Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be My Guest: The Poverty of The Prosperity Gospel

Oh, I love it when I get to turn the reins over to other talented writers, and I'm very proud to publish this piece on the bankrupting teachings of the Prosperity Gospel spreading across the globe like a cancer. The author has chosen to be identified only as the Mysterious M, but I do want to give this tidbit of information about her: she hails from South Africa, so she writes using what to this Yankee seems to be the "Queen's English". Very lovely. Enjoy!

The Poverty of the Prosperity Gospel

This is how the Lausanne Theology Working Group, Africa chapter, defined the prosperity gospel at its consultations in Akropong, Ghana:

“We define prosperity gospel as the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the "sowing of seeds" through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings.” (

So where does the prosperity gospel come from? And, more importantly, is it true?

For starters, there’s a good bit of wishful thinking behind it. After all, who doesn’t want to be healthy and wealthy? It’s easy to see why this theology is popular. And if you’re poor or in a state of chronic ill health it must appear particularly appealing. But wishful thinking is no basis for truth.

Support for the prosperity gospel is usually given by a reading of Old Testament promises to the Israelites as if they apply directly to us. The problem with this is that the Old Testament promises were directed specifically to the nation of Israel at a specific point in time. Moreover, the material wealth and prosperity promised to the Israelites was a mere shadow of the greater spiritual wealth and spiritual prosperity promised to Christians in the New Testament and of the complete renewal of all things which Christ Himself will bring about in the New Heavens and New Earth. To fixate on the shadow instead of the thing it foreshadows is to make the same mistake as liberation theologians who see physical liberation as an end in itself and forget that the physical liberation of the Israelites foreshadowed far greater liberation from bondage to sin.

The prosperity gospel sometimes seems true because there are indeed certain blessings which are to be had from living life God’s way. Those who work hard are, on average, better off materially. Those who live chastely are less likely to contract STDs or HIV. Loving one’s neighbour leads to a more harmonious society. The list goes on. And God also often blesses His people with material wealth and health. The problem comes in when we feel that we are entitled to such blessing and when we feel cheated if we do not receive it. We need to remember that Jesus also told His disciples that there would be troubles they would face in this life – specifically because of being Christian. The early Christians often faced hardship, not prosperity. Being thrown to the lions by Nero wasn’t much of an advert for health and wealth. In many countries today persecution to the point of death is still a reality. Even in countries with religious freedom, hardworking Christians still get retrenched, health conscious Christians still get cancer, and frugal Christians still lose their savings in a global economic meltdown. These things happen to people who love God. Suffering is not a sign of weak faith.

Prosperity teaching is advocated by a brand of “pastor” who does not deserve the title. Such teachers are in ministry for all the wrong reasons. Their kind has been around for a very long time and Jesus roundly denounced them. The prosperity gospel provides them with an opportunity to fleece the flock by demanding monetary “seed” for God’s blessing. This is a gross perversion of the pastor’s role as shepherd of those entrusted to him.

The prosperity gospel doesn’t stand up to good biblical exegesis and it doesn’t stand up to the reality of experience. Its popularity is attributable to wishful thinking on the part of churchgoers and to avarice on the part of unscrupulous “pastors”.

That said, there are many genuine Christians who are taken in by this “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8). We should not dismiss all who fall prey to this teaching as fakes. However, we should do our best to show them its emptiness – because it has serious consequences.

The prosperity gospel undermines the witness of the Church in a world which is already cynical with regard to Christianity. Non-christians see the hypocrisy of teachers who teach it and the gullibility of those who follow them. This further confirms their bias against the true gospel and makes them dismissive of the real thing before they’ve heard it.

Moreover, a fixation on material prosperity as the measure of their faith makes Christians weak when hardship strikes because their unrealistic, unbiblical expectations are not met and they feel let down. Worse still, their appreciation of the core blessings of Christianity (eternity in the presence of God, salvation from sin and judgment, complete renewal, etc.) is dulled by finding their primary joy in peripheral blessing. Most seriously, the teaching of blessing in exchange for sowing a “seed” or some other work undermines the fundamental teaching of grace: the unmerited favour of God towards sinful man.

