I’d stopped watching the evening news a few years ago. I find that I am much better informed and much more in touch with the world by reading periodicals, listening to NPR and getting news from Associated Press. After a particularly frustrating afternoon, I wanted to turn my brain off and have some background noise while I prepared dinner. This led to me turning on NBC Nightly News. One of the stories they ran was about one of many televangelists, Jesse Duplantis, soliciting $54 million dollars from his followers to buy his 4th private jet. You read that right. He wants his followers to pay for a jet airplane solely for his private use. He’s not the only one either.
On the heels of the sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle, given by The Most Reverend Michael Curry, I’d hoped that we would see the needle move a little bit. I’d prayed that we’d begin getting away from the utter bullshit that is “the prosperity gospel” and more into a direction of leaning more on love. I’m sickened and saddened by the indication that this probably isn’t going to happen, not right now anyway.
For those of you reading this that don’t know what the prosperity gospel is, I’d suggest checking out the wiki article for a full and exhaustive history of the movements which promulgate it as sound theology.
In the interest of full disclosure, this isn’t the first time that I find myself irritated by charlatans of Christianity. I’ve been acutely aware of the existence of this garbage theology since a very young age. Being surrounded by friends and family who are very community-minded has informed my belief that God wants us to love one another and to be supportive of one another directly. Tonight though, I had the wind completely knocked out of me, metaphorically speaking, by the sheer absence of love for neighbor that these televangelists cling to. As a matter of fact, I find myself personally offended and slighted by it.
Then I saw an excerpt of this video on the report.
Kenneth launches into this explanation of how impossible it is for him, Jesse Duplantis, Creflow Dollar and others to reach people without having access to a private plane. His reasoning is because they would be continuously interrupted in their conversations with God by “demons” in a “dope-filled world,” and by people “continuously walking up to them, asking them to pray for them,” etc. The last time I checked, it was this kind of a world which Jesus himself sought to interact with, directly.
If scripture and Biblical history teaches us anything, its that Jesus expects us to live not only for ourselves, but for the prosperity and love of the whole world.
Luke 18:18-25: Then a certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus replied. “No one is good except God alone.… You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.’” “All these have I kept from my youth,” he said. On hearing this, Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”… On hearing this, Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But when the ruler heard this, he became very sad, because he was extremely wealthy. Seeing the man’s sorrow, Jesus said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 16:16-24: Just then, a man came up to Jesus and inquired, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life?” “Why do you ask Me about what is good? Jesus replied, “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. Jesus answered, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept, said the young man. “What do I still lack?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
So important was this idea that the story was told TWICE, once by Matthew and again by Luke, both using almost exactly the same vocabulary throughout. Why is it then these allegedly anointed preachers do what they do? Do they think they are smarter than Jesus? Do they think they know more about what God wants for us than Matthew and Luke, both of whom WERE ACTUALLY STANDING THERE WHEN JESUS SAID WHAT HE SAID?
Some months back on my Facebook feed, I told the story of visiting a medical clinic in Augusta, Georgia that services the LGBT community. I was there with a dear transgender friend who was beginning, and now is amidst, the process of transitioning from female to male. While he was having his consultation exam, I had the opportunity to simply sit in the waiting room and observe. I’d never been to an LGBT clinic before. The people who were coming in and out of the clinic seemed to be from all walks of life. There were more than a few homeless youth coming in. At least one came in who seemed to be detoxing. More than a few transgender people get care there. Many, like my friend, are there because they can’t get support from their families. I finally had to excuse myself for a little while because I couldn’t help but cry; not for myself, but for the wealthiest nation in the history of history that would let this be a thing.
There have been moments when I was in need too. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by all manner of friends and family of choice who have cheerfully given me a hand up, mostly unsolicited. I remember one moment in particular when my birth mother was dying. I was in between jobs, broke, and my car was out of commission due to a minor accident. I had a friend who drove me from Savannah, GA to Americus to tend to my mom and then another friend put me up in their home and loaned me the money to fix my car with an indefinite repayment agreement.
My husband and I made a covenant with one another shortly before we got married, agreeing on two things very early on. First, our home, however small and modestly appointed, would always be a safe space for anyone that asked for it. A hot meal, a shower and a beer is here for those that would like it. Secondly, we would always give to others out of our poverty. We have lived into this ideal almost as an involuntary reaction to need in the world. Neither I nor Jay would be here without the direct kindness of other people in our lives. I can’t understand why someone with so much wealth would find it perfectly acceptable to ask people, many of whom are poverty stricken and elderly, to buy them more things. It truly makes my skin crawl. When they do it in the name of God, I completely lose my religion.
I’m going to go into broken record mode here for a moment. Well, I don’t know if it’s a broken record moment as much as it’s a decent record which has one tune on it that I love hearing and identify with well. That tune comes in the form of 4 questions….
Does it heal the sick?
Does it feed the hungry?
Does it clothe and shelter the poor?
Does it protect those who are marginalized and oppressed?
These 4 questions are born from a bit of scripture that Jay and I both live by, daily.
And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
It’s difficult for me not to be “judgy” here. This is a space where I think Jesus would be flipping tables and cracking the whip on people who have clearly missed the mark. The only reason I can think of that these questions are so difficult to ask in this day and age is because love isn’t sexy. Caring for your neighbor isn’t classified as something that makes you “successful.” The greater good of the world isn’t appealing. That’s the goal these traveling televangelists should be working towards; making good appealing, sexy and satisfying. They could do it if they they wanted to. They have the platform.
Though we live in a politically and religiously polarized world at the present time, I would leave you with this plea…
If you see someone sick, do what you are able to give them healing.
If you see someone who is hungry, do what you are able to get them fed.
If you see someone who is without shelter, do what you are able to find them a bed, even for just one night.
If you see someone who has been told that they are second-class human beings, sit with them, listen to their story and make sure they know they are loved.
And if you feel led to give money to Jesse Duplantis or Kenneth Copeland, give it to me. I promise that I’ll make sure it lands in the correct hands.