So how easy is it for the un-churched to find things to mock and criticize Christians and Christian leadership in particular? It sure seems to be getting easier, especially when it gets broadcast it on prime time TV for the whole world to see. For those who haven’t seen the advertisements yet, there is a “new reality” (and yes the quotes are placed that way on purpose) show on Oxygen scheduled for this fall which focuses on the lavish and opulent lifestyles of 6 L.A. pastors who seem to place more emphasis on money rather than ministry, or at least any ministry that compliments the humble lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ.
It has always fascinated me to see different trends and how they move across the country. It can be fashion, politics or religious trends. Being from Tulsa OK where the prosperity gospel was given its birth (at least in modern-day), many here have already experienced and been around that very wounding and elusive theological mountain. A good friend who is now with the Lord used to describe heresy as “the emphasis of one truth at the exclusion of another”. And by that definition, many of the divine health and wealth messages that came out of this part of the country have been found to be in that category of wrong emphasis, over emphasis or down right heresy. In fact that same friend wrote a book entitled “From the Pinnacle of the Temple” encouraging churches to bring balance back to the so-called “prosperity” gospel. Dr. Charles Farah almost lost his job as professor of theology at Oral Roberts University because of his book exposing some of those errant teachings from the ‘70s. (It just dawned on me how many things from the ‘70s were just …. So Wrong!) Here in the heartland and buckle of the “Bible Belt”, “we done tried that” resulting in countless hurting Christians (many of whom left the faith) because they were told they didn’t get their healing or wealth because they didn’t have enough faith. And now there are a bunch of “upstarts” on the “Left” coast ready to sell down the river those same ½ truth heresies 2.0. (Just try and preach the prosperity Gospel in Sudan or Rwanda)
Does everybody really have to learn things the hard way? Or is money really that much more important than the hurting people. And is this the “new reality” where Jesus is reduced to some magic act for money? One of the cast members, Bishop Clarence McClendon, was challenged about his preaching the prosperity Gospel to which he replied “there is no other kind of Gospel”. This is one of those rare instances where I don’t even quite know what to say to a person with such a shallow understanding of Jesus Christ and his message of love, forgiveness, grace, giving, serving, taking the lowly place, selling all, giving up all, etc. – for the sake of the Goods News given by the Father. Father please have mercy on us, we cry for mercy!!