The supreme irony about this thing called the prosperity gospel is that it actually leads to spiritual poverty in the life of a Christian. We need to stamp it out to restore the joy of the Christian’s salvation, so that in all circumstances of life they can find their meaning, their purpose, and their joy in Christ alone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Secret Life of B****es

No, no, no, not "The Secret Life of Bees". The Secret Life of B****es! No Dakota Fanning in this category. I think.

I've worked with quite a number of men and women over the past ten years, and unfortunately, a few... how shall I put it? Well, I had the dishonor of working for some major b****es. Yes, although those are asterisks, you all know what I mean. Nasty tempered, mean mugging, snotty, back stabbing, lying rhymes-with-witches people. And I say people, because plenty of guys aren't just dogs, no they are b****es.

Now, if I offended some with my use of letters and symbols to clearly communicate a bad word, my apologies. You can stop reading and go pray for me. Then click the tag on the homepage for "Christ the King". Or un-bunch your panties and keep reading. I'd suggest you do both.

Anyway, I was talking to a co-worker this morning about how negatively some people have talked about my transition to natural hair. Me: "Yeah, you should've heard how people were talking to me! One person said 'I'll bring in a hot comb to get THAT fixed for you'". Her: "WHAT? They said that about your hair? They had the nerve to call your hair "THAT" as if there's something wrong with it? With you? Hmph! Well, you're too nice. I would've told that b**** off!" I laughed and went about my day.

But some time early this afternoon, pre-lunch but after my morning cup of joe, I found myself thinking about that b****. And all the other b****es I've known. And admitted to myself how quite a few times, like Lil' Kim, I could be a Queen B, too.

"Wanna rumble with the B, huh?" I might not be dressed in all black like an omen, but I can make people real sick. And okay, yeah, sometimes I DO dress in all black.


I remember sitting in the stairwell by the back door of Trinity Christian Academy in tears. I was twelve, a seventh grader in Pastor Todd's class, and I was miserable. My parents were fighting at home, no one really liked me, I was too short and flat-chested and on that day, ugly. Not on the outside, like I believed, but in the inside. So when Nadia Montano, beautiful, popular, and perfect came walking by, and asked me if I was okay, I snapped. "Like YOU care," I said coldly. Her face fell. Then looked shock. She turned and walked out muttering under her breath about how she wouldn't ask me that again. Someone else said, "Who does she think she is? Eww." Finally, when all the pretty, perfect and popular girls and their cute boys had passed, I snuck into the bathroom and cried.

I didn't really cry because of all the "flaws" I mentioned before, but more because I knew I was dead wrong. Nadia had never done a darn thing to me. In fact, unlike some of the girls I went to school with, she never called me "flat-chested", "loser" or "nerd"- at least not to my face. She had complimented my skills in drawing, my hair and my smile. My tears were of shame.

This incident stuck out in my head because it was one of the first times I can remember lashing out at someone (other than a sibling) who had done nothing to me simply because I was in a bad mood. And instead of feeling relief or justification since I was going through so much, I felt worse. I had behaved like a mean girl, a little b****.


"Oh, I'm a B****? I AM? Well, I'll be the best B**** you'll ever know," I said, slamming down the phone. And then I cried. I wasn't that girl. That type of girl who threw out that type of word at a guy who thought it was okay to claim love for me yet call me that word. Yet, somehow, I was that girl.

I was 22, fresh out of college and getting played by a guy who wasn't even my boyfriend. Mind games, creepy, self-image destroying mind games. I knew he was so wrong for me. He had said that from jump (and by the way, people, if a guy or girl says "You Know I'm No Good" like Amy Winehouse, just take their word for it, they aren't and you DO KNOW it).

