A Plea to Wealthy Christians

 

I have just finished reading a book of “Atheist Responses to Religious Arguments” by Frank Butcher. It’s pretty much a confirmation of what I know already, but one of the last points the author made really got me thinking.

Why don’t wealthy christians give away their wealth, as the bible requires them to do if they want to go to heaven?

In the parable of the rich young man, Jesus is said to have declared: “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

and “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” Mark 10:25

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we shall be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6: 6-10

Clearly the new testament, which is the bit of the bible christians really approve of, is in favour of poverty. The above are just three of many admonitions to the godly to be happy with the basics and not crave wealth.

“blessed are the poor”

And yet, the world is full of super-rich christians! Some of them are “spiritual leaders” who preach the gospel of prosperity – they claim that the bible teaches that financial blessings are the will of god, that faith, positive speech and donations will always increase one’s material wealth (especially donations!)

A good example is that of Oral Roberts, whose Methodist healing ministries reached millions worldwide. He performed hundreds of crusades, and claimed that he could raise the dead. His organisation raked in $120 million a year and employed 2 300 people, at its peak.

Roberts was a pioneer of TV evangelism. In January 1987 he announced that unless he raised $8 million by March, his god would kill him.

 

His passionate pleas and crocodile tears earned him $9.1 million…..

He’s dead now – maybe he wasn’t making enough money to satisfy his god towards the end there 🙂

Even when times were tough, Roberts continued to wear silk suits, diamond rings and gold bracelets – which were airbrushed out of publicity shots by his staff. (Reed Christopher (15/12/2009) “Oral Roberts Obituary”, The Guardian, London.)

Spreading the gospel has been a VERY profitable business for other evangelists:

  • Benny Hinn’s healing crusades earned him in excess of $200 million a year, with a personal salary of over $500 000. He flies around in a private jet, and has a generally lavish lifestyle
  • Joyce Meyer reportedly earned $900 000 a year back in 2003, thanks to her ministry
  • Kenneth Copeland refuses to tell anyone how much money he makes out of the god-business, but it’s obviously quite a bit because he owns a $20 million private jet, and lives in a mansion the size of a hotel.
  • Creflo Dollar (name says it all) made $69 million in 2006, but refuses to divulge his financial records because he is “concerned for the privacy” of his donors.
  • The list goes on and on…

These preachers lead tax-exempt organisations in the USA, and take full advantage of their “non-profit” status. Obviously, their followers are either unaware of how much money their “spiritual” leaders are making out of them, or they are simply turning a blind eye to the facts.

Copeland’s website, for instance, in his “Financial Accountability” section, merely lists the PERCENTAGES of income spent on the various parts of his ministry – NO actual figures are mentioned anywhere that I could see.

Oral Roberts Ministries “financial report” shows EXPENDITURE, but not INCOME! Sorry guys, that’s not a financial report – that’s you trying to hide the facts.

Benny Hinn’s website actually lists financially relevant questions, such as “How does your ministry spend its money” and then links to a page that tells you what they spend it ON, but not how much they receive, or the amounts they actually spend.

So much for transparency and telling the TRUTH!

So, what about the ordinary, wealthy christian? Do they feel any compulsion to give away their wealth? Especially now, supposedly just before the “rapture”

to be sure of their spot amongst the eternally worshipful and subservient in heaven?

Many christians give regularly to charities, which is very commendable. It doesn’t make them any different from many muslims, jews, buddhists and atheists who all feel compassion for our fellow man, and don’t have any problem supporting worthy causes.

Fortunately, as a Humanist (and atheist), I make my own choices. I am not bound by someone else’s ideas of what’s right or wrong. I’m especially not bound by the “supernatural” ideas of ancient nomadic desert dwellers, and their descendents. I choose to support secular charities such as the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa. Unlike the TV evangelists, the NSRI really does save lives, every day!

Bill Gates. a well-known atheist, has set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and personally donates a large proportion of his wealth to the Foundation, which does very good work in the fields of health, education and agriculture all over the world. Their audited Financial statements are on the web, completely transparent, for anybody to examine – a nice contrast to the charlatans listed above!

Interesting to note: the Gates’ Foundation’s motto is “All Lives Have Value.” This is an atheist/humanist viewpoint, as opposed to the christian or muslim viewpoint that if you’re homosexual, for instance, you have no right to marriage, children, and at the extremist end – life itself. (Or if you’re a muslim, it’s okay to kill innocents in the name of Jihad.)

