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July 7, 2008 9:47 AM   Subscribe

What would Jesus fly? Senator Charles Grassley investigates TV evangelists. One of whom claims his financial records belong to God. Further Investigation of TV evangelists some of whom are leaving on a jet plane. All thanks to the Prosperity Doctrine
posted by adamvasco (89 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
LOLCAPITALISTS.
posted by rokusan at 9:49 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


goodnewsforthepovertystrickenandundereducated
posted by DU at 9:52 AM on July 7, 2008




Jesus wouldn't fly on a plane, he has huge leathery wings and fierce talons, and–oh wait, that's Smaug.
posted by Mister_A at 10:07 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Benny Hinn's house in Monarch Beach, California. It's important that God puts him up next to the Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis resorts.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:07 AM on July 7, 2008


Just think of it as a semi-Rapture.
posted by Artw at 10:08 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I watched a shitload (embarrassing amount) of Bob Tilton (wikipedia) back in the day when people lived without cable.

His whole spiel seemed to be encapsulated thusly: "Send me $20, and you shall receive a thousand-fold return on that investment."

"Touch the screen with me!"

He was an entertaining sumbitch, though.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:15 AM on July 7, 2008


Also, the first linked article is mostly hidden behind a pay-demanding thing.
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on July 7, 2008


Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga.

If Kurt Vonnegut were still around, he'd be kicking himself for not coming up with these names first.
posted by Spatch at 10:19 AM on July 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Ha! Those are great names. On the whole, this post makes me sort of hope that there really is a hell.
posted by Mister_A at 10:20 AM on July 7, 2008


These guys are from the "go big or go home" school of crime. They are another example of, as Bob Dylan so aptly words it, "steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king."

These "preachers" are plainly con men of the highest order, in much the same way that Dick Cheney is a war-profiteering, America-hatin' monarchist. Unfortunately, the chance that either will see any sensible justice is about equal.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a hell. They should all get their special little corner.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:21 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Considering how uptight Jesus was about the accumulation of wealth, it strikes me as mildly amusing that someone could profess a doctrine where greed is pretty much defined as being good, and yet still consider themselves to be Christian.

I don't see a problem with simply being wealthy in that context, but defining prosperity as a sign of morality is about as anti-Christian as an idea could get.
posted by Malor at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I liked this: Benny Hinn's Let the Bodies Hit the Floor
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2008 [5 favorites]




"Well, Ken, as you know, I'm a Christian too. And I prayed to God, and asked him if we could look at His financial records, and you know what? He said it was OK."
posted by boo_radley at 10:26 AM on July 7, 2008


LOLCHARLATANZ
posted by Bummus at 10:29 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Considering how uptight Jesus was about the accumulation of wealth, it strikes me as mildly amusing that someone could profess a doctrine where greed is pretty much defined as being good, and yet still consider themselves to be Christian.

To be fair, this isn't completely a new idea. I'm reading The Name of the Rose and the abbot just made a similar argument. (I.e. "we must be holy, because God has blessed us with so much gold and jewels") Not to mention the Vatican.
posted by DU at 10:30 AM on July 7, 2008


I always wonder how many of those guys are believers, and how many are not. Then it occurs to me that one could start off as a fakir, then as the money rolls in, begin to actually believe. Or, to start off as a believer, then to become cynical and wind up just playing a role. Humans are complex and irrational.

And even for those who know they should be spending the money on the hungry and the needy, and not on luxuries, there is this rationalization: success begets success. People don't give money to shabby looking do-gooders. People give money - in shovelfuls - to slick, polished showmen with shiny coiffures.

Mother Theresa probably didn't have all the money she needed to do the work she was doing.
posted by Xoebe at 10:30 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


From what I've read, Mother Theresa had considerably more money than she needed to do the work she was doing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:34 AM on July 7, 2008


Why does Metafilter always pick on millionaire Christians?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:34 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yup, we've really *got* to eliminate the insanity that dictates that merely by talking about supernatural stuff [1] you get to be tax free and keep your books secret.

Bugger that for a lark. They wanna be tax free, let 'em apply for 501(c)3 status, merely talking about Jesus shouldn't automatically grant it.

All churches are businesses, televangelists just more rabidly so. Tax the god botherers and force 'em to abide by the same financial regulations all the other businesses do.

