Daily Archives: September 12, 2008

All this Palin madness has me thinking…

Pretty straightforward unfunny religious rambling, so bail now, nothing to see here….

I don’t really care how “pentecostal” Palin is…in my opinion, politicians go to church for the votes and by the time they have to employ lawyers, advisors and PR people, they have pretty much sold out any spirituality they had left.  They are no longer relevant to Christianity or Christians, even though they use enough of the language and a couple of hot button issues to pretend they are.  I’ve probably rambled time and time again how strongly I support the complete and total separation of church and state.  And although evangelicals annoy the living shit out of me, my feeling about the subject really does have more to do with the longevity of Christianity as a religion in America.  Evangelical Christianity is nothing more than big business, another facet of corporate America that lives and breathes based on the number of customers it can retain.  Much like WalMart has to infringe on the rights of its workers and use slave labor overseas in order to keep costs down and retain customers, the Evangelical mega-churches of today have to whittle away at the basics of the Christian belief in order to make things more “entertaining” and get more customers in the door.  They have to diversify….get active in politics, in the schools, in the media, in entertainment….and basically become just another secular entity with a “Jesus” brand name.  Millionaire entrepreneurs like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland are the trademarked heads of corporations.  They are just a crappy version of what the secular business and entertainment worlds have perfected.  Nothing more than that.  If you disagree, I offer you the spiteful and selfish and capitalistic doctrine of PROSPERITY as an example.  Who does that work for besides the guys getting rich off of selling it?  Sure, there is more to the whole movement than prosperity doctrine, but it’s a good example of a catchy jingle or advertisement to get people in the door.  Rope them in with THAT and THEN maybe someday share the real point of the New Testament…..you know, grace, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, patience…the icky green leafy vegetables on the abundant Biblical buffet. 

In all seriousness, how different are the evangelical heroes than the moneychangers Jesus threw out of the temple?  Do you really, REALLY think that ANY of them are going to have a “vision” for their ministry that involves them making $50,000 this year instead of the five million they made last year? Onward and upward, bigger and richer is the only direction they are going. Is it too much to question the logic behind “the more people I have come to church ALWAYS has to do with GOD moving among us, and has nothing to do with me selling my personality”?  How dependent on the corporate and beaurocratic infrastructure that propels them (oh, I know…it’s the hand of GOD bringing in all that money, right?) have they become?  How dirty of a politician will they back as long as they say they are against abortion and for intelligent design being taught in schools?  The lines are too blurred. They are big business now.  Absolutely nothing more.  Why does it take a millionaire CEO of a church to create the statistics I’m constantly quoted when bringing this up to people?  “Well, x-number of people got SAVED because of that so-called millionaire CEO!”.  Uh-huh.  What does “saved” even mean anymore, besides something to put on a t-shirt (which you can buy from any one of a hundred of these guys for the low low price, er I mean LOVE OFFERING of….)?  You wouldn’t have to quote statistics if what you are defending was really bearing fruit.  Why can’t people see that the louder and more popular you get by using re-branded secular methodologies actually moves you farther and farther away from the real reason you are here…….I guess that would mean consuming too many of those boring, green leafy vegetables………arguing about all of the reasons a hottie like Palin should be veep is just way more fun, and takes virtually no individual thought or self-awareness.  As we all know, it takes an extremely rich, powerful and popular white person to bring us all back to good old fashioned family values in America.

Now I know I just love rambling about all of that crap, the evangelical Jesus-fish-on-the-bumper dittoheads are easy targets.  And I also know that I am putting a laser focus on a very small minority of what comprises the entire Christian population in America.  They just happen to be the ones who get all of the press and make the rest of us look like total assholes.  Anyway, there are a lot of really great Christians out there who live their life and faith based on personal experience, personal growth and personal contact with others.  The Christian faith can be a formidable grassroots movement…..someone just really screwed it up somewhere after about the first century A.D.  While there has to be SOME organization to religion in order to sustain groups of believers, it’s my opinion that the church became a business very early on, and in order to TRULY get back to what the pentecostals and evangelicals SAY they are after (that 2nd Chapter of Acts revolution)…….I propose the following:

THE ROLE OF PASTOR SHOULD NEVER BE A PAID POSITION!

Okay, take a second to catch up with me here….I’m dead serious, no money for being a pastor….ever.  I know that sounds crazy and is a huge leap to make, but think about it….if you took money out of the equation it would go a long way in making sure people are in it for the right reasons.  Ministry shouldn’t be that kind of career move.  I am in no way saying that there aren’t earnest ministers out there getting paid who ARE in it for the right reasons….I’m just saying church shouldn’t be a business.  And I’m also saying that this “not for profit” charade isn’t a justification to allow paid positions, in fact, it makes the churches even more accountable, and more closely tied to, the government.  Don’t go pointing at other non-profit organizations who pay people as an excuse either….their motivation for existing isn’t the same as yours, you need to be as separate from the world as possible to prove that you do possess a viable message and way of life.  And speaking of other non-profit organizations, why is it that so many of them are able to be totally successful using only volunteer labor?  Nobody gets paid in many of them, yet somehow they are able to recruit people, manage the finances, coordinate events and basically do all of the tasks that are expected of church staff. 

