Blingin’ with Jesus

(Vomit alert)

Christians gather around the world each Christmas to sing about “poor baby Jesus” asleep in the manger with no crib for his bed.

But the Rev. Creflo Dollar looks inside that manger, and he doesn’t see a poor baby at all.

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He sees a baby born into wealth because the kings visiting him gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. He sees a messiah with so much money that he needed an accountant to track it. He sees a savior who wore clothes so expensive that the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for them.

Dollar sees a rich Jesus.

“He was rich, he was whole, and I use those words interchangeably,” says Dollar, senior pastor of World Changers Church International, a 23,000-member College Park church, which broadcasts its services on six continents.

Dollar is part of a growing number of preachers who say that the traditional image of Jesus as a poor, itinerant preacher who “had no place to lay his head” is wrong.

“Did Jesus have money? Well, the Bible was clear. Kings brought him gold,” Dollar says. “Did Jesus have money? It’s clear. He had a treasurer to keep up with it.”

And I bet that treasurer was Jewish.

Besides the inherent sacrilege, the aptly named Dollar and his ilk have selfish reasons for preaching the so-called prosperity gospel. The more you give to God (through the church), the more God gives you, they claim. How else do you think Dollar got his Rolls-Royce?

I refer the good reverend to Matthew 21, verses 12 and 13: 

“Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.’ “

Or maybe Jesus was simply a self-loathing millionaire.

“You’re giving people divine sanctification to be greedy,” says Sondra Ely Wheeler, an ethicist at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. “You tell them what they want to hear: The reason you have a Mercedes is because God loves you.”

Soft rockin’ with Jesus

Made a pilgrimage to the land of khaki today, which included an hour at the megachurch (fortunately, not as grand as the one pictured) my sister attends. It was my dad’s birthday, so I was more accommodating than usual, even though I’m so far out of my element I might as well be in Baghdad.

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The church is decidedly apolitical, so there’s no screeds against fags or abortionists, but the slickness is just as nauseating, starting with the Christian rock that could pass for Third Eye Blind:

“All we have to do to make Christian songs is take regular old songs and add Jesus stuff to them. All we have to do is cross out words like “baby” and “darling” and replace them with Jesus.” — Eric Cartman

“You’re not making Christianity better, you’re making rock and roll worse.” — Hank Hill

Adding insult to mediocrity, they made us stand up through the four-song set, showing no pity for the hungover.

Then came a slickly produced short film that borrowed heavily from “Men in Black.” It was supposed to illustrate the sermon to follow, but the connection was vague. At least we were spared a Jeff Foxworthy cameo (he’s a member). All this must’ve cost at least five grand, money that could’ve been better spent.

They probably wasted another couple of thousand on the graphic for “Twisted,” the theme of the message, complete with screeching guitars. Wicked, dude!

The sermon was milquetoast and simplistic. We must, as Paul wrote, submit to authority, even if we disagree. Fortunately, no one ever told that to Martin Luther King.

I don’t want to get too arch, because there’s a large audience for what they’re selling. Is it what God wants? You’re asking the wrong guy.

A kidnapper by any other name

Am I too tough on Madonna? Probably, but since seemingly every other gay man in America has his tongue surgically affixed to her aerobicized ass, someone’s got to do it.

And there’s good reason. The more you read about her misadventures in Malawi, the more disturbed you should be. Whether it’s spreading her cult or stealing a child, the victims of Madonna’s hubris are the poor and uneducated (these latest developments tend to confirm what I’ve been saying over the past few weeks): Madonna_1

A Malawian man who gave up his 13-month-old son to be adopted by Madonna said Sunday he had not realized he was signing away custody "for good."

"If we were told that she wants to take the baby as her own we could not have consented, because I see no reason why I should give away my son," he said.

Banda’s wife died shortly after childbirth — a relatively frequent occurrence in the impoverished African nation which suffers from high rates of maternal and infant mortality — and he left his son with the orphanage. He lost two children in infancy to malaria.

Banda said he was illiterate and so had no idea of the significance of the adoption papers he signed in the High Court in the capital, Lilongwe.

Maybe Madonna didn’t know this, but she should have, according to a group much more reputable than a certain gay contrarian —

The Human Rights Consultative Committee, which comprises 67 human rights groups, has challenged the adoption, saying laws concerning the residency of the prospective parents were flouted and that it may set a precedent for human trafficking.

Noted and quoted, wisdom (and folly) from the pulpit

"No! We’re not a Christian country. We’ve never been a Christian country. We’re a secular country, by our constitution, in which Christians live and which many Christians have a voice. But we’re not a Christian country."

–Billy Graham, responding to a question from Sir David Frost (lifted from Andrew Sullivan’s blog. And yes, this isn’t the first time.)

