Since I have spoken about the greed in politics and business it would be a failure on my part to not speak about the greed in Religion. Todays post is about just a small sector of that greed as it pertains to the Evangelical belief but by no means is it only a part of their belief as a large part of the same belief is shared by other Religions, such as the Mormon Faith, as well, they just are not as outwardly obvious about it.
Prosperity ministers who are outwardly preaching the value of greed in America are a new twist to the teaching of Religion. They are a growing breed of ministers tied to the Charismatic Evangelical movement. They run the gamut of people who show no shame in their high pitch sales job of the merits of rewards that come along with giving to those who use more subtle nuances. People like the Joyce Meyer’s ministries from Missouri are very aggressive in claiming entitlement to a rich life style due to God’s gifts to her while others like Joel Osteen of Texas are less verbose, but both types are prosperity ministers.
When Americans became bored with the often boring and staid teachings of or disillusioned with Traditional Religion and divorce became more prevalent or lifestyles changed, people began looking for more entertaining ways to worship, and many turned to Evangelicals to provide them with Spiritual guidance. Although Evangelicals originate primarily from Methodists and Presbyterian beliefs along with the 1700′s Piety and Puritan beliefs of the Bible preaching’s, to tie Evangelicals to any one belief factor would be wrong. They’re definitely the majority who see themselves as Conservative Christians but there are also those who are liberal and even some who would be considered as really non-committed who do not believe it necessary to attend Church Services and Bible Studies every Sunday and Wednesday.
Evangelicals are popular with the African-Americans through the Baptist Church just as the faith is practiced by all members and Nationalities in America and all walks of life. It is the largest growing Religion in America with an estimated 28.3% or 90 million Christians in America. Brazil is only larger in percentages than the United States is in growth.
To pen point any similarities beyond their belief in ”Born Again” and ”Catholics as Heretics who do not teach the literal interpretation of the Bible”, would do them a disservice as even though they have a high number of Republican Conservatives, through the minority population, they have an equally large number of Liberal Democrats. Some want nothing to do with the mention of politics while others feel they should be front and center in the influence of politicians and their decisions. Many believe in Rapture and await the second coming of Christ, others believe in healing of the sick and disabled by the laying on of hands, while others speak in tongue. Many credit their success as a direct Blessing from God and believe they are guided by the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. They accept most of Protestant beliefs but the crowds many times are more exuberant and reactive than in Traditional Religion.
Many of the ministers, due to their own lack of training in Divinity and Seminaries, often expound their own interpretations of the Bible and so the messages often vary from one Church to the next with individual understanding or interpretation of the chapters and verse of the Bible. Some are guided through life by a literal interpretation of marriage:” being of one man and one woman,” while others allow for gay rights. Many hate to be perceived as fundamentalists as they were in the 1700′s when Evangelical beliefs initially arose in Europe.
Not all Evangelicals are Charismatic nor believe in Prosperity Ministers nor are all obsessed with Heaven and Hell. One thing that is certain is if they do preach the Word many have little to no training in Divinity, although many do have honorary Dr. degrees without formal education from Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell and other Evangelical Universities. Some get their degree to preach from a mail order house out of California while others get theirs for a fee over the internet.
They all believe they were given a calling and were inspired to preach when God appeared to them. Some are very simple people who come from the coal mines in the Appalachians. Others have high school diplomas while some do have Associate degrees or two years and still others have Bachelor degrees of four years of college, from non-credited schools ran by the Evangelical ministries. Others have had Seminary training in other more traditional Protestant Religions and have left that faith to start their own Evangelical Church. Universal, Grace, Life, Good Will, Glad Tidings, etc. are usually a part of the name of these Churches over that of Jesus, the Apostles, or Saints most commonly found in other more Traditional Religions.
Prosperity ministers are those ministers who pretty much share tears in the wickedness of their ways before “they got drunk on Jesus,” and before God appeared to them and made them rich. They are very charismatic and crack jokes and do a sales job on their parishioners, telling them if they give to their Church until it hurts they will be Blessed ten fold and maybe even 100 fold. If their parishioners think they can give 10 dollars or even a 100 dollars and it does not mean deprivation or sacrifice on their part, for God, then they do not really believe in God. If a thousand dollars really hurts then they should give a thousand dollars and not worry about the bills as God will provide, If they really believe. They play on the guilt of the poor by making them feel like the reason they are poor is because they do not believe hard enough. The great majority of the money they receive comes from their radio or television ministries and is established fact that the poor give at a higher percentage rate of their income than do the wealthy.