But I sat there, tears streaming mad, hurt at being called a b****. Then thinking dark, nasty thoughts. "If he thinks I'm a b****... well, I can be THAT!" I pondered driving to his house and screaming at him, cursing. Maybe I could key his car? Or flatten his tires? A contorted, Grinch-like smirk crossed my lips as I replayed every vengeful R&B video I had ever seen through my head thinking of ways to prove my b****iness. "I wish I could crash my motorcycle through his window like Pink!" Uh, never mind that I had no motorcycle and "his window" was actually his grandmother's. So there you go...

It was a phone call that set me off, too, but there was no cute b-baller in wait to not take me home.


That's the thing about being a b****. Far from being glamorous, it's really very ugly. To maintain the level of anger and self-conceit to remain b****y, one must exert a ridiculous amount of energy. You plot and plan and stew and simmer, getting worked hot up into a heated hatred- just to cool and harden into fragility. So fragile that the least little thing, a comment from a classmate or a stupid argument with a "no good", breaks you. Instead of showing how tough you can be, jumping off a motorcycle while it plunges into an ex's window, a la Pink, it reveals your shattered psyche, like the shards of glass from that ruined pane.

That is the true secret of the b****. She (or he, cause come on, guys can be, too) is hurting. So she threatens to sting at a moments notice. But like actual bees, her sting is her ruin. Lash out, and in the end, she'll pay the ultimate price.

So when you encounter a b****, don't be drawn in to the fight. Stop and think of the flip side of her anger- the pain, the hurt. And say a prayer for her. And if you feel your stinger rising, then stop and pray for you.

It's the strangest thing, but sometimes, b****es can become butterflies.

Believe me, I know.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Florida Church Plans to Burn Qurans on 9-11

Just in time for Ramadan: fear and loathing, courtesy of John Q. Public.

Geesh. Really showing the love of Christ here, aren't you, Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Church in Gainsville, Florida. Hold up, before I share the news part of this story, can I just critically question why a church with the name "Dove" a symbol of peace, and "Outreach" which means...well, reaching out to the "World", would BURN another religion's holy book? Why? I don't know, maybe violence for public spectacle will have those Muslims running into your church of peace, forsaking Islam for the cross...*rollseyes*...

Okay, on to the story:

I love how Reporter Varnum gives the time for the burning, too, despite the fact it's resulted in hostility across the community and "death threats." It's okay, though, I'm sure the station will be live @ the scene on the 11th, broadcasting the hate...*anothereyeroll*...

What's going on? The nation is up in arms over a mosque being built a few blocks from the WTC site, hateful ads are being plastered to the side of buses, and nearly 20% of the public thinks President Obama is Muslim. Which made me giggle until I read reports that the White House PR folks are trying to do "damage control". WAIT- so even his own staff feels like being perceived as Muslim warrants press releases and statements about receiving Bible Scripture packed devotionals on his Blackberry daily? Giggles to sighs, folks.

I am a Christian. I make no secret of this. This blog, along with news on pop culture, discusses Christianity, my faith walk and... Christ. In my rather bland "About Me" box, I put it out there. I heart my (crazy) family, my (awesome and sane) husband and God. I'm a Girl Gone God. And not just in some fuzzy, generic way. While I'm "spiritual" as the Gen Xers & Yers like to say, I am religious (oh, stop it, I can hear your gasps through the screen). Religious as in I am a CHRISTIAN. I accepted Christ in my heart. I am "Born Again" (again, stop it with the gasps). I have my favorite chapter in Psalms, actually pray for people when I say I will (well, uh, most of the time), pay tithes (well, really, most of the time), and keep a bunch of tracts in the car (unfortunately, I forget to hand them out most of the bad). I was dedicated, baptized and feel proud to take communion. And yes, I do believe Christ is going to come again (hmm... silence... I guess those gaspers checked out after that "Born Again" part. Probably gave them visions of "PTL" and Tammy Faye or Dobson, lol).