While Graham may be America’s pastor emeritus, his view of church and state separation isn’t shared by many on the fundamentalist right:

"If we are committed and involved in taking back the nation for Christian moral values, and if we are willing to risk the scorn of the secular media and the bureaucracy that stand against us, there is no doubt we can witness the dismantling of not just the Berlin Wall but the even more diabolical ‘wall of separation’ that has led to increasing secularization, godlessness, immorality, and corruption in our country."

–Dr. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries

Don’t cry for me Texarkana

I know the Dixie Chicks have become heroes to many on the left, and I salute their balls for speaking their mind. But as is so often the case — particularly among the famous — they’ve chosen to embrace victimhood just because they’re not as well-liked as they would be had they said nothing. Dixiechicks

The Chicks claim, in the poster for a new documentary about their lives: "Freedom of speech is fine, as long as you don’t do it in public."

Here we go misunderstanding freedom of speech again. There is no Constitutional right to album sales, or sold-out concerts, or airplay on country radio (ask Johnny Cash about that one). Sometimes, when you say something unpopular, you’ll be unpopular. Hell, I’d wear the disdain of Sean Hannity and Toby Keith like a badge of honor.

If people want to burn CD’s they’ve paid for, I’d lose no sleep. The Dixie Chicks still get their money — the reactionaries have nothing but charred plastic. It’s sad the gals have gotten some death threats, but I bet Steve Bartman, the guy who inadverdently robbed the Cubs of a key out and a place in the 2003 World Series, has received more threats on his life than the Dixie Chicks. Last I checked no one’s tried to assasinate Natalie Maines.

And no one has suggested they be barred from speaking out.

There’s plenty of people to feel sorry for in this world outside of three very rich women who aren’t embraced by their target audience (in fact, they’ve probably made more fans than they’ve lost). Best the Chicks follow Oscar Wilde’s advice: "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

Blingin’ with Jesus

(Vomit alert)

Christians gather around the world each Christmas to sing about "poor baby Jesus" asleep in the manger with no crib for his bed.

But the Rev. Creflo Dollar looks inside that manger, and he doesn’t see a poor baby at all.Dollarcreflo

He sees a baby born into wealth because the kings visiting him gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. He sees a messiah with so much money that he needed an accountant to track it. He sees a savior who wore clothes so expensive that the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for them.

Dollar sees a rich Jesus.

"He was rich, he was whole, and I use those words interchangeably," says Dollar, senior pastor of World Changers Church International, a 23,000-member College Park church, which broadcasts its services on six continents.

Dollar is part of a growing number of preachers who say that the traditional image of Jesus as a poor, itinerant preacher who "had no place to lay his head" is wrong.

"Did Jesus have money? Well, the Bible was clear. Kings brought him gold," Dollar says. "Did Jesus have money? It’s clear. He had a treasurer to keep up with it."

And I bet that treasurer was Jewish.

Besides the inherent sacrilege, the aptly named Dollar and his ilk have selfish reasons for preaching the so-called prosperity gospel. The more you give to God (through the church), the more God gives you, they claim. How else do you think Dollar got his Rolls-Royce?

I refer the good reverend to Matthew 21, verses 12 and 13: 

"Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.’ "

Or maybe Jesus was simply a self-loathing millionaire.

"You’re giving people divine sanctification to be greedy," says Sondra Ely Wheeler, an ethicist at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. "You tell them what they want to hear: The reason you have a Mercedes is because God loves you."

Soft rockin’ with Jesus

Made a pilgrimage to the land of khaki today, which included an hour at the megachurch (fortunately, not as grand as the one pictured) my sister attends. It was my dad’s birthday, so I was more accommodating than usual, even though I’m so far out of my element I might as well be in Baghdad. Megachurch_2

The church is decidedly apolitical, so there’s no screeds against fags or abortionists, but the slickness is just as nauseating, starting with the Christian rock that could pass for Third Eye Blind:

"All we have to do to make Christian songs is take regular old songs and add Jesus stuff to them. All we have to do is cross out words like "baby" and "darling" and replace them with Jesus." — Eric Cartman

"You’re not making Christianity better, you’re making rock and roll worse." — Hank Hill

Adding insult to mediocrity, they made us stand up through the four-song set, showing no pity for the hungover.

Then came a slickly produced short film that borrowed heavily from "Men in Black." It was supposed to illustrate the sermon to follow, but the connection was vague. At least we were spared a Jeff Foxworthy cameo (he’s a member). All this must’ve cost at least five grand, money that could’ve been better spent.

They probably wasted another couple of thousand on the graphic for "Twisted," the theme of the message, complete with screeching guitars. Wicked, dude!

The sermon was milquetoast and simplistic. We must, as Paul wrote, submit to authority, even if we disagree. Fortunately, no one ever told that to Martin Luther King.

I don’t want to get too arch, because there’s a large audience for what they’re selling. Is it what God wants? You’re asking the wrong guy.