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:
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.