Church Gone Wild

Over the weekend I heard about Creflo Dollar, the megachurch pastor who allegedly punched and choked his 15-year-old daughter, the allegations coming from the 15-year-old daughter backed up by her 19-year-old sister.

As one might imagine, Dollar on Sunday denied the charges before his megacongregation, who supply him with megadollars, and I don’t expect at all that this prosperity gospel-preachin’ phony will suffer where it hurts folks like him the most: in the collection plate.

In fact, I would guess he is enjoying a bit of a windfall right now. In all the reports I saw, I never heard a single faithful follower utter even a tittle of criticism toward the black preacher, who to his disciples will remain as pure as the wind-driven snow.

In any case, I thought about my time as an evangelical when I heard about Creflo Dollar, because he was just getting started fleecing the flock when I was leaving the herd. I was part of the faith-and-prosperity movement that has been so very good to him (do you have two Rolls-Royces?) and that has scarred me for life.

Just to give you a personal example of the kind of mentality involved in the wide-scale scam that is the prosperity gospel, I once gave money to a member of my prosperity-gospel church. The man couldn’t pay his bills and asked me for help. He had a rather large family and a rather small desire to hold a job. But he believed in the teachings of folks like Kenneth Copeland—Creflo Dollar’s mentor in the mammon-is-marvelous ministry—the heart of which is this admonition from the unseen world:

Give men of God your money and God will give you back the money plus lots of divine interest, if you only believe he will.

That is essentially the message and it gets imprinted very deeply on the minds of the gullible, so deeply that the man I gave money to had a very earnest desire. Even though he was broke, dead broke, he planned on writing a how-to book on prosperity! I’m not kidding.

Now, even though I was caught up in the movement myself, I was still sober enough to figure out that there was something wrong with that picture. Just how could an idea become so powerful in the mind that it would delude a man into thinking such absurdities?

Well, that is the nature of such religious ideas. Everything occurs behind the curtain, out of sight of the audience, in the “spiritual” dimension. Thus, a clever man of the cloth can pretend he is peeking behind the curtain of this world and seeing into that better, higher world, and you, his follower, are fortunate to be the beneficiary of his knowledge.

If you will only have faith.

But such powerful, delusional ideas are not limited to the exchange of cash. Another story involving a Christian pastor was in the news a few days ago:

The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has hanged an effigy of President Barack Obama from a gallows on its front lawn, a move DWOC pastor Terry Jones said was in response to Obama’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage, as well as his stance on abortion and what Jones called his “appeasing of radical Islam.”

In case you missed it, here is a photo of Pastor Jones’ godly work:

obama effigy hung

Behind this outrageousness is something that should concern every American whose brain hasn’t been pickled by propaganda from pastors and priests. Religious fanaticism is not just something associated with terrorist training camps in a distant land. It is right here in America, in some form or another, possibly living next door to you, and certainly comprising a significant chunk of the electorate.

Oh, I’m not saying that Creflo Dollar or even Pastor Jones are in the same league with the fish bait that was once Osama bin Laden. What I am saying is that they—and countless numbers of conservative ministers—use the same tools he used, tools that are effective on a disturbing number of people.

And the reason I write so frequently about this topic is because I believe we have to dull the edges of those tools so they will be less effective in the future. We have to keep reminding our well-meaning conservative Christian neighbors, who urge us to send our kids to Church camps and the like, that it is just plain silly to pretend that they or their fellow churchmen have the slightest idea what, if anything, is going on behind the curtain.

If we fail to do that on a regular basis, we are part of the problem.

_________________________

Just to reinforce the point, listen to this short, Nazi-evoking sermon on tithing from Creflo Dollar and know that he—just one preacher—has thousands upon thousands of followers all over the country (transcript below courtesy of KennethCopelandBlog.com):

Now, you know, we’re under the Blood of Jesus, so we can’t shoot and stone people like we used to. All we have to do is repent and God will forgive us and take us where we need to be. But I can tell you, man, if it wasn’t for the Blood, there’d be a whole lot of us being stoned and being in Hell right now over the tithe. But for [“if not for”?] the Blood of Jesus, we’d be doomed.

I mean, I thought about when we first built “The Dome,” I wanted to put some of those little moving bars and give everybody a little card. They’d stick it in a little computer slot. If they were tithing, beautiful music would go off and, you know, [Creflo sings] “Welcome, welcome, welcome to the World Dome.” [Congregation laughs.]

But…if they were non-tithers, the bar would lock up, the red and blue lights would start going, the siren would go off, and a voice would go out throughout the entire dome, “Crook, crook, crook, crook!” [Congregation laughs.] Security would go and apprehend them, and once we got them all together, we’d line them up in the front and pass out Uzis by the ushers and point our Uzis right at all those non-tithing members ’cause we want God to come to church, and at the count of three “Jesus”-es we’d shoot them all dead. And then we’d take them out the side door there, have a big hole, bury them, and then go ahead and have church and have the anointing. [Mostly silence in the congregation, but one or two still actually laugh.]

Aren’t you glad we’re under the Blood of Jesus? [“Yeah, yeah,” from the congregation.] Because if we were not under the Blood of Jesus, I would certainly try it.

Folks, this is a serious thing.

13 Comments

  1. Angelfire

     /  June 11, 2012

    Religion , not to be confused with God, has always been and always will be about oppression of the stupid and the gullible. Oh, and the transfer of THEIR cash to the church.

    There is a true, just, and living God me thinks.