I wrote all that to say, I am a Christian. And because of my faith (and well, a strong sense of... um, DECENCY), I do not hate Islam. I have no disdain for Muslims. In fact, quite a few of my most ardent supporters in writing are Muslim (and Jewish and "Spiritual"). I have some really awesome friends who are Muslim. In fact, one of the first people to stop and encourage me about being sick is my girl Ilaf (thank you, by the way). So I'm not only appalled by all this hating going on, I'm disturbed and... well, confounded. I understand it's August, and the talking heads at Fox News & CNN have to fill the hours with some trumped up story to get viewers (instead of reporting on, I don't know, the disaster in Pakistan or the many landslides occurring in China). But why are so many people so tuned into the fear, loathing and hate being lobbed at an entire group of people, this group, by the way, making up A BILLION people on this planet? Why? Why?... Okay, I'll stop with the "whys" now because I'm about one away from sounding like that tried-to-be-deep-but-was-still-shallow Jadakiss song.

But if anyone would like to answer, shoot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seaside? Nah, I go to Point Pleasant.

What happens in Seaside Heights SHOULD stay in Seaside Heights.

With all the attention the cast of "The Jersey Shore" has brought to Seaside Heights, I've been asked repeatedly how it's like in the seaside town. My response? Meh.

It's not that it's bad, it's just that I found it a lot more fun about ten years ago. My high school senior class went there for our tip. I hung there with my girls in college, walking the boardwalk and checking out guys.

But now? Meh. Thirty is lurking closer and closer, and my choice in beaches have changed drastically. I have nephews, and it's nice to be able to put them on rides at Jenkinson's Pier sans a colossal wait. I prefer the less-crowded beach and the more quiet atmosphere. The parking can still be a headache, but then at Seaside, it's more like a massive migraine. And if I really wanted to do it up big, I'd keep on south past beaches and go to Wildwood. This isn't me being snarky; it's my preference as a Jersey Girl.

Well, according to this MSNBC story, even non-Jersey residents are bearing witness to the fact that the actual Seaside is FAR different from what's shown on TV:

As a southern California-raised beach bum, a summer at the shore sounds like every season of my life. After seeing the show, I figured the East Coast shore must have something different than the West Coast beaches.

"...So I set my sights on Seaside Heights to recreate all the memorable experiences on the show. “Jersey Shore” might portray it as a summer playground for boozehounds and desperate 20-somethings full of libido, but after one night I can assure you it is nothing like what’s on TV.

Myth No. 1: Seaside Heights is the hottest summer spot. Reality: Yeah, not so much.

“You really don’t want to go to Seaside Heights,” my co-worker Cathy, who hails from New Jersey said. “I’m getting shivers just thinking about it!”

She explained that Seaside Heights used to be the destination for high-school and college kids — a decade ago. Where there used to be clubs lining the boardwalk, now there’s Big Blue, a tackily lit blue building that is referred to as Karma on the show.

Myth No. 2: It’s a nice drive down to the Shore. Reality: It’s true — if you don’t mind traffic, bad public transportation and hitching a ride with your bartender.

The first episode of each season always features the cast driving down. Where’s the scene of them getting stuck in traffic? Or the fact if you don’t have a car, it’s nearly impossible to get there?

There was only one N.J. Transit bus on Saturday that would take me and my friends to the “Jersey Shore” location from New York City. It left at 9:30 a.m. and returned at 5:30 p.m. No train dared to go there. The scheduled two-hour bus ride turned into four.

On our return trip, we hitched a ride with a local bartender, who drove us 30 minutes to the next town over to catch a bus back to the city..."

Ha ha ha, Jersey traffic, so true, so true. If you want to read more myths busted, click here.

Music Minute: Dear God...

I'm so feeling The Roots "Dear God 2.0" right now. Sometimes I do just sit and ask Him why...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Religion Rundown: Focus on Islam

It's only Tuesday, but it's been quite a week as far as news stories related to Islam goes. First up, the international outcry over the execution by the Taliban in Afghanistan of a pregnant woman accused of adultery. It shocked me because when I have read of similar stories in the past, the woman actually had the child and was then executed (which is still heinous; leaving a child motherless). Oh, did I mention the woman was a widow? From CNN:

The Taliban has executed a pregnant widow accused of adultery in western Afghanistan, provincial and district officials said Monday.

