lost friends, and after a few more weeks stopped attending altogether. Heartbroken and disillusioned, I went to a Christmas service with the idea of possibly returning, but again felt I was witnessing what seemed more like commercialization instead of church.

    Because of this experience, I “lost my way” for some time. I made terrible choices, fell into a crowd that drank excessively, became severely depressed, and almost lost my marriage (on probably more than one occasion) … all because I desperately wanted to “fit in” somewhere, now that there was a void in my heart.

    There were some times when I started looking for a local church again … and was faced with the same things: Overproduced “worship concerts,” advertisements of “the best coffee in town,” sermons poised towards millennials that used false teachings and gave false promises … and of course, pressuring for cash. It all seemed artificial to me. I gave up until just a few weeks ago when I was hurting, angry, and had just quit my job; a friend invited me to an event at their church that brought me to an intense emotional moment, changed me, and brought me back (thank you).

    I’ve visited quite a few churches in the last 30 or so years. The church you have described as “worship concerts” and “the best coffee in town” reminds me of a very large church I used to attend back in the mid-1990s in Orange County, California.

    Because it was a large church, they had numerous highly talented musicians and singers. The piano player was fantastic.

    On Valentine’s Day one year, probably 1996, a quartet of young male singer sang a spoofy Christian Valentine’s song titled “Wait for the WOG; Wait for the Woman of God (WOG).” It was hilarious and the four part harmonies were wonderful. On mid-week services they had upbeat Christian rock music.

    But I was disillusioned when the pastor scolded his congregation during the 1995-1996 government shutdown that occurred while Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton were duking it out over government spending. The pastor implied that his Republican congregation wanted to dismantle government. I didn’t think he knew what he was talking about and yet this didn’t stop him from saying this. In what other areas was he winging it, I thought.

    I eventually moved to Denver, Colorado, where I met my wife. My wife had become disillusioned with some Christians churches because my wife does not see homosexuality as a sin and one church she attended had a strong emphasis on homosexuality as sin. So, since we had each other, we never really felt the need for a church.

    These days, as an agnostic-atheist, I have a sense of community based on issues that don’t involve the supernatural.

    Finding that right community is not easy. Good luck to you!

    • #10
    • June 3, 2019, at 12:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    Mim526 (View Comment):

    I’m so sorry to hear of your experiences in Christian churches. The Church has faltered in recent years in more ways than one, I think.

    Churches I feel best represent the Christian faith are those that first and foremost are Bible-centered, and second are focused on carrying out Christ’s mission for Christians here on earth. I look for a church that communicates God’s Word in its worship, serves as God’s hands to those in their community, and whose members enjoy one another in the faith.

    God bless you, @eringoboro. Sounds like you’re on a good path.

    Thank you, @mim526, but don’t be sorry! We have to learn from our experiences. 

    • #11
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:09 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    Stina (View Comment):

    Erin: Instead, we should selflessly worship, not to make ourselves feel good, but to genuinely help others. Simply put, if you’re following God’s clear instructions without pursuing your own interests, you’ll prosper.

    My church’s sermon was like this yesterday, as well.

    I grew up where only one Sunday was dedicated to stewardship, both monetary and service, but service was always emphasized more.

    Somewhere along the way, I started seeing my tithe as benefitting me the same way my savings allowance benefitted me – that if I’m used to doing without 20% (10 and 10 to tithe and savings) in good times, then when something rough happens, I cut back on those to get out of the tough spot before resuming them again. I kinda saw that simple monetary discipline as a God-directed way to handle my money more wisely.

    I am very careful about where my tithe goes… and it isn’t always my church. I want to ensure it goes where it is needed. Luckily, I’m attending a church now where that isn’t in question.

    Again, a lot of this happened at a time where I was young and broke, so it was uncomfortable, but the more I saw what was really going on, the more I realized it was taking advantage. 

    • #12
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Erin: Because of this experience, I “lost my way” for some time.

