Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Preachers of Bling and Their Ensuing War With Francis: "Sacrifice? You've Got To Be Kidding!"

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

“The church doesn’t need apologists for their own agendas or crusaders for their own battles, but humble and faithful sowers of the truth.”

There is no doubt that Pope Francis I is shaking things up in today's world of religion - and not without plenty of hostility from some of America's most visible Christian preachers. Above, Francis called upon his clergy to be humble and not seek to climb any hierarchical ladder. But in perhaps his most provocative statement, he also called on clerics to live simply and humbly:  his address to the cardinals and staff who make up the Congregation for Bishops, Francis said that "self-denial and sacrifice are written into the bishop’s DNA."

Catholics across the country are responding accordingly:

ATLANTA — The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta apologized Monday for building a $2.2 million mansion for himself, a decision criticized by local Catholics who cited the example of austerity set by the new pope.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory recently moved into a nearly 6,400-square-foot residence. Its construction was made possible by a large donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With The Wind,” a Civil War epic that made his family wealthy. When Mitchell died in 2011, he left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.”
In New Jersey, Newark Archbishop John Myers hasn’t opted for penitence, and instead isdefending the expenditure of some $500,000 to add a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his already spacious retirement home. The new wing will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator.
The Diocese of Camden, N.J., includes one of the poorest cities in the country, which is partly why Bishop Dennis Sullivan made headlines in January for spending $500,000 to buy an historic 7,000-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces, a library, a five-car garage and an in-ground pool. The diocese said Sullivan needs the space to entertain dignitaries and donors. Not everyone’s buying that. “This is a joke,” parishioner John Miller told the local paper. “Jesus was born in a stable.”
In one his latest articles on Pope Francis, OpEdNews' Rob Kall called Francis' call for serving and sacrifice, The Pope's Bottom Up Revolution. To be sure, Kall's article focuses on church hierarchy and not "bling", but bishops in the past (as in present day prosperity "bishops" and preachers) have always associated hierarchy with lavish lifestyles - certainly better than any in their congregations. Certain "Bishops" like T.D. Jakes and Eddie Long created their own hierarchy in order to give their gospel the cache that goes with the cash.*

The Tangled Web of Capitalist Churches

Perhaps the most common defense today's "prosperity gospel" preachers will have against Francis's message will be the same as Rep. Paul Ryan's: this new pope just doesn't understand the workings of America's wonderful capitalism. Its churches create a stronger belief and bring in lost souls!

They don't add "through greed". They don't have to. Kate Blowler's article Believers in Bling highlights the Prosperity "Preachers of L.A."
Many believers in the prosperity gospel will despise the “The Preachers of L.A.” for advertising the humanity of the man behind the message. Still others will tune in because of their deep belief that the high life might actually be divine.
 Or the preacher himself might be divine: Pastor Steven Furtick's  Elevation Church hands out coloring books to young worshippers stating "Elevation Church is based upon the vision given by God to Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision." Furtick's new $3.3 million mansion certainly demonstrates the amount of support his "vision" has engendered besides all that adoration. 

The key to all of capitalist churches today may be transparency - or lack of it: few churches subscribe to the Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability. Lack of transparency puts them on Ministry Watch's "Donor Alert". Among those on the alert are:

Creflo Dollar Ministries
Benny Hinn
Rod Parsley (Breakthrough Ministries)
Trinity Broadcasting Network
Ken Copeland Ministries

Other churches equally culpable in shifting "bling" to their pastors and "bishops", however, may seem transparent, but have low "efficiency ratings', churches like:

John Hagee Ministries
TD Jakes Ministries
Mars Hill (Pastor Mark Driscoll**)

An Ensuing War

Whether on not capitalist churches like Ken Copeland's will address the "Francis Dilemma" head on has yet to be seen. So far, only ultra-conservatives like Paul Ryan (himself as Catholic) have made noises against Francis (ditto Rush Limbaugh, of course). But if Francis' theology of servitude and sacrifice truly takes flight, stronger names than "Marxist" will flow out of some of America's pulpits. 

Never come between a "bishop of bling" and his dreams. 

The below video is years old, but the preachers featured still thrive along with many more. 

*The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship that "consecrated" Long as Bishop is less than twenty years old and the original membership included Long himself. 
** Driscoll's latest scandal involves using church funds to pay for a "consulting" firm to place his latest book on bestseller lists. Up to $220,000. What Driscoll got from this fraud has still been undisclosed. 

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