I think I’ll build a mega-church…. (More)

Don’t get me wrong. The BPI roving reporter gig here at BPI is nice. Árbol Squirrel is a lovely home and between the macadamias that Chef puts out and what Mrs. Squirrel and the kids and I gather, we eat well. When we’re in the mood for a swim, the hot tub faculty lounge squirrel bath is right next to our tree.

In fact, I’m not really sure what I’d do with a 17,000-square foot mansion with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, and five fireplaces. Plus a guest house. And a pool house. All for just $10.5 million. You know, a tidy little drey like this:

JoelOsteenMansion

I’d probably get lost on my way from my bedroom to the kitchen. In fact, I’d probably need household staff to find my bedroom. If I could find good staff. Christ talked about that problem in II Matthew, chapter 6:

And lo, the son of man was sorely vexed, because the butler used the horse hair brush and not the sable hair brush to buff His Versace sandals. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” He said unto him, verily, “thou art a slothful servant, for thou hast scratched this fine Italian leather. Thou shalt be cast out and thy name cursed among the One Percent of Judea, that thou shalt never find work in this town again.”

“But Lord,” the butler did say, “thou preacheth about forgiveness, and thou saidest something about camels and eyes of needles and rich men and Heaven. Rememberest thou not these teachings?”

And the son of man did turn his back, saying: “Get thee behind me! Those teachings were superseded by the gospel of prosperity, once I convinced Caesar to give my followers a tax write-off for anything they rendered unto me.”

I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, after the Begats and before the stuff about Armageddon.

And if not, I’d find something that kinda-sorta sounds like it might mean that, maybe this bit from the Third Letter of John:

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

That’s one of the most commonly cited ‘proof texts’ for the so-called “prosperity gospel.” Never mind that it’s sliced out of context, or that the purveyors of the “prosperity gospel” hone in on an absurdly narrow translation. Here’s the full context, translated from the earliest original sources into modern English:

The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

It’s not a promise that God rewards righteousness with wealth. It’s simply a greeting and a compliment. In fact, there’s a bit farther down that Some People might want to ponder:

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

I think I’ll leave that bit out, because I want to buy a spiffy 17,000-square-foot drey. You know, so people can see the rewards of my righteousness.

To afford that, I’ll need to build a mega-church. And you can’t build a mega-church talking about selflessness and sacrifice and that stuff about “take all that you have and give it to the poor.” Well, you could, but if the people in your mega-church lived by those teachings then they wouldn’t be able to tithe enough to pay for your $10.5-million drey.

To collect those kind of tithes, you need a mega-church comprised of people who think a drey with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, and five fireplaces – plus a guest drey, and a pool drey – is a sign of righteousness. You need a church full of rich people. Well, and people who want to be rich.

So you slice a few Bible verses out of context, in a translation that uses words you can twist inside out, and build a theology where net worth equals moral worth. Of course, you don’t have to build that theology from scratch. You can sift through 150 years of religious grifting for flowery words that add up to: “If you want to be among God’s chosen, be rich … and give me ten-percent.”

Then when a hurricane floods your city, tell people they’re on their own. And when the backlash against your crass hypocrisy hits, blame the city.

After all, you don’t want Those People spilling baby formula on the plush carpet.

Diotrephes would be proud.

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Photo Credits – Houston Lakewood Church Interior: ToBeDaniel (Wikipedia); Joel Osteen Mansion: Google Map at VirtualGlobetrotting

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Good day and good nuts