    That is the real tragedy of what can happen when church leaders, or really any professing Christians, act badly. People will not always see it as just a bad person or people but instead will turn against the faith all together. On a lesser note, if you are going to put a fish symbol on the back of your car, don’t cut me off.

    You’re correct on both accounts! Why are the fish decal and “Coexist” bumper stickers the worst on the roads? ?

    • #13
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:13 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    EJHill (View Comment):

    We have have had two of these “characters” in NE Ohio. The late Rex Humbard, who got into trouble selling unregistered securities, and the guy who purchased his empire, Ernest Angley.

    The latter is a real piece of work. He claims to have cured people of AIDS/HIV through faith healing, is currently embroiled in a homosexual sex scandal and has seen part of his ministry undergo a sheriff’s auction to repay a loan to his television station.

    The station has always rankled me. I have nothing against religious broadcasters. They have their place on the spectrum of free speech, too. What I do have a problem with is running those as commercial enterprises that compete against secular businesses. In the aftermath of Fox launching a successful 4th broadcast net, others made a run at creating them. In 1995, Angley’s Station, WBNX, became an affiliate of The WB – and then after their merger with another netlet – the CW.

    I was never quite sure how Charmed, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fit into an Evangelical ministry. CBS and Warner Brothers have since moved their affiliation to another station in the market and they’re left running off-network syndicated fare.

    If you’re running a television station as a commercial enterprise you shouldn’t be allowed to beg for money to run it or divert funds from the bequeath of Grandma’s estate.

     

     

    I think I recently saw a new station on the antenna listings (I’m a cord-cutter) that was a “Family” channel, but was airing Law & Order SVU reruns – yikes! 

    • #14
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:15 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    @skipsul you should write your own post! This is really insightful, particularly on the ideals of hard and honest work. It is quite telling to me how the Amish have thrived for so long by separating from modern culture and focusing on hard work and prayer. 

    • #15
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    Roderic Fabian (View Comment):

    By their fruits you will know them.

    If you consider joining a church ask what they are doing for the community. The answer will usually guide you. Some of the mega-churches do a lot, others don’t.

    I hope I didn’t “bash” the one I attended too hard, because as far as I knew, they were doing things in the community, but I really have no clue if they still do. However, they were volunteering physical labor and meals, which does not take up a lot of funds… or at least they could have allocated more towards it – we know LA has a major problem right now.

    • #16
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I’ve visited quite a few churches in the last 30 or so years. The church you have described as “worship concerts” and “the best coffee in town” reminds me of a very large church I used to attend back in the mid-1990s in Orange County, California.

    Because it was a large church, they had numerous highly talented musicians and singers. The piano player was fantastic.

    On Valentine’s Day one year, probably 1996, a quartet of young male singer sang a spoofy Christian Valentine’s song titled “Wait for the WOG; Wait for the Woman of God (WOG).” It was hilarious and the four part harmonies were wonderful. On mid-week services they had upbeat Christian rock music.

    But I was disillusioned when the pastor scolded his congregation during the 1995-1996 government shutdown that occurred while Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton were duking it out over government spending. The pastor implied that his Republican congregation wanted to dismantle government. I didn’t think he knew what he was talking about and yet this didn’t stop him from saying this. In what other areas was he winging it, I thought.

    I eventually moved to Denver, Colorado, where I met my wife. My wife had become disillusioned with some Christians churches because my wife does not see homosexuality as a sin and one church she attended had a strong emphasis on homosexuality as sin. So, since we had each other, we never really felt the need for a church.

    These days, as an agnostic-atheist, I have a sense of community based on issues that don’t involve the supernatural.

    Finding that right community is not easy. Good luck to you!

    I can’t argue that there are some super-talented people out here, but it started to feel like they were only doing it to be “discovered”. 

    • #17
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:25 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Erin Inactive
    Erin

    Thank you all so much for your supportive and constructive comments!! I’m trying to respond to all of you, but it’s tricky on my phone during my lunch break. Keep up the great conversation!

    • #18
    • June 3, 2019, at 2:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Erin: Simply put, if you’re following God’s clear instructions without pursuing your own interests, you’ll prosper. Sounds very different than what these televangelists are peddling, doesn’t it?

    It is different, and better, but we should still be careful in our expectations. In fact, Christian history is filled with those who were following God’s clear instructions and doing anything but prospering – many enduring even death for their faith. I would say they were spiritually prospering of course, but they were otherwise rather on the losing end of things here. Mark 8:34-38 notes:

    Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

    Many Christians today are punished for their faith, and we should remember that to follow Christ may mean to endure much, even to the forfeit of our lives.

    I was going to say, maybe if you’re not suffering, the devil has won.

    Jesus didn’t say follow me and prosper. He said “take up your cross and follow me.” 

    • #19
    • June 3, 2019, at 3:20 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  20. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Eric Swalwell looks like Jim Bakker. Just sayin’.

    • #20
    • June 3, 2019, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. AnnieMac Inactive

    This is a timely post. Perhaps attending a private Christian school as a little kid has permanently defined my expectations of how Christians should act, because we were taught this set of invisible rules, but I am often quietly appalled by what I see. Case in point, the news this evening…..the Pastor of the McLean Bible Church, David Platt, made a public apology for praying from Trump this weekend. Not only an apology for the prayer, but he went on to describe, in lengthy detail, of the events unfolding when the President announced a quick visit and asked for a prayer, Platt was suddenly caught by surprise and forced to go against what he felt was right. His intuition, clearly, was to -not- pray for the leader of the free world. Let’s cast aside for a second, the fact that a sitting US President requests a prayer, and instead focus on the fact a man, a human, has asked for a prayer. If anyone asks a Christian for a prayer, how could they rightly deny that request. If you are a man of the cloth, and you refuse a prayer for anyone, does that not identify the emptiness of YOU? The liberal lunacy in Twitter comments to the McLean Bible Church suggest Platt prayed for Satan, etc. And Platt’s response? He basically agreed. I find it sickening. 

    • #21
    • June 3, 2019, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    AnnieMac (View Comment):

    This is a timely post. Perhaps attending a private Christian school as a little kid has permanently defined my expectations of how Christians should act, because we were taught this set of invisible rules, but I am often quietly appalled by what I see. Case in point, the news this evening…..the Pastor of the McLean Bible Church, David Platt, made a public apology for praying from Trump this weekend. Not only an apology for the prayer, but he went on to describe, in lengthy detail, of the events unfolding when the President announced a quick visit and asked for a prayer, Platt was suddenly caught by surprise and forced to go against what he felt was right. His intuition, clearly, was to -not- pray for the leader of the free world. Let’s cast aside for a second, the fact that a sitting US President requests a prayer, and instead focus on the fact a man, a human, has asked for a prayer. If anyone asks a Christian for a prayer, how could they rightly deny that request. If you are a man of the cloth, and you refuse a prayer for anyone, does that not identify the emptiness of YOU? The liberal lunacy in Twitter comments to the McLean Bible Church suggest Platt prayed for Satan, etc. And Platt’s response? He basically agreed. I find it sickening.

    Yeah, wow, what happened to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?” There seems to be a lot of counterfeit Christianity going around these days.

    • #22
    • June 3, 2019, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Erin (View Comment):

    @skipsul you should write your own post! This is really insightful, particularly on the ideals of hard and honest work. It is quite telling to me how the Amish have thrived for so long by separating from modern culture and focusing on hard work and prayer.

    I’ve been working on a larger and longer essay on how Prosperity Gospelism has infected Conservatism. I’ve been working on it for about 18 months now.

