the Devil

Prosperity (Devil’s Dollar Edition)

Creflo Dollar, in undated, uncredited photograph.

The thing about Sam Stringer’s report for CNN is mostly the idea of what it takes to get people to pay attention. To wit, there really isn’t anything new about the idea that this is how it goes:

Prosperity gospel pastor Creflo Dollar responded recently to critics of his campaign to buy a very pricey Gulfstream G650.

Dollar noted in a recent address to his congregants that the devil was attempting to discredit him in regards to his campaign seeking $300 from 200,000 people globally to help buy the luxury jet.

In a newly posted five-minute clip on YouTube, the Atlanta-area pastor speaks to his followers at World Changers Church International, tackling his critics and allegations about tithes, his real name and reports alleging members of having to reveal their W2 statuses to come into the church’s sanctuary.

“(The devil thinks) I got to discredit that man before he starts showing people Jesus!” Dollar preaches to loud applause.

“I’m on my sabbatical, and the enemy’s trying to discredit me,” Dollar stated.

Dollar is focused in the video on getting his point across and slams critics of his original request by stating to the people gathered, “I never one time came to you and asked you for a dime for this airplane, did I?”

But in March, Dollar did appeal in a video to “friends from around the world,” soliciting donations to replace his current 1984 Gulfstream G-1159A.

This is not some new phenomenon. Prosperity gospel is the new Calvinism, by which blessed are the wealthy and the greedy.

Christianity Today explains prosperity gospel as―

An aberrant theology that teaches God rewards faith—and hefty tithing—with financial blessings, the prosperity gospel was closely associated with prominent 1980s televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker, and is part and parcel of many of today’s charismatic movements in the Global South. Orthodox Christians wary of prosperity doctrine found a friend in Senator Chuck Grassley, who in 2008 began a thorough vetting of the tax-exempt status of six prominent “health and wealth” leaders, including Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, and Paula White.

Cathleen Falsani, explaining “The Worst Ideas of the Decade” for the Washington Post several years ago, called prosperity gospel―

an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.

The ministries of three televangelists commonly viewed as founders of the prosperity gospel movement – Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Frederick K.C. Price – took hold in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the oldest and best-known proponents of prosperity theology, Oral Roberts – the television faith-healer who in 1987 told his flock that God would call him home if he didn’t raise $8 million in a matter of weeks – died at 91 last week.

But the past decade has seen this pernicious doctrine proliferate in more mainstream circles. Joel Osteen, the 46-year-old head of Lakewood Church in Houston, has a TV ministry that reaches more than 7 million viewers, and his 2004 book “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” has sold millions of copies. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.

As crass as that may sound, Osteen’s version of the prosperity gospel is more gentle (and decidedly less sweaty) than those preached by such co-religionists as Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and the appropriately named Creflo Dollar.

Few theological ideas ring more dissonant with the harmony of orthodox Christianity than a focus on storing up treasures on Earth as a primary goal of faithful living. The gospel of prosperity turns Christianity into a vapid bless-me club, with a doctrine that amounts to little more than spiritual magical thinking: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich.

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Christian Faith and Character in Tennessee (Double Down Devil Mix)

"Remember, Satan was the first to demand equal rights" (Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle; March, 2015)

This is just strange:

A sign posted by a Knoxville church continues to raise eyebrows and spark both discussion and outrage after it was posted online.

The sign posted by Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church read “Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights.” Many people posted the picture to the WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook and Twitter pages, starting a debate about what the sign really means.

The pastor says the purpose of the sign was to send a message about unity and spark conversation in the community. He says it wasn’t meant to offend anyone.

“Our sign referencing Satan demanding his equal rights to ascend into the heavens and be God was simply ‘I’ and all about that individual,” said Pastor Tony Greene. “It was not a statement against any one group in particular, you know what about the rights of the unborn babies, the rights of children, the rights of everyone?”

(Holloway)

There are a few things here, but let us, please, simply start with the obvious: Did he just turn that into a plea for equal rights?

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The Devil’s Desperate Appeal

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal', by Zach Weiner, 13 February 2015.

You know, we could almost consider this one a Valentine’s Day joke, too, but you’d have to click the link to figure out why.

And, hey, would that be a trick up the sleeve or an ace in the hole?

(Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, by Zach Weiner, 13 February 2015.)

Not A Joke: So the Devil and a Republican Walk Into a Bar ….

Tinfoil

A basic historical pattern, overlain with a veneer of myth: The Devil is found first in what oppresses, then what competes, then what shares.

An example of how this works in history: Once upon a time, a new sect emerged within a religious and cultural archetype; they found the Devil in the Roman government that oppressed them and their Jewish brethren who collaborated with the authorities. Over time, the new group developed its own distinct identity and began competing for new converts, investing the Devil in the pagan gods and goddesses; once this sect had its own power, though, the Christians they became turned on one another, finding the Devil within its own ranks and struggling internally for political power.

It is not just Jews and Christians; the process holds generally.

Which suggests one might wonder how that applies to other movements. The Tea Party arose, finding its Devil in liberalism; they competed against a form of authoritarianism, appealing to libertarians left and right with issues like drug reform—because you wanna get high, right?—and other such superficial appeals to freedom. But they also chose to compete within Republican ranks, which means much of that second stage involves peeling off votes from partisan allies. As a result, it might seem hard to distinguish at what point the Tea Party movement considers itself in charge and rolls against its own ranks.

Steve Benen’s blog post headline pretty much makes the point: “Republicans turn on each other over Benghazi conspiracy theories”. The punch line is nearly predictable:

That’s right, it’s come to this: Republicans have uncovered a conspiracy so vast, it involves Republicans who went looking for evidence of a conspiracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party, 2014 Midterm Edition.

The problem with humor is that it makes no difference if it does not relate to any identifiable stake; that is, in and of its own, this conduct would be kind of funny the way we all have to deal with the question about when it is appropriate to laugh at people who cannot help themselves. But the question of the stakes really sucks even the cruelest, pettiest humor away.

When I was a kid, we would say this sort of thing is “retarded”. And the word works well enough; much like flame-retardant pajamas, Republicans are truth-retardant politicians. Logic itself is retarded, distorted to the point of inhibition, by this tragic conservative perspective. But, you know, it’s a two-party system, so that means sometimes we have to throw them some bones. You know, wreck the hell out of some other people’s quality of life so that we don’t accidentally oppress Republicans by demanding they start dealing with reality.

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Benen, Steve. “Republicans turn on each other over Benghazi conspiracy theories”. msnbc. 5 December 2014.