Salvation vs Tithing

I had a quick thought on Salvation and the Law of Tithing.

The concept of Salvation is incredibly simple. In fact it’s so simple that there is only 1 requirement: “Believe in Jesus and you will be saved”. This is quite powerful in that Murderers who “believe in Jesus” will be saved and Liars, and Cheats and Child Molester and Rapists and ANYONE that simply “believes in Jesus” will also be saved*…despite how you or I feel about them.

It also means that anytime anyone attaches some “other requirement” to your salvation they are misleading you. In other words, when someone tells you that it is a requirement that you give 10% of your income to them…they are teaching the anti-gospel.  And, when someone says “well, if you really believed in Jesus than you would be happy to give your tithe” they are playing the role of God…a role they are not qualified for…

Salvation is simple…or at least it was…before the church got involved.

*Sorry about that….but it’s true. Yes the gospel is offensive…and this is one reason why…people who have done horrendous things here on earth are still qualified to receive the same forgiveness offered to those who work so hard to deserve it. Grace isn’t fair.

Forget the Church. Follow Jesus

That’s the title of the lead article in the Easter edition of Newsweek Magazine. The article defines the decline of the church in America.

Meanwhile, organized religion itself is in trouble. The Catholic Church’s hierarchy lost much of its authority over the American flock with the unilateral prohibition of the pill in 1968 by Pope Paul VI. But in the last decade, whatever shred of moral authority that remained has evaporated. The hierarchy was exposed as enabling, and then covering up, an international conspiracy to abuse and rape countless youths and children. I don’t know what greater indictment of a church’s authority there can be—except the refusal, even now, of the entire leadership to face their responsibility and resign. Instead, they obsess about others’ sex lives, about who is entitled to civil marriage, and about who pays for birth control in health insurance. Inequality, poverty, even the torture institutionalized by the government after 9/11: these issues attract far less of their public attention.

For their part, the mainline Protestant churches, which long promoted religious moderation, have rapidly declined in the past 50 years. Evangelical Protestantism has stepped into the vacuum, but it has serious defects of its own. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explores in his unsparing new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, many suburban evangelicals embrace a gospel of prosperity, which teaches that living a Christian life will make you successful and rich. Others defend a rigid biblical literalism, adamantly wishing away a century and a half of scholarship that has clearly shown that the canonized Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ ministry, and are copies of copies of stories told by those with fallible memory. Still others insist that the earth is merely 6,000 years old—something we now know by the light of reason and science is simply untrue. And what group of Americans have pollsters found to be most supportive of torturing terror suspects? Evangelical Christians. Something has gone very wrong. These are impulses born of panic in the face of modernity, and fear before an amorphous “other.” This version of Christianity could not contrast more strongly with Jesus’ constant refrain: “Be not afraid.” It would make Jefferson shudder.

It would also, one imagines, baffle Jesus of Nazareth. The issues that Christianity obsesses over today simply do not appear in either Jefferson’s or the original New Testament. Jesus never spoke of homosexuality or abortion, and his only remarks on marriage were a condemnation of divorce (now commonplace among American Christians) and forgiveness for adultery. The family? He disowned his parents in public as a teen, and told his followers to abandon theirs if they wanted to follow him. Sex? He was a celibate who, along with his followers, anticipated an imminent End of the World where reproduction was completely irrelevant.

The prosperity Gospel is a farce and is turning off a generation of Christians. And I am somewhat impressed that a major news publication recognizes what so many people on this blog and other places on the internet have come to realize for themselves — You don’t need church to be a Christian.

TBN Sued for Financial Fraud

I know you all are not going to believe this. But there may have been some financial dishonesty taking place at Trinity Broadcast Network. TBN, as you are likely aware, is a big proponent of the prosperity gospel. And by prosperity gospel, they mean, “We prosper and don’t really care about the gospel.”

One interesting wrinkle in this situation is that the suit is being brought the granddaughter of the founders of TBN.

Their granddaughter, Brittany Koper, recently filed court papers that include allegations of $50 million in financial shenanigans at the world’s largest Christian broadcasting network. Her suit was followed by another from a Koper in-law, who detailed opulent spending at the network on items such as private jets, mansions in California, Tennessee and Florida and a $100,000 mobile home for Jan Crouch’s dogs.

But, of course, Brittany is going to burn in hell because — TOUCH NOT GOD’S ANOINTED!

God Works on Commission

That is going to be the title of my upcoming “prosperity gospel” book.

A pastor in Maine, William Cripe, titled his book, “The Proper Pursuit of Prosperity”. (My title is better). And I love what Mr. Cripe says about the prosperity scam:

Cripe said the book is intended for people struggling with the frustrations of life. He made clear that there is nothing about financial success or extraordinary wealth.