    And there is a hot spot in hell for most preachers (fleecers) i.e. those who won’t or can’t hold a real job.

    God’s goin’ after them first, like, right off the bat dontchaknow?

    Like

    • The redistribution of wealth from the laity to the priesthood is, indeed, a large part of what American Christianity has become. In some cases, it is almost entirely about the money, as Dollar’s sermon on tithing illustrates.

      If God does do a reckoning when this world is all over, I’m guessing there will be some surprises in store for those who exploit fear and ignorance in order to make a nice living.

      Duane

      Like

  2. ansonburlingame

     /  June 11, 2012

    Yes, Duane, it is a serious thing/matter but exactly how big it is, is my question. I am sure if I looked real hard, I could find some gathering akin to what this man espouses around here, but absent really looking for such stuff, I never see or hear it. That of course does not mean it does not exist. It simply means I don’t see or hear it and I don’t live in a “cave”, physically or intellectually (though some may disagree with the intellectual part).

    As a pre-teenage younster I attended a few revival meetings and got caught up in the spirit of such gatherings. So I have felt the “call”, long ago.

    But as a college stuedent, I experienced the same euphoria at, can you believe a football pep rally. Bonfires, music, signs and banners, demonizing the “other side”, heros paraded before the mob, etc. was all part of the “school spirit”. My guess the same goes on today before a “big game” at my old school. with ferverent cries of “Beat Army”.

    But after it was over and the next day the game was won or lost, we alls till got up at 6 AM, went to the moringing inspection, ate breakfast and went to work in classes for the next week.

    Men go into battle using the same tools as well from time to time.

    Generating mob mentality has been going on since humans first gathered I suppose. You won’t like the comparison but the mob mentallity used by unions last year in Wisconsin is the same thing as a mega church using the same tools, is it not?

    Good democracy should be a thoughful and peaceful gathering of people to support a cause, in my view.

    I disparage all mobs, be it OWS, mega churches, unions groups that get out of hand and some earlier Tea Party gatherings as well.

    On the other hand a potlical convention itself (but not the mobs outside of oneas in the 1968 Dem conventnion) are fine with me, like a football pep rally.

    Anson

    Like

    • Anonymous

       /  June 11, 2012

      A union tells you that may lose your job, A church tells you that you will burn in hell. Big difference to me.

      Kabe

      Like

  3. ‘Easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ Not sure how anyone espousing the prosperity gospel deals with that.

    At the same time, I think you can be rich in spirit but not in money.

    Like

    • King Beauregard

       /  June 11, 2012

      There are a couple ways, you’ll be glad to know:

      1) According to what someone once pulled out of his ass, there was once a narrow gateway in Jerusalem called the Eye of the Needle. A camel laden with goods could not pass through the Eye of the Needle, but if you removed the goods from the camel, it could get through. The lesson there is, the rich just need to give up their material wealth before dying, and they will get into heaven.

      2) “Er, um … HEY LOOK OVER THERE AT THEM FAGGOTS!”

      Like

    • Bruce,

      King Beau nicely summarized a teaching I received in my church and in my readings of prosperity gospel literature. The principle at work regarding that pesky scripture about camels and rich men is that when one finds something in the Bible that contradicts one’s theology, one merely reinterprets the offending passage and moves on.

      I have seen this principle at work with regards to women in the church, turning the other cheek, etc. It’s also a tool of more liberal churchmen, who try to round off the rough edges of scriptural teachings so as to distinguish themselves from their Neanderthalic brethren. (See, for instance, the reinterpretation of the Bible’s anti-gay stance.)

      Duane

      Like

  4. ansonburlingame

     /  June 11, 2012

    “I think you can be rich in spirit but not in money.”

    I must add, unless you are a progressive!!!

    AB

    Like

  5. Jason

     /  June 12, 2012

    I believe the “but for” in Dollar’s construction is used in the same sense as in “There but for the grace of God go I”. A perhaps clearer (less poetic) way to phrase this is “without god’s grace, i would go ‘there’ “.

    So, the “but for” construction in Creflo Dollars statement is just a poetic way of saying “without”.

    Like

    • Jason,

      Okay, but why did he bother to bring up something so repulsive in that case? Obviously he was using his anger to get across a point to this potential donor base that they had better not slack off.

      This is blatant manipulation, even if his sentence construction began inartfully.

      Duane

      Like

  6. Jason

     /  June 13, 2012

    Oh yeah, i’m only talking about grammar here, i agree the guy is totally insane, he’s pretty bluntly saying that if Jesus didn’t say otherwise he’d murder people who didn’t tithe his church. Basically saying he only adheres to any standards of decent human behavior because of a “top down” command from a higher authority. This kind of logic is what upwards delegation of moral authority breeds, i think.

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    • Jason

       /  June 13, 2012

      But maybe there’s something more telling here about his OWN thought processes. Maybe he’s a sociopath at heart, and is projecting his own thought processes onto everyone else.

      I’d argue he probably does have a sociopathic personality type to even come up with the UZI’s and mass-grave for non-tithers idea, especially to make it a public statement / joke without realizing most normal people wouldn’t find such a joke amusing – as indicated by the crowd’s silence.

      Like

    • Thanks, Jason. I kind of had the feeling that you felt that way, but interpreting comments can be a little tricky sometimes. And I like your point about what it reveals about an unrestrained Creflo Dollar. However, that leads us into another puzzling question about our society: Does Christianity, on balance, make our culture better or worse? We have wrestled with that question several times and I’d be interested in your take.

      Duane

      Like

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