    • #23
    • June 3, 2019, at 7:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    AnnieMac (View Comment):

    This is a timely post. Perhaps attending a private Christian school as a little kid has permanently defined my expectations of how Christians should act, because we were taught this set of invisible rules, but I am often quietly appalled by what I see. Case in point, the news this evening…..the Pastor of the McLean Bible Church, David Platt, made a public apology for praying from Trump this weekend. Not only an apology for the prayer, but he went on to describe, in lengthy detail, of the events unfolding when the President announced a quick visit and asked for a prayer, Platt was suddenly caught by surprise and forced to go against what he felt was right. His intuition, clearly, was to -not- pray for the leader of the free world. Let’s cast aside for a second, the fact that a sitting US President requests a prayer, and instead focus on the fact a man, a human, has asked for a prayer. If anyone asks a Christian for a prayer, how could they rightly deny that request. If you are a man of the cloth, and you refuse a prayer for anyone, does that not identify the emptiness of YOU? The liberal lunacy in Twitter comments to the McLean Bible Church suggest Platt prayed for Satan, etc. And Platt’s response? He basically agreed. I find it sickening.

    In the Orthodox Church, part of the Great Litany we pray nearly every service (Orthros, Liturgy, Vespers) is “For the President of the United States, for all civil service members, and for our armed forces everywhere”. And it doesn’t matter who that is.

    • #24
    • June 3, 2019, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I’m no fan of prosperity gospel people, but they have a long pedigree in America and they play on several old ghosts that continue to linger in the American psyche, which is why they continue to attract people – particularly the vulnerable (I shudder to think how much Swaggart and Baker got from my grandparents in the 80s).

    Perhaps the biggest ghost they conjure is something that, in its way, goes right back to the Puritans. Mind you, I’m not blaming the Puritans themselves for this, merely stating that this is something of a bastard stepchild between their faith and the later Pietism of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    In Calvinism’s view of salvation, there are the elect who will be saved, and then the rest. Some would reason that if one were among the elect, there would be outward signs of Grace, including material prosperity – thus working hard and achieving worldly success could be a mark of grace, while poverty could be sign that one was damned. This, of course, gives incentive to people to work hard because people do not want to appear to be without grace, but gets twisted in its application into believing that Grace can be earned (something Calvin and his adherents explicitly rejected). These notions of prosperity being a sign of grace, and that grace can be earned, have lingered even where other aspects of Calvinism have been forgotten.

    The Pietists of the 18th and 19th century taught something radically different – that inward faith should be outwardly shown through great emotion, showing that the believer really feels the working of the Holy Spirit. At the time this emotion was frequently invoked through fiery sermons, but this has largely gone out of vogue as being too harsh. However, using highly emotive music to gin up an emotional high has become quite prominent. This too lingers in American thought, even among the irreligious – that one should feel and have an emotional response to faith.

    The Pentecostal tradition adds a 3rd element – the notion that if one’s faith is firm enough, one can call down, or even demand a renewed spirit of Pentecost in oneself. This borrows both from the Puritan and Pietist notions of outward displays of inward faith, and adds another element of agency in salvation – that one should be able to call down Grace, and failure in that is a sign of an inadequacy of faith. Pentecostalism is entirely American in origin too.

    Prosperity Gospelism is the problem child of all 3 historic traditions in American churches. It takes and twists the notion that you should have some outward manifestations of your faith, or that if you are ill or poor then you are obviously of little faith, combines the emotional demands and per of Pietism, and the “name and claim” of Pentecostalism, but turned from God to worldly wealth. It is seductive because it appeals to our sense that we should be able to earn and bank Grace, it gives us an emotional thrill, and it lies and claims that the good things of life should be ours but for our own lack of faith. It is a lie, a powerful lie that plays to ideas deeply embedded in the American psyche, but still a lie.

    Well put. And. No Calvinist or Puritan preacher offered any of this un-scriptural nonsense. We desperately need more Christian leaders who would imitate Christ, braiding a whip, overturning the tables and lashing the false preachers out of the church and public life. Suicidal Tendancies’ “Send Me Your Money” always plays in my mind with these stories:

    Now how much you give is your own choice
    But to me it’s the difference between a Porsche and a Rolls Royce
    I want you to make it hurt when you dig into your pocket
    Cause it makes me feel so good to watch my profits rocket

    • #25
    • June 3, 2019, at 10:15 PM PDT
    • 2 likes

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