“John: 19 tells us that Jesus wore designer clothes,” Avanzini said, referring to the purple robe that Christ’s tormentors wrapped around him before the Crucifixion. “I mean, you didn’t get the stuff he wore off the rack…. No, this was custom stuff. It was the kind of garment that kings and rich merchants wore.”
Yesterday, while channel surfing in boredom, I happened upon Family TV where the now standard ‘love gift’ pitch was being laid out by Bishop Clarence McLendon, standing besides TBN’s Paul and Jan Crouch. While I wasn’t giving the show 100% attention something caught my attention when McLendon implored, with a straight face no less, that for those watching seeing how wealthy those on the pulpit are and how fabulous their surroundings look should be no hindrance to continuously handing over money to them, in fact the good preacher said it was preferable to give to the rich, meaning him & TBN’s Crouch, than to the poor. He then went ahead to thump the bible as having said “when you give to the poor it will be given back to you in the same measure, but if you give to God it will be returned a hundred fold”
The part I don’t get is this: That giving to those already wealthy is equivalent to giving to God, and not only that, but also far better and profitable than helping out the poor. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why people accept this kind of preaching without question; and so I went to look at some of the “Prosperity Gospel” teachings from the crew I had just watched and below is what I dug up.
Pastor Paul Crouch calls it “God’s economy of giving,” and here is how it works:
People who donate to Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network will reap financial blessings from a grateful God. The more they give TBN, the more he will give them.
Being broke or in debt is no excuse not to write a check. In fact, it’s an ideal opportunity. For God is especially generous to those who give when they can least afford it.
“He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands,” Crouch told his viewers during a telethon last November. “He’ll give millions and billions of dollars.”
Other preachers who appear on the network offer variations on the theme that God appreciates wealth and likes to share it. One of them, John Avanzini, once told viewers that Jesus, despite his humble image, was a man of means.
“John 19 tells us that Jesus wore designer clothes,” Avanzini said, referring to the purple robe that Christ’s tormentors wrapped around him before the Crucifixion. “I mean, you didn’t get the stuff he wore off the rack…. No, this was custom stuff. It was the kind of garment that kings and rich merchants wore.”
TBN viewers are told that if they don’t reap a windfall despite their donations, they must be doing something to “block God’s blessing” — most likely, not giving enough.
Crouch has particularly stern words for those who are not giving at all.
“If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed … you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven,” he said during a 1997 telecast.
A central element of the prosperity gospel is that no one is too poor or too indebted to donate. Bishop Clarence McClendon, a preacher whose show “Take It By Force” appears on TBN, told viewers in March that God had asked him to deliver a message to those in financial difficulty:
They should “sow a seed” by using their credit cards to make donations. In return, the Lord would see to it that the balances would be paid off within 30 days.
“Get Jesus on that credit card!” McClendon said.
Most mainstream theologians and pastors say the prosperity gospel is at best a doctrinal error and at worst a con game. They point out that Jesus and his disciples abandoned their possessions in order to live a spiritually rich life.
“It is difficult to fathom how anyone familiar with the abundance of biblical teaching about the ‘deceitfulness of riches’ could have devised the prosperity gospel,” said William Martin, a sociology professor at Rice University and author of a biography of Billy Graham.
“While the Bible does not condemn all wealth, it surely points to its dangers in numerous passages.”
Critics of TBN say that the promise of financial miracles — besides being a distraction from the core principles of Christianity — can cause real harm.
Ole E. Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation in Dallas, a televangelist watchdog, said he knew people who had given the last of their savings to TV preachers, hoping for a windfall that never came.
“The people on TBN are living the lifestyle of fabulous wealth on the backs of the poorest and most desperate people in our society,” Anthony said. “People have lost their faith in God because they believe they weren’t worthy after not receiving their financial blessing.”
Thomas D. Horne, of Williford, Ark., a disabled Vietnam-era veteran, said that in 1994 he was swept away by the rhetoric of TBN pastors and donated about $6,000 in disability benefits.
Time went by and he did not receive the promised surfeit of money. Last year, he found out that TBN had purchased a Newport Beach mansion overlooking the Pacific. He wrote to the network, asking for his money back.
“I want to recoup my hard-earned disability money I sent to these despicable people,” said Horne. He said he has received no reply.
(quotes and investigative reporting above redacted from the LA Times)
God help us all if this is what the church has come to.....