Xoebe Much as my cynical dismissal of religion would like me to claim that they're probably all faking it, I honestly think most of them are genuine believers. Its hard to sell something you don't believe, and people are often good at spotting insincerity. A genuine holy roller will, I think, make a lot more money in the televangelist game than a genuine con man will.

Which doesn't make their philosophy, economic trickery, or anything else any less repugnant. An honest slimeball is still a slimeball.

[1] Or, rather, of approved supernatural stuff. Preachers get off tax free and aren't required to show anyone their books, astrologers must pay taxes and can be audited, and palm readers are often officially forbidden from charging for their services if not outright banned.
posted by sotonohito at 10:35 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


People give money - in shovelfuls - to slick, polished showmen with shiny coiffures.

I've never understood this. I'm allergic to even regular non-salesman who have salesman-y personalities. I can't even look them in the face because a) it's too painful and b) I'm sure my disgust will be readily apparent. Is it that some people don't have the Plastic Smile Identification Gene? Or am I myself being taken in by smiling homunculi of some other sort and don't even know it?
posted by DU at 10:35 AM on July 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mother Theresa probably didn't have all the money she needed to do the work she was doing.

And that's why these preachers are scumbags.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:36 AM on July 7, 2008


...began probing the finances of six TV evangelists whose lifestyles include mansions, Rolls-Royces, and private jets, all paid for out of church funds.

We have been watching evangelists get away with this for decades, and it has sickened me since I was first introduced to the hypocrisy that is someone demanding money for God and then using it to buy luxury automobiles and yachts for themselves. That they are allowed to continue to prey on the people's fears and beliefs in a way to make themselves rich puts them squarely into the roll of confidence man, and they should be punished accordingly.

"It's not yours, it's God's, and you’re not going to get it," Copeland says of his financial records.


And let's start with this asshole.
posted by quin at 10:39 AM on July 7, 2008


I don't think it's a case of cryptic homunculism so much as desperate people with very little joy trying to buy a little more, from anyone that promises earnestly to deliver. The marks want to believe; they don't want to evaluate these preachers and their claims and their extravagant lifestyles rationally.
posted by Mister_A at 10:41 AM on July 7, 2008


I'm not talking about a disinclination to engage a critical, skeptical mind--the existence of religion alone provides plenty of evidence of that. I'm talking about a visceral reaction to the shmoozing plasticity of the ultrasaleman. That voice. The hair. The fake smile. The obvious "techniques", like overusing my first name. I don't have to examine their financial records to know I want a shower after I shake their hands.
posted by DU at 10:46 AM on July 7, 2008


This is better than Grassley's specious investigation of the finances of institutes of higher education, and actually worthwhile.
posted by oaf at 10:49 AM on July 7, 2008


Mister_A: I don't think it's a case of cryptic homunculism so much as desperate people with very little joy trying to buy a little more, from anyone that promises earnestly to deliver. The marks want to believe; they don't want to evaluate these preachers and their claims and their extravagant lifestyles rationally.

Kinda like playing the lottery.
posted by tippiedog at 10:54 AM on July 7, 2008


I disagree, let them do it. No better way to illustrate what a con-job religion is.
posted by dibblda at 10:54 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


A couple of years ago, I listened to an interview with James Randi, the skeptic who famously exposed faith healer Peter Popoff and who runs the Million Dollar Challenge. This part of the interview, starting at 40:10, made me about as angry as I've ever been. (I've cleaned it up a bit for readability):
Randi: They must see the grief that I have seen. I've attended a great number of these things, always in disguise of course, and to see these people.... Well, after a Benny Hinn performance at Mapleleaf Gardens a few years ago... I sat across the street in a restaurant during a bit of a break, and there was a woman in there sobbing. A very large elderly woman sobbing, and she had her friend sitting with her.

I could hear her clearly, and she was saying "But I've been to eleven of the meetings now. I've followed him all over the United States and now into Canada, and I'm trying to get up on the stage. I need to be healed, I need his help. And they keep me back, they won't let me up there. And I keep giving money. I'm giving money all the time. I've gone into the CD's," I've done this and that.

And her companion leaned across and took her by the hand and she says "But dear, you haven't given everything yet. And Jesus requires that you give your all."

I got up and left the table. I wanted to upset their table. So angry, seething. So angry, it frightens me that I can get that angry. At these people, never mind Benny Hinn! He's only the instigator, the one who's getting the money. These people are being so bloody stupid! To go along with this kind of thing, to allow themselves to be taken to this depth."

