On Huff Post today we learn that Reza Aslan thinks that T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen are charlatans.
That is not exactly a newsworthy pronouncement. Every televangelist, at least since Aimee Semple McPherson and probably before, has been a charlatan. One need not discriminate between the personalities. They are all persons practicing some form of quackery in order to obtain money, notoriety, or some other form of advantage by means of outrageous claims or deception. The very notion that the message of Jesus of Nazareth could be promulgated as though it were some kind of ‘get rich for sure’ scheme is ludicrous on its face. If there is anything that one can say without doubt, it is that there is nothing in the sayings of Jesus in the Christian tradition that indicates that Jesus was inclined to promote the accumulation of wealth. In the topsy-turvy world his teachings describe and invite into existence, the rich will be exhausted of their means and the poor will be exalted in theirs. The ‘prosperity gospel’ sweetly summoned by Osteen and Jakes would be silly were it not taken so seriously by so many. The number of adherents to the ‘prosperity gospel’ testifies not to its truth but to the triumph of desperation. People with little or no means will believe most anything that promises them more than they have.
Their greater deception though, of the preachers of our airwaves and cyberspace, is that there is some Great Sugar Daddy in the Sky who is interested in and favorably disposed toward any of us or all of us. Certainly the theodicy question raised by the Holocaust of either Jews or Armenians leaves any thinking person doubting the very existence of any God. Only those well versed in theological subterfuge can get any omniscient and merciful God off the hot-seat of judgement in the face of history’s horrors. And yes, human free-will is just such a subterfuge.
The Cartoon Network offers both better entertainment and information than the religious channels, whatever their stripe.
4 responses to “Charlatan Evangelists?”
It is hard to reconcile belief in a loving God with horrors like the Holocaust, Newtown, wars, plagues, etc. I see God much differently now – and wonder if He/She is, in a way, evolving too. I mean, it looks like She had fun coming up with the various creatures over the millenia, playing as it were. Maybe God’s goodness is co-dependent with humanity’s – I wonder if God hurts when we hurt, and feels ecstasy when we have a moment of divine communion and awe. If God is in all things, and we are made in His image, then does God have an evil side that we can’t bear to believe, but instead assign the evils of the world to Satan? I believe I connect with God when I experience beauty and selflessness and holiness in the world, and occasionally practice it myself. I believe God is male and female, and think of some of the old Star Trek episodes where a supreme power was itself evolving, or was comprised of a whole society of “beings” that were all part of God like cells of the body. I distrust those who misuse Jesus and God for their own glorification, and stand in awe of those like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day who truly walked in Jesus’ footsteps. To quote George Carlin about the Catholics, “it’s a Mystery.” Living with mystery and ambiguity and doubt is anathema to fundamentalists, but is a sign of spiritual maturity. Thanks for your always amazing insights Ron!
Thank you, Cindy, for your appreciation of what I’ve said. If I did not think that I might have some worthwhile insights, obviously I wouldn’t express them so publicly. It is most affirming to know that something I’ve written makes sense to a reader. Your reply is more than a round of applause to me though. It is a courageous act of self-revelation and is therefore a real gift for which I’m truly grateful.
Thanks, CJ. Just because we are superannuated does not mean that what we think or have to say is irrelevant.
You nailed it again, eloquently, humorously and with dead serious insight. Thanks.