So, while I was in Little Rock, I saw a story in the ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE at my uncle's house that was too good to miss, so I picked up a copy of the paper for myself on my way out of town. It got put aside in the hustle and bustle of the trip itself and didn't surface again until I remembered it yesterday and pulled it out of the 'Arkansas' file. The online link to the story (http://www.arkansasonline.com/staff/frank-lockwood/) unfortunately seems to only give the opening paragraph, so I'll summarize the whole.[*]
In the piece, a guest televangelist tells the congregation "The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night. There stood Jesus with a huge tray and the tray was heaped with cookies, and he said 'Kenneth, have a cookie'." To which the televangelist replied "I believe I will".[**]
From this, he extrapolates: if you just have enough faith, God will give you "the desires of your heart: vigorous health, limitless wealth, unending happiness and eternal life -- plus new airplanes and fresh-baked goods." Also, "Christians shd be exempt from the economic downturn". Why? because Jesus "bore the curse of of poverty" so the rest of us wdn't have to. As he sees it, we are "joint heirs with the wealthiest man that exists".
After a bit about just how grossly wealthy his 'ministry' has made him (twenty-million dollar private jet, eighteen thousand square foot 'parsonage', luxury cars, a church with its own natural gas wells, personal gifts of over two million dollars for his seventieth birthday), the article returns to his insistent calls for everybody to give as much money as they can to the church. Apparently the church he was visiting that day has its own 'Donor's Creed', which they chant each Sunday:
The tithe guarantees financial favor.
The tithe guarantees your covenant partnership with God.
The tithe is proof of honor.
The tithe is proof of obedience.
The tithe silences the devourer in your life.
The tithe guarantees consistent harvest on your seed.
The tithe opens the windows of heaven."
That's bad enough, but to make it worse, their resident pastor "urged everyone -- including those facing poverty and hunger -- to dig deep, promising God would supernaturally reward them". And, at the very end of the service, they took up an extra collection, just for the multi-millionaire televangelist.
This strikes me as the so-called 'Prosperity Gospel' -- itself pretty dodgy theologically -- gone mad. Haven't they forgotten the whole 'lay not up treasures for yourself in this world' bit? Not to mention the odd notion that you can force God into financially beneficial contracts.
Somedays my inner Calvinist comes out, and I just have to say: GAH!
*[which appears on pages 1B & 2B of the print edition for Mondy October 12th 2009]
**[Janice's question, when I showed her this story, was 'what kind of cookie?' very practical, those Methodists.]