Shermer: So this is your answer to the question, "Oh, what's the harm? C'mon, it gives them hope, makes them feel good."

Randi: Yep. That's where the harm is. They begin to depend on it and the begin to believe the crap that's being told them.
As long as there are people who are willing to believe this crap, there will be millionaire preachers and faith healers.
posted by JDHarper at 10:56 AM on July 7, 2008 [20 favorites]


Preachers get off tax free and aren't required to show anyone their book

Well, (speaking as the son of a minister) that isn't a generally accurate statement. This conflates ministers with churches: ministers pay taxes on their personal income like anyone else (my Dad has throughout his career filed quarterly as an independent contractor and paid taxes like any other employee on his extraordinarily modest income, and this is very much the rule rather than the exception. Regardless of your agreement with them every church I have been involved with in my life has been managed by ethical individuals who took the technical legalities as well as the spirit of the church's requirements as a tax-exempt organization very seriously. It is also true that, at least in theory, the tax-exempt status of churches restricts their direct involvement in politics, which most secular people would, I think, view as a good thing. Your statement also seems to imply that the tax exempt status of churches is generally restricted to Christian churches which is simply untrue (though I don't doubt that there are inconsistencies of application of the variety you hypothesize).

It is true that churches receive 501(c)3 status automatically, that they are not required to make annual tax filings (although again, every church I have been involved with under its own constitution required transparent financial disclosure to the congregation that anyone could access if they wished), and that the standard for initiating an IRS investigation of a church's finances is higher than for other tax-exempt organizations. I don't personally agree with these special conditions and would agree with their being changed - not least of which because unscrupulous individuals and organizations do exploit them to break the law - because these individuals are breaking the law, even if it is the special status of churches that make it easier for them to conceal the fact and escape prosecution. It's also worth noting that exploiting non-profit status to perpetrate fraud is hardly unique to churches.
posted by nanojath at 11:12 AM on July 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


I guess the camel made it through the needle's eye.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:12 AM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


I find this always very appropriate in a thread like this.
posted by Pendragon at 11:13 AM on July 7, 2008


I disagree, let them do it. No better way to illustrate what a con-job religion is.

Right now this is a very minor story. I've been following it for months, but that's because I'm a church-state geek. No one outside the community of these master manipulators and the people who hate them gives a rat's ass at this point.

But if one or more these guys actually get their tax-exempt status taken from them, or even has to pay back taxes? Then it will be all over the front pages. Then we'd really have a dialog about what this kind of religion means and whether it ought to enjoy tax benefits.
posted by gurple at 11:15 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


tippiedog: Kinda like playing the lottery.
Except people actually do win the lottery, the payouts are established ahead of time, and the odds are clearly printed on the back of every ticket.
DU: I'm talking about a visceral reaction to the shmoozing plasticity of the ultrasaleman. That voice. The hair. The fake smile. The obvious "techniques", like overusing my first name. I don't have to examine their financial records to know I want a shower after I shake their hands.
Oh man, I too have long wondered this. It's just so obvious in its insincere fakery, that I can't imagine how even one person would believe such phoniness. And it's true not just of religious phonies or salesman, even watching people interact in the bar scene you see that fakeness and wonder "How is that not setting off a million alarm bells in your head?"
posted by hincandenza at 11:22 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


OK, if he rode a donkey, at a time when they had camels and horses, I've gotta assume that he'd be flying an ostrich. Or possibly a do-do.

After miraculously returning the power of flight to them, of course.

If he smoked, what brand would he smoke? Given the old 'water into wine' stunt, you've gotta that he'd be converting Marlsboro into Maui Wowie, but for actual smoking, I think that he'd be trying to bum either Newports or Kools on the street as he shakes his spare change cup.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:26 AM on July 7, 2008


Oh man, I too have long wondered this. It's just so obvious in its insincere fakery, that I can't imagine how even one person would believe such phoniness.

I've wondered this, too. My theory is that it's like people who follow professional wrestling, they have lost their taste for real sincerity. You have to act in order to be taken "seriously" as a professional wrestler. If you were just a guy with muscles, they wouldn't believe you.

Similarly, if you didn't have the tropes of a television evangelist, the people inclined to fall for televised evangelism wouldn't fall for it, because it wouldn't look sincere to them.

