Wednesday, January 07, 2009

More on Televangelists

As promised, here are some comments inspired by the Jim Bakker story on LGM that I posted about yesterday.
[While having to spend a lot of time in a public library] I was frequently tempted by the biggest collection of celebrity bios and autobiographies I have ever seen. Very light reading, you could burn through one in a couple of hours. The absolute best one, the only one I would ever consider reading again, was Tammy Faye's autobiography. There was a recurring pattern as their empire grew: they would bring some preacher friend aboard -- a sweet, simple, gentle man, full of the love of the Lord, etc., and then some time later this same meek little person would be transformed into a scheming, ruthless backstabbing Macchiavellian media hog. The other thing I remember is that when the big collapse came, Jim curled up on the sofa in the fetal position and didn't move. I think they really believed they were doing honest work, poor feckless gumps. There was humor in that book, and goodnature.

I felt a certain fondness for Tammy Faye, after that. But why on earth would anyone feed lima beans to a dog?

Matt Weiner:
Bakker and many other rich Christians who would like to go to heaven managed to convince themselves that the "Eye of the Needle" was a narrow gate to Jerusalem that a camel couldn't pass through without unloading some of its pack, meaning that rich people could get to heaven if they gave up some money to the preacher.
This biblical passage, which later surprised Jim Bakker when he had a chance to really read the Bible in prison (according to his autobiography), consists of the red-letter injunction from Jesus himself that runs (in the original translation) "It is harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." As it turns out, the word for "camel" and "cable" (or "rope") are very similar, and most scholars now agree that the reference to a camel was the result of a mistranslation or copy error. However, it seems clear that even if Jesus was referring to a Jerusalem gate and actual camels, there is nothing in his words that can remotely be construed as referring to taking stuff "off the top" and giving it to preachers.

The "Ponzi theologians'" interpretation of the passage, meant to get them off the hook of their execrable money-grubbing, illustrates how much many "fundamentalists" will twist and turn Scripture to suit their own purposes, "inerrancy" and "literalism" be damned.
I personally liked the Robert Tilton story better if only for how very Oklahoma it all was(I was growing up there at the time). Tilton, for those who don't know the story, was the guy who would take out the cash and the checks that people would send him and then throw the prayer requests away. We aren't talking one or two letters here, more like tons and tons of garbage that he tried to get rid of by throwing them in other people's dumpsters or even off the dam into a lake.

When informed of the massive fraud he was committing (though one has to wonder what to do with prayer requests anyways), Tilton said that he had prayed so hard over them that the ink had entered his body and infected his mind, thus making him commit the dastardly deed.

No...I did not make that up. When I think of the people that still say that Bush is doing an awesome job, I think of the people that send "seed" money to these "churches of prosperity".
What DOES one do with the written version of prayer requests? If I was Tilton, I would have burned them, in the tradition of the "smoke of sacrifices," the odor of which, wafting upward through the floorboards of Heaven, was said to be pleasing to God.
Jim Bakker once made a plea for money, telling his audience that he knew they may be strapped for cash. He specifically singled out widows who may be dependent on their Social Security income and not be able to spare some $ for the PTL Club. He asked these widows to mortgage their homes to get the $ for him. This request alone will get him a long time in hell come the resurrection.
That sounds, as another commenter itimated, more like the housing bubble mortgage brokers and other architects of our current collapse.

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