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11.13.2007

21st Century Pharoah

Today's UPI Column

So There I was...

Sitting by the side of the road waiting for my speeding ticket. I was half way between Portland and Boise and, you know there are some real lonely stretches out there. The day was clear and fine and dry. The sheriff’s deputy was sitting at the bottom of a long downward slope, behind an overpass support. I got nabbed. I tried to argue that I was not being unsafe, that I was at a reasonable speed for the conditions. I tried to smile and “yes sir’ my way to the warning. He was having none of it. I was “in excess of the legal limit.” And the limits were not moving that day for me. Reality check time.

I was thinking about this today when I read some comments by the Rev. Creflo Augustus Dollar Jr. of College Park Georgia. Apparently a United States senator has decided to investigate the finances of TV preachers. It would seem that this statesman has gotten bored with shooting fish in a barrel, but is not quite up to the job of taking on Blackwater or some other less obvious miscreants.

Creflo, and his wife Taffi, (is this a Georgia thing or do these people have cartoon character names?) lead a church that takes in 69 million dollars a year. We are told that they live an extremely extravagant lifestyle. We are somehow not surprised. But Rev. Dollar takes offense at the investigation and defends himself by saying that his lifestyle is supported by personal funds from capitalistic ventures and not church money. The Dollars (rather redundantly) preach and live a prosperity doctrine. God wants you to be rich – just like us. See how much God loves us?

Speaking about his standard of living Creflo Dollar had this to say:

“Just because it’s excessive doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

First off, Creflo, buy a dictionary. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, excessive is defined as “exceeding the usual, proper, necessary or normal.” Its synonyms are immoderate and inordinate. You might want to look those up too. Excessive does mean it’s wrong.

Secondly, when we hear “too much is never enough” out of Mick Jagger’s excessive lips, we are not shocked. But when we hear the same sentiment from a guy who claims to represent Jesus, it is a bit hard to take. Maybe the Sermon on the Mount fell out of the reverend’s Bible, but mine talks about simplicity and humility. The Jesus of my Bible tells ministers not to bother with an extra coat. Rev Dollar has extra jet airplanes. My Jesus is pretty concerned with the “least of these.” I am sure that the Reverend Dollar could quote me plenty of prosperity proof texts, so I think I will come at this from an angle I bet he understands – math.

Creflo, when you defend your standard of living, when you say that it is what God wants for everyone, there is just one problem. The numbers don’t crunch. A few people can live like you do only if millions live at a much lower level and yet consistently pump resources upwards towards the few on top, and those millions can only do that if hundred of millions of others live in destitution. You get the middle millions to pump money upwards by promising them that if they do, that they will have the chance to be one of the few at the top, or at least near the top. You know what we call this, sir? It is called a pyramid scheme.

Pyramid schemes can only be built by lying about the total quantity of resources. Pyramid schemes need a constantly increasing number of suckers to fill the lower ranks. Pyramid schemes always crumble, but not before the very few at the top make out like bandits.

It does not matter one bit whether your riches come through the channel of the church or the church of secular greed. Your lifestyle is still supported by the middle classes and the masses of poor below them.

Now I am not saying that mother earth cannot support her children. I am not saying that there are not enough resources for everyone to live a decent life. Actually there are. The problem is that your life is not decent – it is in fact extremely indecent. Your excess directly robs the poor of their hope for decency.

Frankly, I do not have much hope for any improvement in this situation at the investigative hands of Senators with lifetime incomes, and guaranteed permanent health care who cannot manage to make health care accessible to our nation’s children. Pots and Kettles to you, Mr. Senator.

I do have hope in the One who told the rich young ruler to go and sell his goods and feed the poor. And I have hope in those who can still read His words with understanding.


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Comments:
Peggy (if I may be so familiar,) you're entirely correct in your appraisal of this situation.

I believe we need to apply your logic to the 1% of Americans who hold 90% of our country's real wealth, and deem it equally obscene.

Then we need to get the "God Fearin' Good People" to work with us to change that equation.

Thanks for shining the Light of Reason on this nonsense.
 
We should wonder why the senator chose this particular segment of the entertainment industry for scrutiny, but let that go. It is a good thing to take a well-deserved swipe at the lunacy of this and other such situations, but your last sentence is VERY important. Without beating our breasts or going to extremes, we need to remember that to most of the rest of the world, we ARE the "rich young ruler, and consider to what extent we are being the change we wish to see. How much do our values reflect the same kind, if not degree of glory in "stuff?"
In His Love,
Nate Swift
 
The problem with so many famous preachers is that they are walking obscenities.

These are our equivalents of the militant Islamist clerics. With their excesses and their powerful voting lobbies that support war, materialism, and exploitation, they do as much or more harm in the world.
 
Nate,

Perhaps the senator chose this segment of the entertainment industry because the people in question assert that they are churches, not entertainment, and thus exempt from federal taxes.

If they truly are entertainment and not churches, then the question is raised of tax fraud - which the government has every right to investigate.
 
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