Another analogy: These people have been fed McDonalds for so long that they think that's what a burger is supposed to taste like.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:28 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Prosperity Doctrine Christianity is one of my least favorite brands of Christianity - #1 being Apocalyptic Christianity. I grew up in the South, not too far from Creflo and Taffi Dollar's congregation, and the Prosperity Doctrine seemed to permeate most of the larger churches in the area. Most of the churches weren't staffed by the snake oil salesmen of the caliber of individuals in the above links, but they were people who truly believed that by being Christians they and their congregations were entitled to a life free of sin and suffering.

Really, if people want to believe that the reason they have such a great life is that Jesus gave it to them, and if they want to give money to a preacher who tells them so I have no objections.

The problem is that the more that people feel the Doctrine is paying off for them, the more convinced they are that it is the only way to go, and they aren't afraid to tell you about it. The Prosperity Doctrine isn't only about having money and material goods, it is also about having a perfect family, perfect health (physical, mental and spiritual), and freedom from calamity - essentially a glowing God shield. On the flip side, it means that if anything bad happens in someone's life it is at least partially their fault for not being well with God.

Examples from my actual life:
You have pimples? It's a defect in your soul coming to the surface. Pray about it.

Depressed? Have you given yourself over to Jesus completely? That really helped my sister in law.

Did you hear that the Miller girl was paralyzed in a car crash last week? God must really have been angry at them for skipping church all last month.


The other problem is that while families feel intense pride in being prosperous and healthy, they are so afraid of being shamed for things that they (in reality) have no control over they they sweep real problems under the rug. Several of my friends have spent large chunks of their 20s dealing with mental health problems that should have been treated years before. And homosexuality? It could be the ruin of your family's reputation.

It's not that everyone from my hometown is a heartless twit. There is just an abundant supply of smug loudmouths who think that their religious bumper stickers save them from harm. Really, they're just an accident away from learning the truth.
posted by Alison at 11:29 AM on July 7, 2008 [10 favorites]


As much as I'd love to see these guys get called-out and have their tax-exempt status revoked, I simply can't see it happening. It comes far too close to the state determining what a "real" religion is, and I don't see a chance in hell of that ever being allowed to happen.

At best, they could just go and revoke the tax-exempt status for all churches. But, that would be dead-on-arrival, too.

In any case, it would be open-season on any pol that actually supported such moves.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:29 AM on July 7, 2008


A few months ago, I rented the movie Marjoe, which I learned about from this MeFi thread. Fascinating stuff. Documentary about an itinerant preacher who openly admits that he's shaking down the rubes.
posted by adamrice at 11:31 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pro wrestling fans know that it's just theater; Benny Hinn's fans don't–or not exactly. I wonder the same thing about scientologists–how can seemingly smart, well-adjusted people go in for this hocus pocus mumbo jumbo? I think people just want to believe in "something larger than themselves," if you'll pardon the use of that awful phrase.
posted by Mister_A at 11:33 AM on July 7, 2008


A local megachurch pastor was killed a few months ago flying his plane. I want to ask prosperity gospel folks if this is some kind of sign from God. It's a little too soon to do so here, though.

Also, this cracks me up: "He was kind and gentle even as he disagreed," said state Sen. Ronda Storms of Valrico, a friend and political ally. "And he disagreed with a smile … even if the smile was a little fierce."

Ronda Storms is a fucking nutbag with her own wikipedia page.
posted by taumeson at 11:47 AM on July 7, 2008


Relevant, but also any excuse to link to Mr D Brown.
posted by liquidindian at 11:52 AM on July 7, 2008


(Self-link alert.) We ran an article about Pat Robertson's shenanigans in Virginia Quarterly Review (previously in the blue) that elicited this high-larious response from his attorney, who complained, among other things, that:
The first myth that must be dispelled is this notion about the “prosperity gospel.” The Bible clearly teaches giving and receiving. It says in Luke 6:38: “give and it shall be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” That is not Pat Robertson speaking. That is the Bible. And Pat does encourage giving, most importantly tithing to one’s local church. [...] Sizemore would have his readers conclude that Dr. Robertson believes in that discredited “prosperity gospel.”
Uh. Yeah. Where in the world would we get that idea?
The other thing that is so important which we've mentioned many times before is the law of reciprocity that says give and it will be given unto you. These are principles that God has put in his word. If you take what you've got and use it, you will have more. And he who thinks he's got something, even what he thinks he's got will be taken away from him if he doesn't use it. Now the other thing is to give and it will be given unto you.