The 47-year-old woman, Sanam Gul, also known as Sanam Bibi, was killed in Badghis province Saturday morning, said Ashrafuddin Majidi, the provincial governor's spokesman.

The district governor of Qades, Hashim Habibi, confirmed the execution. He said the woman was accused of adultery that left her pregnant. The Taliban shadow district governor, Mullah Abdul Hakim, and his judge ordered the woman to be executed, he said..."

Before her execution, it was reported the woman "was whipped 200 times". My Lord.

In other news, a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative has gotten the go-ahead to run the above ads on the side of buses in NYC against the proposed mosque to be built blocks from the World Trade Center. From the AP via MSNBC:

"New York City's transit agency has approved a bus advertisement that depicts a plane flying toward the World Trade Center's towers as they burn along with a rendering of a proposed mosque near ground zero.

The ad was paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization that opposes radical Islamic influence in the United States. The group's executive director says she doesn't find the ad offensive.

The group sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to demand it accept the ad, which was approved Monday..."

Everyone from NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (understandably) to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (um, not so understandably) has weighed in on the issue, and it's gotten heated. I was curious when I heard the proposed plan, but not incredulous, especially when it really came down to money. Hey, money talks far louder than even the screams of angry bus signs. But those signs... what exactly, will they accomplish? I understand the question, "Why There?", but the imagery is just... appalling. And the group's name- freedom defense? How are they defending true freedom by trying to block this???

The Anti-Defamation League (surprisingly to me) recommend against the Islamic Center being built at the location. They released a statement:

"We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship. We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry. However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found."

It does seem like the "problem" would be "solved" if the proponents of the mosque would just build it elsewhere. But I can't help thinking how contradictory even the ADL is being in this situation. They are all for freedom of religion for all faiths... but feel that fundamental right should be ignored here?

Alright, let me put my sarcasm to the side for a minute. I seriously do understand the objections, and do question why the mosque would be built so close to the 9-11 site. However, many of the opponents have resorted to petty attacks, like inflammatory ads, to raise the very reasonable questions. Even worse, they have draped themselves in words like "freedom" and "defense", making anyone who question them seem like militant, un-American haters (probably even me right now).

I can't help but think when some people here the word "Muslim", their first thoughts are of 9-11, terrorists, war, jihad... or a pregnant woman being executed for adultery. But on tonight, the start of the holiest time on the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, people can try to gather other thoughts. Of people, of all different races and cultures- of children, families and lives. Souls made in God's image.

To my Muslim readers, may this next month be a time of growth, love and peace.

For more on Islam, check out these sites:

Strange Fruit: Remembering the Marion, Indiana Lynchings

On Friday, the 6th, while I was vacationing and heading down to Philly to celebrate the 26th year of my sister's life beginning, others were marking the 80th anniversary of the brutal taking of two Black men's lives at the hands of a White lynch mob in Indiana.

Although the lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were far from the first of their kind, the fact this attack was photographed for all the world to see made it iconic. From NPR:

"Eighty years ago, two young African-American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were lynched in the town center of Marion, Ind. The night before, on Aug. 6, 1930, they had been arrested and charged with the armed robbery and murder of a white factory worker, Claude Deeter, and the rape of his companion, Mary Ball.

That evening, local police were unable to stop a mob of thousands from breaking into the jail with sledgehammers and crowbars to pull the young men out of their cells and lynch them.

News of the lynching spread across the world. Local photographer Lawrence Beitler took what would become the most iconic photograph of lynching in America. The photograph shows two bodies hanging from a tree surrounded by a crowd of ordinary citizens, including women and children. Thousands of copies were made and sold. The photograph helped inspire the poem and song "Strange Fruit" written by Abel Meeropol — and performed around the world by Billie Holiday.

But there was a third person, 16-year-old James Cameron, who narrowly survived the lynching.

The mob grabbed Shipp and Smith first — and then came back for Cameron. He had a noose around his neck when he made an improbable escape.

