Monday, November 12, 2007

PROSPERITY AND POVERTY

A recent article in the LA Times asked the question "Is Prosperity a Blessing from God, or a Crime?" In it the writer talks about mega-church ministries where the pastor drives a Rolls-Royce, lives in a mansion, and owns a private jet.

Having come from that world of Evangelical media ministries and having seen close up the challenges this lifestyle can bring, I was mesmerized by the writer's reporting on what was really the problem - Accountability!

Interestingly enough a US Senate oversight committee has asked several mega-church ministries to respond to a questionnaire sent to them by the committee to investigate whether these ministries are violating tax law and their non-profit status.

Good.

Of course some are arguing that this can portend an increase in governmental scrutiny of non-profits, but I think that's good too.

Why, you may ask? Well, because God loves His creation too much to allow theological sickness to continue forever unchecked, and if the Church won't stand up and exercise oversight then the "other deacon" of God will have to - the State. The lack of accountability, the abandoning of historic Christian theology, the absolute denial of a Christian view of poverty and possessions cannot be allowed to continue harming unlearned souls who fall prey to these broken theologies and spiritually poverty-stricken preachers. It has to be confronted and it has to be judged!

God loves us. This truth alone is enough to make even the most ardent "small government, States Rights, conservative, non-regulatory, free market" idealogical purest (yes, I'm talking about me) stand up and cheer when the Church has become so impotent that it can no longer prophetically shut the mouths of the gainsayers and heretics with a firm stand. When the Church's voice has become so marginalized by culture, cowardice, and ignorance, I rejoice that there is at least the godless government to shout "Hey that ain't Jesus!"

Now before you begin to think that seminary has pushed me over the deep end (a possibility that has occurred to me) I want you to know that I have no intentions of abandoning the philosophical and political mindset you all have come to know and love about me. However, I cannot simply sit by and continue to pretend that the "Christianity" being promoted by the "Prosperity Gospel" preachers I have known to continue to be passed of as a legitimate form of the Faith of Jesus Christ. Even if this brings some hardship on legitimate ministries, it is worth the price to speak very clearly to this culture that the rampant reduction of Christianity to just one more American commodity to be "bought" and consumed cannot be allowed to continue.

I prefer persecution to heresy!

Glad to be back! :-)

6 comments:

Garry said...

I agree with about half of your article - the broken theologies. But it is not the roll of the State to enforce doctrinal purity. Especially not by our Constitution - freedom "of" religion.

I'll take heresy to false persecution any day. Isn't the ability to choose between right and wrong, in other words "free will", an important ingredient to our spiritual growth.

Barnabas Powell said...

Garry,

Normally I'd agree with you completely on this, but given the current state of the aneamic Church and our unwillingness to stand up and declare heresy heresy, I will RELUCTANTLY accept the "help" of the State as the "deacon" of God (the term St. Paul uses in Romans to describe the ministry of the State) to strike fear into the heart of the evil doer. They don't bear the sword in vain, after all.

B

Barnabas Powell said...

O, Garry, one more comment:

The ability to choose is certainly important for our spiritual growth, but the consequences of those choices vary in regard to the choice made. I can choose to break the law and , if caught, I will be punished.

This current misuse of the non-profit laws by religious CEO's creating a level of wealth and calling it "ministry" when it is nothing more than comerce is at least questionable. If they are willing to puish the envelope then none of us should be surprised to see the State asking them hard questions. If they are breaking the law, then, while they are certianly free to do that, they should not be free from the consequences of their lawbreaking simply because they slap the name of Jesus on their "products."

B

Steve Hayes said...

A group of ua are having a "synchroblog" on the church and money -- this post looks like a suitable contribution!

Garry said...

Hi Barnabas,

I just don't think it is the right of the State to make such decisions - what is theologically sound or not. I agree completely that the State should enforce laws on the misuse of non-profit status - to the fullest extent possible. I just don't want the state telling me, or anyone else, what is theologically correct. Nor do I believe it is the right of the State to do so.

Pax.

Barnabas Powell said...

Garry,

We are in agreement. I have no desire to see the State enforce doctrinal purity, but I don't mind them at all holding non-profits to a legal standard. In fact, I am convinced that this will make doctrinal purity easier if the State will go after these religious business empires.

A little fire to the feet might just melt some hearts.

At least I pray so.