If you just, number one, have a budget where you don't overspend. Number two, you begin to give unto the Lord substantially. And number three, you begin a certain saving program where money works for you and just let it grow and do its thing. You will be astounded at what will happen in 10, 15 to 20 years. People will say, "How did you get so much money?" "Well, it was easy because I followed the laws of God."
These guys can talk out of both sides of their mouth, whistle, and strut all at the same time.
posted by waldo at 11:58 AM on July 7, 2008


Many of you probably remember the song by Jefferson Airplane titled “Leaving On A Jet Plane”.
The Jefferson Airplane are very cool but this is not their genre at all. The song was written by John Denver in 1969.Here is a clip with the song performed by Peter, Paul and Mary and John Denver.
posted by dougzilla at 12:47 PM on July 7, 2008


Airport security to Jesus: "It's a good story, sir, but the nails stay behind."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:23 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


nanojath Actually, here in Texas even some sects of Christianity have a difficult time getting tax exempt status. A few years back a new Unitarian Universalist church started up and it took a few months of lawsuit before the state deigned to give them the same tax exempt status they hand out like candy to every Pentecostal snake handler who asks. I don't even want to think about the hell they must put Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists through.

Thorzdad As you observed, the only solution that makes sense is to sidestep the entire Church/State issue and tax all businesses, even those which involve mysticism, the same.

Because, like it or not, the state is in the business of deciding what is a "real" religion and what isn't. If me and twenty other people start the Church of Shirow Masamune, declare that watching anime based on his manga is holy sacrament, and demand tax exempt status for our purchases of holy artifacts (his movies, books, statues made of his characters), the building in which we meet to view holy scripture (the movies), etc, the state will tell us to bugger off.

The point I'm making is that by granting tax exemption to religion automatically puts the state in the position of judging which religion is real, and which isn't. The can of worms you dread has been open for a long time.

Obviously proposals to remove the automatic tax exemption for religion will be DOA, as you said, any politician who even thinks of proposing such a thing will go down in flames. So we're stuck with a bunch of redneck bigots in Texas telling the UU that they aren't a real church because of the spineless politicians.
posted by sotonohito at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Reverend Ike must be so proud.

He sells ringtones now, you know.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:20 PM on July 7, 2008


Xoebe: Then it occurs to me that one could start off as a fakir, then as the money rolls in, begin to actually believe.

The word "fakir" is another of those terms that sounds like something it's not.

</BEGSQUESTIONIST>
posted by JHarris at 2:44 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This prosperity gospel, is it basically just The Secret?
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on July 7, 2008


This prosperity gospel, is it basically just The Secret?

Unfortunately, probably. Earlier in my Christian experience I was exposed to this sort of teaching and belief system.

I do think God prospers some people but I also know the Bible teaches that Paul, for example, learned to be content whether prosperous or the opposite. And so should we be. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

I also believe and have experienced that God meets my needs. But I have never needed, (and honestly have never seen anyone else that needed) a Mercedes.

I apologize to you all for all the nonsense these pastors have presented to the world. I'm sure some of it was a reaction to the equally false teaching that poverty was always holier, but still.
posted by konolia at 3:36 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's hard not to just let the schadenfreude take over on this one. Why do we have so much sympathy for people who fall for this stuff; if it wasn't for a con-man posing as a preacher, wouldn't it just be for a con-man posing as something else?

The line between a "legitimate" salesman and a con-man is very, very slim. Every day we're assaulted by sales pitches, telling us to buy, trying to make us want. The world is a hostile place, full of people who would do each of us ill, knowingly or unknowingly, because their goals are not the same as our own. This is not ever going to change. The con-men are more bald-faced, but fundamentally I'm not sure they're much different than much of Madison Avenue.

I suppose, on a personal level, all the people bankrupting themselves are tragedies, and they all have their reasons, in their own minds, for allowing themselves to be scammed. But on a societal level, I think the solution is not to try to make the world safe for fools; the solution is to try and produce fewer fools.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:38 PM on July 7, 2008


LOLXTIANHUCKSTERS!
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2008


I'm sure some of it was a reaction to the equally false teaching that poverty was always holier, but still.
Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
posted by Flunkie at 4:47 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


and I should have added:

So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
posted by Flunkie at 4:55 PM on July 7, 2008


So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

So these preachers are giving up their own place in Heaven so that the people who give them everything they own can get in. How generous of them.

the equally false teaching that poverty was always holier...