"After 15 or 20 minutes of having their pictures taken and everything, they came back to get me," Cameron told NPR in 1994. "Just then the sheriff, and he was sweating like somebody had throwed a bucket of water in his face. He told the mob leader: 'Get the hell out of here, you already hung two of 'em so that ought to satisfy ya.' Then they began to yell for me like a favorite basketball or football player. They said: 'We want Cameron, we want Cameron, we want Cameron.'

"And I looked over to the faces of the people as they were beating me along the way to the tree. I was pleading for some kind of mercy, looking for a kind face. But I could find none. They got me up to the tree and they got a rope and they put it around my neck. And they began to push me under the tree. And that's when I prayed to God. I said, 'Lord have mercy, forgive me my sins.' I was ready to die."

That's when some people say a local Marion citizen stood on the hood of his car and shouted, "He's innocent, he didn't do it."

Whatever the cause, the mob decided not to lynch Cameron and he was taken back to the jail.

Cameron was moved out of town, convicted as an accessory to the murder and served four years in jail.

But the case was never solved.

"We know that three young black men were at the scene of the crime. We know there was also a young white woman at the scene of the crime. Who pulled the trigger, who shot Claude Deeter is not known. And I don't think really can be known," says historian Jim Madison at Indiana University.

After the lynching, Cameron became a very devout man and vividly describes this day in his autobiographical account, A Time of Terror.

He believed that the voice that came from the crowd to save him was the voice of an angel.

He also went on to found three chapters of the NAACP, served as Indiana's State Director of the Office of Civil Liberties and founded America's Black Holocaust Museum.

In 1993, the governor of Indiana, Evan Bayh, formally pardoned Cameron.

"When a traumatic event happens like that, it makes an indelible imprint on the mind," Cameron said. "But I told him, since Indiana had forgiven me, I, in turn, forgive Indiana."

Cameron died on June 11, 2006, at the age of 92. He is survived by his wife Virginia; three children, Virgil, Walter and Dolores Cameron; and numerous grandchildren."

You can listen to audio recordings from witnesses, including Cameron, below:

You can hear Billie Holiday's haunting "Strange Fruit" below:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Music Malaise: Ready Or Not...

... here he comes. As you all know by now (sorry, I was on vacation folks, and K had a strict no laptop rule in place!), former Fugees member and solo performer Wyclef Jean has announced he is going to be running for President of still-very-much-ravaged Haiti. From The Christian Science Monitor:

"Hip hop star Wyclef Jean (widely known simply as Wyclef) will run for president of Haiti, according to reports. The announcement sets the stage for an interfamily election battle between Wyclef and his uncle, a former ambassador to the United States.

Analysts are predicting that Wyclef could parlay his star power and enormous popularity with the nation's youth into a solid electoral victory. Even more valuable than being a three-time Grammy Award-winning musician, though, says Eduardo Gamarra of Florida International University, is Wyclef's cash reserves.

"He’s a very, very strong candidate," the political science professor says. "Especially when nobody else has the resources."

Wyclef told TIME magazine and CNN on Tuesday that he will campaign in the Nov. 28 election. The Associated Press verified the announcement with Haitian political heavyweight Pierre Eric Jean-Jacques.

Mr. Jean-Jacques, as the former leader of the country’s Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Haiti's parliament), is something akin to former House majority leader Newt Gingrich, though not ideologically. He now heads the one-year-old coalition party Ensemble Nous Faut (We Must Do It Together) that is putting forward Wyclef as its presidential candidate...."

But not everyone is shouting "Felisitasyon" in regards to Jean's run. Actor and Humanitarian Sean Penn is one, while Clef's former band mate Pras Michel is another:

Pras does raise some good points. Is Wyclef prepared to handle all the staggering problems that have occurred and continue to arise in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation?

Here in the U.S., there have been a number of celebs to make the leap from performer to politician, such as Sonny Bono, Jesse Ventura and most famously, former President Ronald Reagan. Maybe it's not so far-fetched. After all, don't they all have to put on a good show?

Shakira's hips don't lie. Here's to hoping Wyclef's lips won't.
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