They tell their followers how they did not have a dime, the wolves, were at their door, the bill collectors calling constantly and when they took their last few dollars to Church and gave it to God they were Blessed with manna from Heaven. Their good fortune just fell from the skies. They quote the passages of the Bible that says ”and God Blessed and rewarded them with good fortune”, and totally over look the parts of the Bible that say, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to gain Heaven,” and Christ’s teaching’s about mankind’s need to give away all his riches to serve the poor, in order to gain heaven.
Prosperity ministers beliefs that they have found the Blessings of God’s favor through becoming rich is so prevalent that they take parishioners money to buy $10 million dollar corporate jets, $200,000.00 in antique furnishings, they drive Mercedes and BMW’s in the $80,000.00 to $100,000.00 dollar range and feel entitled while living in million dollar homes while giving their children all the best that their parishioner’s money can buy. So warped are their beliefs of entitlements to wealth and so charismatic are their sales pitch that they can and do convince their followers, they are God’s voice on earth, even without seminary training or practical applications in divinity. Some even claim they are living out their gift from God now, while others in their Congregations struggle to make ends meet.
Their followers, just as do the ministers, fail to see the hypocrisy in the message they preach when they preach the need of every one to take responsibility for their own needs; and the poor could be rich if they just believed. Since they offer the poor hope they are often times kept poor through their weekly contributions to the Prosperity Ministers, as every dime is followed by more from the poor with the poor being the Prosperity Ministers greatest contributors. The prosperity ministers and parishioners fail to reach the understanding of the ministers dependency on the Mercy of the people, before they gained their own riches. God does not deal in dollars but sales people certainly do, and it would do us all well to begin there with that introspective thought.
Because these ministers forgive every sin through their “Born Again Beliefs”, regardless of how grievous the sins, without individual confession and penance and they relate to their parishioners about their own sinfulness and really stress how they were sinners, People flock towards the ability to be born again and all their past sins forgiven.
In the more conservative Evangelical Churches, parishioners are often shamed into living exemplary lives just as their ministers do, even though there are some who are no different from the rest of us with the same foibles and mistakes or sins committed by all of us. In the more Conservative Churches the parishioners cling to the belief that often these uneducated clergy can speak for God and give them a greater place in Heaven and a get out of Hell free card, if they only embrace their lives in the constant presence of Christ and continue to give of their money, which they are told is in most cases intended for the poor. This is true unless they are Prosperity ministers as good deeds are encouraged in most Evangelical Churches. The Prosperity clergy often claim to draw salaries that do not compensate for the riches they gain. Many of the more liberal parishioners belong for the fellowship more than they do for the strict observance of the teachings as is common in many Religions, who do not set strict guidelines.
As a neighbor of mind once said, “I would hate to think I was such a bad sinner that I would have to spend my life in Church.” I have always enjoyed travel because I love the diversity that is America over tying myself to one group for a life time but that is just my own personal choice and many people are comfortable and justifiably so in their own communities.
I like many believe that: Spirituality just like physical and mental needs are a necessity of mankind in the fulfillment of life and living but are dollars really a part of what makes mankind great or saves us from hell? Can we really buy ourselves into Heaven or are we better judged for the value of our compassion for, the time we place on, and we give of ourselves to humanity? We do need to sometimes question the motives behind what appears to be an exorbitant lifestyle of riches regardless of the person or people who are promoting the same, at the expense of the people. We cannot wear blinders just because those vulgar displays of wealth are arising from our ministries any more than we can when they come from our politicians. Both depend on the generosity of the people and should be suspect and held responsible for such displays.
The great majority of us want to see people who have made wealth through hard work and sweat equity enjoy the fruits of their labor as it offers hope to those of us who dream. Certainly ministers and some politicians put in long hours and hard work as well, but when their income is earned on the charity of the poor, the vulnerable, or the greed of lobbyists, the majority of us see these excessive lifestyles of displayed wealth as being vulgar. It is not what we want of either our clergy or our politicians whose main concerns should be dedicated to the needs of the people. When a family of 4 or more make $50,000.00 a year and they are pressured or cajoled into writing $10,000.00 checks so they can prove the power of their faith in God or a politician can get elected, and the clergy and politicians cannot understand the immorality of their exorbitant lifestyle, then who can we turn to when we ask for legitimacy in our Churches or our government ?
Does the riches gained by our politicians who are threatening to deny payment of Social Security to the elderly, wages to the Military and middle class, and GI benefits, by shutting down government over Obama care, mean they are deserving to be great and Blessed? Wouldn’t we all do better with their compassion shown and their time given to our needs without strings attached? Something else to ponder that’s for sure. Doesn’t take much common sense to figure out, does it?;)