Of course, there are evil people among the poor. The number of evil people will always far outnumber the rich people; there just isn't room for them all at the top. But if you deny that the likelihood of being a bad person does not increase the higher you go up the economic ladder, then you can't see how people actually "make money".

The highest income years of my life were engaged in the service of dishonest men in the Finance Insurance & Real Estate (FIRE) business. I wasn't making making that much money but it was well above the norm for what I did and the employee benefits were almost Google-esque. But in my corner of the Accounting department it was clear what was wrong. When the company collapsed under the weight of its broken promises, I had to spend part of my work day fielding phone calls from people totally dependent on the company for their survival, giving them the message that they were not going to get their check this month and nobody could guarantee that they would next month - or ever.

But the trustees overseeing the 'reorganization' (that ultimately resulted in minimal losses for the clients and a near-obscene profit for a foreign corporation) gave bonuses every month to those of us who didn't quit, but rather waited to be laid-off. And my immediate superior at the time was the most openly devout Christian I'd ever worked for, yet also fiercely loyal to the Company. I don't know how she dealt with it; we remained in touch (but never talked about the Big Issues) until she died of cancer several years later. Interpret that however you want.

Love of money may not be the root of ALL evil, but love of money is evil, whether you're rich and abusing it or poor and coveting it.
posted by wendell at 6:10 PM on July 7, 2008


And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Oh, all JC meant there was that good rich people are better than good poor people because rich people have to try harder to be good.

At least that's what a rich guy told me.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:19 PM on July 7, 2008


[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches. But give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)
posted by konolia at 6:35 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I apologize to you all for all the nonsense these pastors have presented to the world. I'm sure some of it was a reaction to the equally false teaching that poverty was always holier, but still.

You should not be apologizing for them. Particularly if you feel they are teaching a lie.

It may be helpful if you were to hep spread the word that these people are not Christians and should not be using that name for themselves. If those vermin had to call themselves, I dunno, Prospertologists or MMFers or somesuch, they'd have remarkably less power over the people.

Also, your apologies would come across a lot better if you'd quit qualifying them.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:59 PM on July 7, 2008


Proverbs
That's funny, I thought Jesus was supposed to have fulfilled the prophets, and replaced the covenant of the Old Testament with a new and everlasting covenant.

And Jesus was quite explicit; all of those that I listed were (supposedly) direct quotes of him. The poor go to heaven. The rich don't. If you don't forsake everything you own, you are not his disciple.

Sorry if you don't like that, but it's your god who said it, not me.
posted by Flunkie at 7:12 PM on July 7, 2008


ownership and use of luxury jets is one of the surest indicators that donor money is not being used for ministry purposes

Well duh

steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king

I think disgraced Australian Billionaire/Redeemed Billionaire Alan Bond said it best (from memory)

If you can't repay thirty thousand dollars and you're in trouble, if you can't repay thirty million dollars, they buy you lunch.
posted by mattoxic at 7:29 PM on July 7, 2008


And Jesus was quite explicit; all of those that I listed were (supposedly) direct quotes of him. The poor go to heaven. The rich don't. If you don't forsake everything you own, you are not his disciple.

Sorry if you don't like that, but it's your god who said it, not me.


IF you read a little further, you will find where Jesus said all things were possible with God (in reference to rich folk getting to heaven.) Don't forget, the patriarchs of the OT were the Bill Gates of their day.

Please bear in mind that in that day that riches were considered the mark of God's approval and Jesus had to correct that mindset. That's why the disciples were so shocked when he said what he did about the rich.

The Bible teaches that God owns everything anyway and we are but stewards who will give an account of our stewardship.
posted by konolia at 9:45 PM on July 7, 2008


To the Bible literalists: Please leave it out. You are part the problem, not the solution.
posted by adamvasco at 2:21 AM on July 8, 2008


^ "of"
posted by adamvasco at 2:21 AM on July 8, 2008


To the Bible literalists: Please leave it out. You are part the problem, not the solution.

Actually in this case we ARE part of the solution. If these guys took their Bibles a bit more literally their ministries would be...different.

