Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pray and Prosper: You Pray, You Pay... and I'll Prosper

Who's Got the REAL money?

Why did Martin Luther hate the Roman Catholic Church so much? Because the prelates and the Pope had (literally) "more money than God." And the fact that the clergy sold indulgences (an indulgence, was a sort of "Get Out Of Hell" card) didn't sit well with the populace, either.

So what's the idea behind today's "seed" money? In prosperity theology, "seed" money is "holy" money you give to a church or organization showing your support. When you give "seed " money, God will give you back "tenfold." Most proslytizers of seed money, however, make it sound not as if you're getting back health or wealth, but securing a better seat in heaven (orchestra seat G10, maybe, unless heaven is bigger). Sort of like an indulgence. Hmmm.

Back to Luther: those prelates and popes lived in palaces, collected the best artwork (at sinfully high prices), were (tastefully) bejewelled and rode (drove) the best transportation on four hooves. Hmmm, again.

In a sense, they WERE entertaining, showing people the might, right and beauty of Almighty God. Shock and awe against Satan, presumably.

When I was a kid, our pastor (diocesan - no vow of poverty) always rode a brand new Buick. His rectory's game room (four poker tables, a pool table and several pinball machines) was much bigger than the office he used for counsultations. (To be fair, I can't recall him using it anyway so it didn't have to be very large.) He could also wring more money out of the congregation than any top-notch traveling salesman.

All the priests of my younger years would have made great politicians.

Now, some "men of God" are doing just that: shifting from religion to politics without moving a muscle. Especially men like Rev. Mike Huckabee.

"There's a political savvy that Baptist preachers who made it big in the Southern Baptist Convention learned from their mother's womb," said Bill Leonard, a former Southern Baptist seminary professor and dean of Wake Forest University Divinity School in North Carolina. "It's an instinct to know how to read populist moments and movements."

Just where am I going with all this? The headlines today mentioned that Huckabee's campaign is in financial trouble. Don't believe it. There are still people who will shovel money to Huckabee like they did to Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. They even call campaign contributons "seed" money. Give to a campaign (megachurch pastor, or televangelist with political asperations) and you will receive it back tenfold.

Of course, if you don't contribute, chances are you might find it harder to get to heaven.

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