I know most people’s reaction to this is that too many churches would fold if nobody was getting paid…..and that’s kind of my point.  You think guys like Osteen and the people running his circus are even going to TRY and build that kind of empire without the monetary gain?  Oh, I forgot, we have to invoke the “laborer is worthy of his hire” scriptural abortion at this point.  I think in most cases, the role of pastor is more of a “job” than a calling.  It’s a career move, and is the antithesis of anything suggested by the New Testament.  Seriously, I’ve done the ministry thing. It ain’t rocket science. I’m not saying anyone can do it, but honestly, if you get someone who is passionate about one facet of ministry and match them with other likeminded people, they will flourish.  You can still have boards for oversight reasons, hammer on people to still pay their tithes and all that…just don’t buy into the myth that ANY part of being a pastor has to be treated and compensated as a full time job.  There is absolutely no reason that one person has to take on all of the leadership duties, in fact, it’s probably better for humility and accountability if they don’t possess all of that by themselves.  There are countless men who are pastors because they either don’t know how to do, or can’t do, anything else.  They could never, ever, make the same amount of money outside of ministry, so you better believe they are going to rationalize whatever they have to in order to hang onto their job.  Churches are business, that’s the bottom line. There’s no reason not to expect someone to have a real job and still dedicate time to the church…..if you’ve ever attended one you have witnessed laypeople who put in more hours working on church related tasks than most ministers.  Face it, even Jesus was a carpenter prior to his career as a prophet. 

Of course there are the shakeups it would cause in the rest of the church industry…..for example, what would happen to Bible Colleges?  I’ve attended one, and it was basically just another business too….except it’s a losing proposition for the consumer because you get about half of the education at twice the cost.  You have to dumb down the curriculum considerably when so many of the products of home schooling are walking through your doors.  Bible colleges are a racket just like any other college….they are factories that pump out kids who have chosen the career of ministry.  Honestly, if I just had money to spend I’d totally go back to a (real) seminary just because I genuinely love studying church history and the finer points of exegesis.  I do see the value in higher education if you are going to be a pastor, but (at least in the case of the Bible college I attended) you’ll get far more theological training from a run of the mill state college…..for about 1/4 the price.  All I am saying is that, at least in the Pentecostal/Evangelical world where I come from, the colleges are nothing more than places for parents to feel safe about sending their kids.  “Oh, it’s a Christian school, so it doesn’t have all of the same temptations as a secular school…..nobody could possibly be having sex or doing drugs there.”   Yes, the most wholesome of all environments is a building packed with a bunch of preacher’s kids………I’m not lying when I tell you they are the most evil people you will ever meet, but that is a different subject for a different day. 

Before I continue my nonsensical rambling, I’ll try bringing this home……my point in all of this is that something has to give when it comes to the incestuous relationship between the church and the state.  Palin is just another Huckabee; someone who will sell out their belief system little by little in order to pretend they are making progress for their evangelical fan base.  There is no way to enter the arena of politics and NOT do that.  My biggest hope for the church, and the reason why I’m so hardcore about the separation of church and state, is that people will totally step back and retool everything.  Start from scratch, think outside of the box, whatever you want to call it.  I’m far from being a Bible thumper, but I really do believe that the most simple version of the faith has the greatest appeal from the ground floor; a grass roots kind of thing.  I will always say that in order for ANY religion to be viable, it must be communicated in such a way that it appeals to the smartest, dumbest, poorest and richest person alike.  The dependence on media and the political infrastructure have made Christianity indiscernible from anything else out there……the idiocy known as the Moral Majority comes to mind here.  To be real it should be based on something honest and simple, without all of the rules, regulations and coalitions.  If you stop squeezing it so tightly and warping it into something it wasn’t meant to be, it’s not going to suddenly burst into Universalist Unitarianism before your very eyes.  You’re just going to have to give up some of the social control you keep fighting for and whining about and have faith that the message is enough.  Getting one of your folks into a position of political power isn’t suddenly going to turn everything around, it’s just going to feed your martyr complex when you realize that fact.  I said it about Huckabee and I’ll say it about Palin….they are a sign of failure, not progress.

Anyway, I’m done here.  And if you don’t agree with me, well…..then I hope you get the damn gay cancer.

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