But, thanks for playing! : D
posted by konolia at 5:42 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Please, konolia. All things are possible with your god? Maybe so. But that doesn't change the fact that he directly and strongly contradicted your claim about poverty vis a vis holiness, multiple times, in multiple ways, in unequivocal terms.

As well as the fact that he said that you're not his disciple. You.
posted by Flunkie at 6:34 AM on July 8, 2008


Yeah, they'd think clouds are made of dust, that wells dry up because women (not men, just women) violate sexual taboos, and that pi is exactly equal to three.

I hear a lot of people who claim to be Biblical literalists, I've never yet met one who actually was. They've all got convoluted lines of pseudo-reasoning to explain why we are supposed to take the flood story as literal fact, but not the bit about clouds and wells as literal fact. Genesis is literal, apparently, but Nahum isn't. Funny how that works.
posted by sotonohito at 6:41 AM on July 8, 2008


Ok then. Maybe these scumbags with their mediaeval beliefs should endure a little mediaeval punishment. How about the pillory to start with. Nothing like a bit of public ridicule and a bit of rotten fruit and veg. This type of mega scam doesn't seem so common in Europe so as you have an election coming up over there maybe you could sort of, you know, hold your politicians to account.
posted by adamvasco at 6:55 AM on July 8, 2008


Flunkie, before you get too worked up, please know that I a) attended Bible school years ago and B) took further courses to include two in systematic theology a couple of years ago, plus have been a serious practicing Christian since 1980.

I know what the Bible teaches as a whole about finances. The Bible talks more about money than just about anything else, really.

It teaches that we are to work, in order to have enough for our own needs, and extra to share with others. It does not teach that we are to be beggars on the sidewalk. It does not teach that we are to have tons extra to hoard, either, so I do see part of your point.

There are people who are called to make a lot of money. Those people are called to distribute it as stewards of what they have. Again, it's all His.
posted by konolia at 7:17 AM on July 8, 2008


PS-the people called to make a lot of money are people who go to work and earn it-not the ones you see on tv who ask you to send your donation in in exchange for a love gift.
posted by konolia at 7:18 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just the idea that you can do better in life by supplicating the Boss makes me feel sick.

What would you think of a boss who gave advantages to his cronies for flattering him? And the Christian God isn't a boss you can ever escape - even in death.

Christ never speaks about wealth, ever, except in negative terms. Prosperity, having enough to eat and few worries and a nice place to live, that's mentioned positively - no more than that.

Christ is particularly clear that following him means giving up worldly possessions.

This isn't some corner case of Christianity. Remember, Christ drove the money changers (and dove sellers - "people who keep peace in a cage") from the temple with a whip. While I don't believe in any of this, I do wish Christ would come again. I'd be interested to see how he dealt with the despicable likes of Creeflo and Taffy Dollar.

And the rest of you Christians - why are you not testifying against these people day and night? They present a God who'll reward you with wealth, temporal power and might in this life if you worship Him; but in the Bible, that character is named Satan.

That millions of Christians can simply stand by and do nothing while cruel hoaxers extract hundreds of millions of dollars from their Brothers and Sisters in Christ (mainly old people and the desperate), in the name of Christ, is an abomination.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:54 AM on July 8, 2008


lupus_yonderboy Modern Christians are the equivalent of the Pharisees. If Christ returned they'd condemn him for a dirty hippie, a Commie, and a peacenik.
posted by sotonohito at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2008


People like to use these sort of stories as evidence that "organized religion" is a bad thing. From my perspective as both a Christian and an advocate of a secular state, I see things a little differently. The problem with these churches is that they aren't part of an "organized" anything. They are usually a ministry started by one person, based on that person's interpretation of scripture. Thus they lack the layers of accountability that denominational churches have. I can only use my church as an example, but I assume things are pretty similar at any church that belongs to a larger denomination.

For example, any money taken in or spent by my church is entered into the financial records by an elected treasurer, who presents the records each month to the elected vestry. These records are made available for any member to view. Every year we pay to have a financial audit. We pay our taxes. And once a year we submit a financial report to the diocese, which in turn reports to the national church. That's pretty organized.

Also, instead of being run by an individual who profits from the money the church makes, each congregation hires their own priest, who is contracted to work for a salary. If we suddenly take in a whole bunch of donations, our rector certainly won't get any of it.