Please don’t say “Oh, but that’s the EXTREME view, normal christians don’t think that!” Here’s something to think about:

  • the bible specifically forbids homosexuality, and if you believe the bible, then so should you – even though that view is abhorrent to any rational person – because it is the Word of God
  • extremists don’t just pop out of the air – they start out as normal human beings, are thoroughly indoctrinated as children, and grow more extremist the deeper they get immersed into religion
  • extremists are the ones who follow the bible to the letter – especially the old testament which condones slavery, rape, murder, and other heinous crimes against humanity.

 

In my opinion it’s entirely up to you, the individual, to decide how to spend your hard-earned money. I think it’s most important to take care of yourself and your family, save for your retirement, and enjoy your life. If you have money to donate to charities, by all means do so if you want to.

However, if you’re a christian, and truly want to follow Jesus, then I guess you would feel differently? So, Wealthy Christian, are you going to give it all away – the land, the houses, the cash and jewellery – or hang onto it until death do you part?

What Would Jesus Do 🙂

 

 

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Labyrinth Power?

This morning, one of my colleagues mentioned that she had planted a labyrinth in her garden recently. She added that early on New Years’ morning she had gone outside and walked the labyrinth, “asking for guidance and seeking peace.”

I had never heard of “Labyrinth Walking” so I decided to try to find out more. What is the history of the labyrinth? What effect, if any, does walking a labyrinth have on the walker?

My Google search turned up the Labyrinth society (labyrinthsociety.org) which “offers support to those who create, maintain and use labyrinths” and to provide “education, networking and opportunities to experience transformation.” (Italics mine)

Ah, ha! The first clue! The society defines a labyrinth as a “single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation” and says that “labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.” (Just be careful your Right Brain doesn’t become so creative, your Left Brain forgets to look where you’re going.)

Apparently there are several types of labyrinth, from the Classical Greek (found on Cretan coins from 400 to 500 BCE) , Roman and Medieval labyrinths found in various churches and cathedrals.Modern contemporary labyrinths are designed to “enhance spiritual perception,” and are touted as an alternative medical treatment for cancer amongst other dire ailments. (Note: Walking a labyrinth will not cure your cancer, no matter how “spiritual” you find the experience. It may help you to relax and calm your mind, which may be beneficial.)

The Labyrinth Society site offers some basic information on “Sacred Geometry” (whatever that is), and a Labyrinth Locator. If you want to become a member, it will cost you between $50 and $1250. Membership entitles you to access to the Energy Keepers, a group of volunteers who will provide you with “loving support” and “energy” to help you overcome your troubles.

All very nice, I’m sure. Nowhere on the site does it state exactly how the 140 Energy Keepers acquired this marvellous power, or how they will channel it to you, the financially disadvantaged,  bereaved and suffering Labyrinth walker.

There is a very religious slant to the whole thing, of course. Various websites talk about “spiritual awakening”, “prayer tools”, “balancing the chakras” (what??) and “discovering your own sacred inner space”.

Very New Age.

Wikipedia, on the other hand, has a much wider and more historical view of Labyrinths. Here, I read about the ancient Greek, Egyptian, Native American, Indian and Roman labyrinths, and their decidedly pagan use in meditation, myth and making things look pretty.Prehistoric labyrinths were supposed to trap any naughty Evil Spirits that might be lurking around, and were also used as paths for ritual dances.

There is no evidence that early Christians attached any significance to labyrinths or mazes. and it was only in the 17th and 18th centuries that crawling along the labyrinthine path on your bloodied knees was considered an adequate alternative to a pilgrimage to the “Holy Land.” Even today, walking along the labyrinthine path is supposed to lead to salvation, enlightenment, and so on.

My opinion is this: if you want to walk around in circles to think and clear your head, you could use a labyrinth – or you could just pace up and down like a normal person. Or you could just sit and think, and clear your head. Or, you could just sit. Any one of those actions is going to relax you, or focus your mind, or make you feel better. Running around the block or punching a pillow or pounding out some rock ‘n roll on your piano will make you feel better.

Why do people feel the need to attach “spiritual” significance to a meandering walk along a laid-out pathway?

Does a labyrinth laid out by a landscaping contractor in a Hotel garden also have “Special Spiritual Powers?”

How the hell would you know???