“Many of the faithful people of the Bible were wealthy,” he said in his email. “This is not another book that bashes the rich nor does it maintain that poverty is next to godliness. There are in fact promises of ‘blessing’ in this life for the one whose priorities are God-centered rather than self-centered.

“But material wealth and perfect health are not guaranteed to anyone no matter how faithful they are,” he continued. “Some of the most faithful people in the Bible and throughout history were dirt poor or suffered horrible diseases or experienced great tragedies. We all know examples of very wealthy yet very nasty people and we probably all know some very wonderful people who experience crisis and calamity. Poverty and wealth are both poor indicators of God’s favor on a person.”

Um, yeah. Exactly.

Have You Been Injured in a Church Accident?

Bob Schilling has a request:

I’m looking specifially for news items about people who have sincerely trusted God for healing and declined medical help and suffered or died as a result – would you have any links or direction for to look into those kinds of stories?

If any of you have such a story or news item, please feel free to leave it in the comments.

Path to Prosperity

I know everyone hates it when I talk politics, so I'm going to walk this line delicately.

The Republican's budget plan for 2012 is called "The Path to Prosperity". The plan was put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan a few weeks ago and, in theory, it will reduce the Federal deficit and help balance the budget. 

Of course, I was less interested in the actual details of the budget plan. (that would require a lot of thought and intelligence) And I was much more interested in the title of the budget plan.  What is it about the word prosperity that appeals to conservatives? 

I've thought about this the past couple of weeks and I honestly have no idea why that word resonates so strongly with Evangelicals and Republicans.  The words in these titles aren't chosen by accident. They are meant to convey an image. To wit: A prominent conservative writer at Red State wrote a blog post about the budget plan a few weeks back titled "Paul Ryan is not Jesus, But His Path To the Prosperity Gospel is Really Good". The blog post doesn't actually talk about the propserity gospel, but I thought it was interesting that a conservative writer immediately made the connection between the Path to Prosperty and the Prosperity Gospel.

Any of you have any idea what it is about the word prosperity that conservatives love so much? I'm genuinely curious. 

A Year of Sundays

A couple of atheists in Portland are running around visiting and writing reviews of local churches for their blog – A Year of Sundays.

They offer a particularly scathing review of Beaverton Four$quare Church.

But Foursquare seems to be praying upon the mediocre. Church for the American consumer. You’re buying an experience that FEELS like spirituality because it’s prettily packaged and perfectly delivered, not because it’s real. It reminds me of the last meal I ate at Olive Garden. You might not find any real FOOD in that all-you-can-eat soup, salad and bread sticks deal, but it still fills you up. Foursquare feels similarly overpriced.

I’m not sure there’s a better way for me to say this, but I feel a genuine sadness for the people who attend this church. They are being bamboozled. But here’s the thing – I honestly and truly believe that they all BELIEVE it, the enigmatic Rick Fry included. It’s a collective bamboozlement. As an outsider looking in, I watched a short line of parishioners approach the pastor after the service to ask for specific prayers. They would throw their arms around each other, butt their heads together in a circle and pray.

Besides the completely uncalled for attack on Olive Garden, the whole review is quite good. They hit upon a key aspect of these mega churches that really bugs me: they're completely fake.

Profits For Prophets – Its All About The Money

We've had a lot of videos on this blog showing many well known pastors making grabs for money and trying to manipulate and guilt mindless sheep into giving cash to the offering plate.  Here is one I found on YouTube that is definitely worth watching:

I find it pretty amazing that even with an economy in the toilet and tons of evidence out there showing how fraudulent these people are, church goers continue to fork it over. I just can't figure it out.

Anyway, consider this an open video thread.  If you have any good videos to share about the greed and money grubbing ways of some of these crooks feel free to share.  Maybe in the future we can point all the drive by posters who ask "what's the big deal?" to this section.

I’ll Be Honest, Will You?

I found a YouTube channel that posts some powerful clips of preachers calling for Christians to live more like Christ and the Apostles of the early church.  This is a ministry of Grace Community Church in San Antonio, TX.  Now I've never been there nor do I know everything that the believe/preach so I can't say this is all great stuff.  However, many of the clips call out the prosperity gospel and those who preach it, which of course I like.  Two that really got me are Leonard Ravenhill on the prosperity gospel and Paul Washer on false pastors/preachers.  I also like this one, which is a compellation of some great biblical messages.  This is NOT the kind of stuff you will EVER hear preached from the mouths of Judah Smith or Frank Damzio.