So I think "organized religion" is easier to examine than these weird prosperity cults are.
And trust me, our priest has spoken out more than once about these scamsters. We may emphasize stewardship, but no one is suggesting we'll get rich off of it.
posted by Biblio at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


All thanks to the Prosperity Doctrine

Ug. It pisses me off not just that these folks ignore just about everything Jesus says about money, but that they actually see their greed and opulence as signs of their faithfulness.

And the rest of you Christians - why are you not testifying against these people day and night?

Many of us do.
posted by jpdoane at 2:39 PM on July 8, 2008


And trust me, our priest has spoken out more than once about these scamsters.

Surely talking to you is quite literally "preaching to the converted". Has he done anything substantive? Has he complained to the IRS, for example?

This is hardly a small matter: this is taking money from the pockets of old people and the desperate in the name of Christ. Speaking out on this as a non-Christian gets you dismissed out-of-hand as a nutcase. Only Christians have the ability to stop this sort of thing. It's their responsibility - it's their house that's in disorder - you can't deny that these are your Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are being robbed precisely because they fear God!

I see none of this. Where's the "Serious Christians Against Moneychangers" organization that should be there demonstrating at each and every one of those services?

I'm not seriously expecting it though. It's why sharks don't eat lawyers (professional courtesy).

If Christians really believed in the words of their own Christ, the people would have risen up and thrown out the liars and murderers in the White House years ago. Try as I might I see things like "blessed are the peacemakers" and "do unto others" and no "regime change" in the New Testament.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2008


Only Christians have the ability to stop this sort of thing.

Just as much as Muslims have the ability to stop Islamic terrorists.
posted by oaf at 10:16 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's their responsibility - it's their house that's in disorder - you can't deny that these are your Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are being robbed precisely because they fear God!

Yes, but they're not being robbed by Christians. These guys (well, Hinn, anyway) are faker fakirs.
posted by oaf at 10:27 PM on July 8, 2008


Just as much as Muslims have the ability to stop Islamic terrorists.

Yah. It's not like any of the Islamic governments are funding terrorism or anything.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on July 8, 2008


It's not like any of the Islamic governments are funding terrorism or anything.

Please explain how your everyday Muslim is able to change this.
posted by oaf at 6:59 AM on July 9, 2008


For anybody in the UK looking for the BBC coverage, it is on iPlayer. First segment in the current episode of Reporters.
posted by srboisvert at 7:49 AM on July 9, 2008


Please explain how your everyday Muslim is able to change this.

In much the same way your everyday Christian is able to change the behaviour of the US government: by organizing, exerting social and political pressure.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:51 PM on July 9, 2008




Er... what's that about, K? I don't see how it relates to any of my three posts here.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:24 PM on July 9, 2008


I guess you gotta keep reading...he has something to say about prosperity preachers.
posted by konolia at 7:16 PM on July 9, 2008


Yah, I'm still not seeing how it connects to what I wrote. Could you spell it out for me? I is teh dum.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 PM on July 9, 2008


People don’t like to hear this, but we’re headed for perilous times—just a few years away from a collapse like the world has never known. When that happens, all who preached prosperity are going to disappear because the people will say, “Your gospel has failed me.” When that time comes, I want to grasp onto Jesus, and I want everyone I’ve preached to to have faith in the keeping power of Jesus Christ. I want them to know Him in His fullness. I want to know that I’ve done it in love, in grace, that they would know the difference between the holy and the profane.
posted by konolia at 6:33 AM on July 10, 2008


(A) If anything, they'll become more popular. People thrive on hope. And, quite obviously, people are ready to believe any sort of stupid shit, as evidenced by prosperity preachers in the first place.

(B) Are you saying you don't need to denounce and work to depopularize these scam artists because, hey, the world is gonna collapse and Jesus is gonna take care of it all? 'cause if so, that seems a little... lazy.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:48 AM on July 10, 2008


that seems a little... lazy
Almost as if religion is acting as some sort of, I don't know, call it an opiate.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:39 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The tone of the whole article I posted was negative toward a subset of the church that is not ready to undergo any kind of hardship. Because they are being taught that not much is required of them, and that God is Santa. David Wilkerson DOES denounce that sort of thing, as do plenty of preachers. THOSE guys aren't on TV though. Wonder why? Hmmm....

You don't find prosperity preachers in the underground church in China, you know.
posted by konolia at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2008


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