The first part of this article appeared on this site in August, 2011. Part Two, which is an expansion and describes what has happened in the intervening months, immediately follows Part One.
Author Ann Rice renounced her association with Christianity a while back, citing that she could no longer in good conscience, associate herself with a religion the was filled with hatred and other related vices. I can’t say that I blame Ms. Rice for doing what she did. Believe me, on more than one occasion I have seriously considered doing exactly what she did.
In fact, I still do and to be gut-level honest, this occurs on a near weekly basis. Let’s face it, the Christian faith has a major image problem – no, it is beyond that – at this point it is safe to say that Christianity has an image crisis. This reality is sad enough; what makes it more so is the fact that it is not getting any better. It is getting worse.
In January of last year, I ran across sermon tapes where pastors, one a former Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the he prayed for the death of President Obama and another where a Phoenix, Arizona pastor said he “hated” Obama and then tried to launch a biblical explanation in support of his position. Somewhere along the line these folks missed the gospel and found something else. What these guys are preaching sounds a lot more like the Republican platform than anything Jesus had to say.
When Paul talked about Christians being a “pleasant aroma” rising up to heaven, I don’t think he had these jokers in mind.
If this sort of thing isn’t enough to drive folks away from the church, Christian broadcasting can take up the slack. It seems every program on these “faith-based” channels have a hand out, asking for money to “do God’s work.” What they really mean is “give us your cash so we can stay on the air.” Whether or not a particular program staying on the air constitutes God’s work is debatable.
These stations also hold frequent telethons, aimed at fleecing even more money out of viewers whether they can afford it or not. There are several “evangelists” that appear to be nothing more than professional hucksters, hired by the networks to raise funds by “preaching the gospel.” The gospel these folks preach basically boils down to “plant a seed and reap a harvest,” which is the Prosperity Gospels lingo for “send me some money and God will bless you.”
One particular huckster makes the rounds on these telethons and he is truly shameless in the things that he says in order to dupe the faithful out of their cash. I won’t mention his name, but I will share with you a transcription of an appeal he made on a recent telethon. The transcript, published in the fall 2010 edition of Plain Truth magazine, also omits his name, but if you are at all familiar with these telethons, you will immediately recognize his spiel:
Delayed obedience becomes disobedience…the delivery date of your financial harvest is today. If you hesitate, if you doubt, if you stop to think before you call and sow your uncommon seed right now, the delivery date on your harvest will be moved back. If you delay, heaven will delay. Call now. Don’t think. Don’t hesitate. Just simply obey the man of God, and reap your harvest of uncommon prosperity.
Don’t let this hour close with your hands closed. Quickly, go to the phone now. God never opens his hands until you open your hands. Call quickly. Call now.
When God wants you to have a harvest, he asks for a seed that authorizes it. When God has a future for you, he talks to you about a seed. The instruction you follow determines the future you create. When I open my hands, God opens his hands. My seed talks to God. My seed is a picture of my covenant to God. When God sees my seed, it is the way he remembers me.
When God wants to bless you, he talks to you about a seed. Quickly go to the telephone. Call the number that’s on the screen. Do it now.
Nothing leaves heaven until something leaves earth. A swift response of faith releases a swift response from God. Your seed has never had so much power. If you have ever decided to obey the Holy Spirit, do it today. If you are ever watching a program ordained by the Holy Spirit, this is the one.
There is an anointing on the $1,000 seed right now. God will always give you something illogical to do. God will never give you something logical to do. You can do the logical stuff yourself. God doesn’t talk to your mind; he talks to your heart. God doesn’t talk to your logic; he talks to your faith. Call now.
For those unfamiliar with the jargon these hucksters use, the term “seed” means a monetary donation to whatever organization, ministry, or program that is hosting the telethon or, as they so often call these gatherings, “praise-a-thons.”
A short time later, the “evangelist” mentioned above added this little gem to his fundraising plea:
“Nothing leaves heaven until something leaves earth first. It is a divine law, so you had best get up off that couch and go to the phone right now.” In other words, don’t expect God to bless you financially until you “demonstrate your faith” by sending in your money.
The fact that this sort of con game bilks decent, hard working folks out of their money is tragic enough. But there is yet another aspect of this kind of spectacle that is equally disturbing. For many, many people, this is the only face of the Christian faith they may ever see. After listening to a sickening diatribe like the one just quoted, I doubt a late night channel surfer seeking answers to life’s difficulties would give the Christian faith a second thought.
Think about it.
© L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved
I penned Part One of this essay, which was originally published as a standalone piece back in August, 2011. In the months since that time, rather than improving, the church’s image has been tarnished even further, now perhaps beyond redemption. It seems almost every week some bonehead pastor, most often a Southern Baptist somewhere in the Bible Belt, makes inflammatory remarks about some current issue and in the process, reveals his ignorance and exudes hatred, bigotry, and an obvious lack of Christian decency.
These people are the very antithesis of everything Christ taught and stood for and furthermore, do more to drive people away from the Christian faith than the most verbose and spiteful atheist ever did.
I won’t go through a litany of these comments as they are not deserving of further mention. I will say, however, that most recently these wing nuts have focused on the Gay/Lesbian marriage issue in general and now, President Obama’s open support of Gay rights. Rather than addressing this issue with even a modicum of civility and rationality, these “shepherds” stand before their flock and scream things like “I ain’t going to vote for no baby killing homo lover.” This same pastor, and I use that term loosely, suggested building a 100-150 mile electric fence to imprison lesbians, homosexuals, and “queers.”
Doesn’t the love of Christ just leap from every word coming out of the mouth of this man?
Please allow me to be a bit personal here. These folks have pretty much done what Satan, however you might want to define that term, never could directly do – and that is to drive me out of the Christian faith. Every day I vacillate between leaving the faith altogether and, at other times, feel I should stay and do battle with these heretics, because they have virtually destroyed the Bride of Christ. Sometimes I feel that is my duty as a follower of Jesus to, at least in some small way, do whatever I can to recapture his church from the hands of these buffoons. Yet I am just as often convinced that such a battle is far too great. With my rather severe heart problems, I wonder if I am up to it.
On a side note, many years ago, at a very critical time in my life, I gained much inner healing from my intense practice of Zen. I often feel the call to go back to this and let the church implode. Or perhaps there are others more able to fight this battle than I am.
As for now, I am in limbo…….
© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved