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Big business religion (Armstrong Williams) ^ | February 28, 2005 | Armstrong Williams

Posted on 02/28/2005 5:35:18 PM PST by buckeyesrule

Big business religion

Armstrong Williams

February 27, 2005

Corporations and parishioners are increasingly coming together to spread the word of God and make money. All across the country churches—once intimate places of spiritual interconnectedness—have been replaced by stadiums of worship that utilize advanced technological innovations to awe, edify, and rip off those in attendance.

The jig goes something like this: Corporations underwrite the construction of vast religious complexes that awe people into regular attendance. The preacher’s image is projected onto a big screen. His calm baritone is beamed out by state of the art speakers. From all sides, his voice fills the room. The seats shake as he gives expression to the word of God. It’s a rousing experience to be sure, and one that is increasingly paid for by corporations. In return for their funding, the churches circulate corporate promotional calendar, fliers, and, if the corporation is really lucky, broadcast an endorsement straight from the pulpit. Trusting the pastor's judgment, the flock simply surrenders their money to whatever service the corporation is hawking. In such a manner, countless Christians are fleeced every year.

You might be amazed at how little it takes to rent space in a sermon. Father Henry Wienneski, an Arizona parishioner, tells me he has been approached countless times by corporate representative eager to use the church's trusted position in the community as cover for rip-off schemes. “A corporate representative will approach me and say something to the effect of, ‘we were going to give $5,000 to the Red Cross this year but you know, we decided, why not keep it in the neighborhood? I notice your parish doesn't have a bus. Now, I know the money won't buy a bus but we thought it could help. I'll just write out this check to you and trust that you'll know the best way for it to help the church.’"

Wienneski recalls attending a retreat once where morticians coaxed business from pastors by offering free gifts, including beepers, funeral plots, sides of beef, country club memberships and large sums of cash. It's quite a deal for the mortuary. They invest $6 in a beeper, and in return they get a pastor who feels obliged to send bodies their way. So the mortuary rips off another family for $5,000, $10,000, $15,000.

The newest twist is for mortuaries to rent a chunk of church property and offer their own in-house services with the implicit church endorsement. The archdiocese of Montreal and Los Angeles recently contracted with Stewart's Enterprises and SCI chains, renting out their holy ground as though these mortuaries were some Starbucks franchise. In return for a lucrative lease arrangement, the diocese lends its tacit endorsement to the mortuary and, in effect, channels its flock directly into the overpriced mortuaries, swindling their own parishes for millions of dollars per year.

Of course these churches will benefit from their lucrative agreements. They may use the profits to erect some triumphant cathedral, decorated with such stunning artifice that its very presence proclaims the glory of God. All of which just indicates that these pastors don't actually care about their people. After all, many churches could, in fact, offer a free funeral to their members not counting cemetery or crematory expenses. What more logical support group is there at a time of death? Instead, these ministers use their position as trusted leaders to fleece their parishioners.

Similar examples abound. Hundreds of evangelical Christians in the Southern California area were recently fleeced out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme that relied on the complicity of trusted church officials. The scheme was allegedly masterminded by Gregory Earl Setser, a self described former minister who approached church leaders with a can't miss investment opportunity. Saying he wanted "serve God by allowing Christian ministries to share in…profits," Setser promised investors up to 50% returns on their initial investments. Several ministers complied, using their positions of trust in the community to lure additional investors. Anaheim evangelist Ralph Wilkerson even allowed Setser to participate in religious presentations.

Hundreds of parishioners responded by opening their wallets to Setser. Many ended up being fleeced out of a combined $160 million. Meanwhile. Setser used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family.

I don’t mean to suggest that all organized religion has been bought and paid for. Many parishioners across the country dedicate themselves to spreading the word of God. They set up in poor communities and they try to help their parishioners affix hope and perspective to their lives. These parishioners are not motivated by materialism or personal vanity. They do not use God as an instrument to empower themselves. They wish merely to spread His word, and to open others to the truly beautiful possibilities of spirituality.

But if a preacher wants to be on TV, or court the masses, or achieve the psychic gratification of wielding thousands of worshippers, he must turn his church into a kind of religious Wal Mart—a huge religious emporium complete with restaurants, recording studios, projections screens and stadium seating. Parishioners flock to these structures like the apes to the monolith in 2001. But it costs money to keep these mammoth structures running. More often than not, the preachers turn to corporate sponsorship to pay the bills. The end result is that the parishioners are distilled into just another stream of revenue.

Maybe we can’t end corruption in the church, but we can demand that our pastors' refrain form any form of corporate sponsorship during their sermons. Doing so would help prevent the swindling of countless families, while reestablishing the church as a trusted sanctuary during a family's most desperate time of need. Such moments simply should not be considered purchasable by local corporations.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: armstrongwilliams; bigbusiness; church; gd; god; megachurch; money
Interesting column from Armstrong.
1 posted on 02/28/2005 5:35:18 PM PST by buckeyesrule
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To: buckeyesrule

materialism in no longer a sin!

2 posted on 02/28/2005 5:37:41 PM PST by buckeyesrule
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To: buckeyesrule

That's why I like my little neighborhood Catholic Church. Don't have to fight 10K people for seating and it doesn't seem like a spectacle.

3 posted on 02/28/2005 5:40:33 PM PST by pissant
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To: buckeyesrule
Heresy Happens!

4 posted on 02/28/2005 5:46:13 PM PST by XR7
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To: buckeyesrule

Yeah Armstrong...can't have people endorsing products while receiving secret payments and kickbacks...cough cough...hypocrite...

5 posted on 02/28/2005 5:53:11 PM PST by xjcsa (She died of loneliness...loneliness and rabies...)
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To: buckeyesrule

When all else fails, consult the Bible. Jesus in general is never angry except once. He was entering the Temple when part of it was set aside for money exchangers and merchants selling sacrificial animals. Jesus in a rare form was angry and he knocked their tables over, released the animals and physically drove the merchants out. God's house is for worship, it is not a place for merchandising (that includes bingo ladies and gentlemen).

6 posted on 02/28/2005 5:55:49 PM PST by Fee (Great powers never let minor allies dictate who, where and when they must fight.)
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To: buckeyesrule
The will of man and the will of God

John 5:30-32 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

The Word of Faith Moment pioneered by Kenneth E. Hagan a former Baptist preacher and then later co-opted in the 1980’s by Hagan’s most notable disciple Kenneth Copeland the Word of Faith Movement has become the single most corrupting force in the charismatic movement today. Combining the its sassy self-indulgent message of faith healing, with the prosperity gospel, Madison avenue style marketing, and Hollywood style choreography of their worship and preaching – has made this into an almost unstoppable juggernaut affecting churches and denominations coast to coast that don’t have any affiliation with them or even preach their message.

What Hagan tapped is America’s insatiable lust for success and American’s slavish worship for those who are deemed successful.

The core of this message is that everything of the world is good just as long as you wrap it between a couple of bible verses. It doesn’t matter that what you are teaching is clearly not in the Gospels, that it was not taught by the Apostles or understood by the apostolic fathers.

John 5:30-32 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

For example one of their assertions is that Christ was financially wealthy and that the Apostles were also financially wealthy. The logic of these faith Pharisees runs like this that the disciples gave up father and mother and brethren houses and lands and Jesus promised them 100 fold in this world that the world to come. So they say if Peter gave up a house and a acre of land and a boat and 2 sets of nets he was given by Christ 100 houses, 100 acres, one hundred fishing boats and 200 fishing nets – so where exactly was this supposed to happen? Why in Acts they will proclaim when these people got saved and sold all they had and had all in common,

The problem is that in Acts chapter 2:43-46 this event takes place and in Acts chapter 3:3-6 when Peter and John are supposed to be loaded with all this giving – a lame beggar asks both Peter and John for alms.

Now Christ had said give to any man that asketh of thee hoping for nothing in return and great will your reward be in heaven. So do you suppose that Peter if he indeed had 100 fold houses and lands would have said hand on a minute pal I’m going to run to one of my nearest houses and be back with a bag of gold or two. Instead Peter said silver and gold have I none – was peter just waxing poetic or was it indeed that he was financially destitute and John by his side was also in the same financial condition -- so God bears these two witness by healing this man. Question would God bear witness to peter and john if they had money in their pockets all along? Would god have borne witness to these two men if in fact they had a vast treasury a few blocks away? And another important question does the fact that this man was healed negate Peter and John from this man’s initial request for alms? No!

Consider now Christ’s own example, that before Jesus began His ministry He forsook all. He left His father, mother, brothers, sisters, and brethren. But wasn’t Christ also the first born in his family? Yes indeed He was and that had great significance as to His standing in the house of Joseph of Nazareth.

Christ was entitled to not only the family name as the First born but the family inheritance as well. – And that would have consisted of 1) The family carpentry business, 2) The family home, 3) And whatever wealth and possessions Joseph had accumulated over those 30 years.

So Christ not only left His father, mother, brothers, sisters, and brethren to follow God but he left houses and lands and his entire family inheritance. In Christ’s actions we see the demonstration that Jesus was not at all like the Pharisees of whom He testified that they were those that “Taught commandments but did not themselves. Jesus walked long in his own commandments before he issued them to his disciples. We can say with some certainty here that He gave up everything He owned or had rights to in this world. So that in actuality Jesus during his entire ministry only possessed the sandals that He wore, the one garment that He wore, and a cloak. ( I included a cloak because he let his disciples take a cloak)

Mark 6:3 Is not this (Jesus) the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. I have read in Justin Martyr’s writings in 160 AD that Jesus was a carpenter of farm implements – more particularly Justin Martyr tells us that Jesus had made ox yokes, and plows. It is an indisputable fact that Christ made Himself of no reputation before He even began His ministry in Capernaum. So when did Jesus receive his hundred fold of houses, lands, mothers, and fathers, sisters and brothers and 100 fold of his earthly inheritance that he gave up. The answer is in the Gospels Jesus said ye are my brethren my mother and father. Jesus was given houses and lands in that they were fed and taken care of by others but in fact Christ did not own anything except the sandals that He wore, the one garment that He wore, and a cloak.

I want you to firmly see that like Abram, Jesus willing gave all that up to become a sojourner in Israel, seeking a kingdom that was not made with hands.

But we need to see something even more powerful than that transpired during Christ’s ministry. After Jesus gave up houses and lands and was baptized by John the Baptist, the bible says Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. –The third temptation was when the devil showed Christ in a vision all the kingdoms of the earth and said: “It is mine to give to whom I will. If you will bow before me I will give you all these kingdoms. – To this Christ responded: Thou shalt only worship the Lord your God. And then the bible records that the Devil left him for a season.

We need to now see that during Christ’s ministry as the Messiah the anointed heir apparent to the throne of David that Jesus was continually offered the throne of David by all those around him. How so? It is in the word Messiah, it is in The Son of David, It was the question that Pontius Pilot asked, it was in the rage of the Pharisees, it was the words on the lips of all of all of Israel as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. It was the words continually on the lips of Christ’s blind and carnal disciples as they fought continually about their positions in Christ’s earthly kingdom, they even during the last supper over it, and even after the resurrection the question came up once again Wilt thou at this time take your kingdom?

For over three decades I have heard preachers time and time again proclaim that Christ at any time could have taken what was rightfully His. That Christ could have taken the throne of David. And all will say a hearty Amen to this. And with this same earthly sensual logic these same preachers tell us that it is not Christ’s will that any of us be poor. That it is not Christ’s will that any of us be sick, and that Christ has given the world into the hands of the Church that we can rule and reign with him. What I am going to say now has been a mystery and I cannot expect anyone to understand it except that the Father has given it to them.

It is utterly false that Christ could have taken the throne of David at anytime. As He had forsaken his natural father, mother, sisters, brothers, houses, and lands, and made Himself of no reputation, so too did Christ forsake his inheritance as the Messiah and Heir to David’s throne. Forsaking Jerusalem, the palace of Herod, the lands, and the brethren that would at his word have sworn instant allegiance to Him. And on this point the devil returned after a season and goaded and tempted Christ almost daily to seize upon it.

How could this have been sin how could this have been wrong if He was the Messiah? Because it was not the will of the father. If there ever was a person that we could say every promise in the book was theirs it would have been Christ – and yet they were not all his for the claiming confessing and taking. Consider the words “Physician heal thyself.” Even after He rose from the dead the wounds remained. Moving on one day Simon Peter rebuked Christ that He should not die, and Christ turned around and rebuked Satan for speaking through Peter’s mouth. Peter was not the only one voicing the devil’s siren song for Christ to take matters into his own hands. His disciples were speaking the words of the wicked one regarding Christ being the king of an earthly kingdom, the people of Israel were continually speaking the enemy’s words, the Pharisees and Priests also goaded Christ, but Christ was not taken in by any of this talk. He refused to accept any of it, even when the rich young ruler came and Christ could have easily accepted his gifts and offerings He steadfastly refused. And instead of having received the gifts of men Jesus instead testified in the last few days before he was crucified: “Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.

I want you to see the magnitude of this thing. When he and Peter needed to pay temple tax – Jesus was the one who said silver and gold have I none. So the Father provided and Jesus instructed Peter to catch a fish and a single gold coin would be in its mouth to pay both their temple taxes. We see that Peter did have fishing gear so we can be sure that on quite a few occasions Peter and the others caught dinner.

When the disciples were really hungry they rolled wheat between their hands and ate just grains of wheat. We can speculate that they ate fruit along the roads where they walked.

When the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 occurred we see that they did have some money but nothing compared to the cost of buying some plain bread. Notice that Christ did not take up an offering for the need. Instead of taking from the people Jesus felt compassion and wanted to provide a meal for all. A child provided the bread and fish and it was then multiplied by God.

Jesus and the disciples walked every where they could have had a horse and wagon but they did not. They could have had an ox cart but they did not. They could have had chariots but they did not. They could have had runners go ahead and announce meetings but they did not. They could have met in any number of public places specifically the local Greek and Roman forums. Christ could have rented the Hippodrome a huge coliseum for gladiator fights and sports events just outside Jerusalem. Josephus writes about the place that it had seating for 10,000 or more and Jesus could have held miracle crusades there, but He did not.

Instead Christ had to pray to the Father every day for his daily bread just as he instructed his disciples to do. Christ was under the blistering sun in the day, he was in the freezing desert at night, when it rained he got soaked, when there were dust storms he got covered with dust from head to foot. Jesus had to borrow a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. Jesus had to borrow a room for the last supper. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. And when He was on the cross and said to John behold your mother and to His mother behold your son – don’t you think if he had been holding back all along that he would have said John give to my mother the fortune we put aside. See to it she receives my houses and lands. When Jesus was hung on the cross the only things he had was his most faithful disciple John so He gave him to his mother to take care of her.

As it was with the disciples before they were converted, after Christ rose from the dead so it is with this breed of carnal preachers and corrupt teachers of our day. Man and women who continually preach and teach the words of the wicked one. And what are these words?

They are that: we can do what the Master did not and still be his servants.
They are that: we need not give up houses or lands, brothers, sisters, and our earthly inheritances and we can still be a disciple of Christ.
They are that: as a member of the Church that we can love mammon and the things of this world and we can still be a disciple of Christ.
They are that: we can exalt ourselves, we can come in our own names, we can exalt our own ministries, we can receive the praise of men, we can exalt other people’s ministries, and we can still be a disciple of Christ.
And they are that: we can learn the words of others and teach men to do so and we can still be a disciple of Christ.

As the disciples were confused about Christ ruling an earthly kingdom before they were converted, and remained confused even after Christ rose from the dead so are the carnal preachers and corrupt teachers of this day. These men are confused about the Church being called to rule and reign as an earthly kingdom here and now. And this is of no small significance in a day when the church that is increasingly preaching greater and greater corruption in the area of financial wealth, and earthly prosperity, and their assumption of a physical earthly kingdom.

Jesus said the servant is not above the master. If our Master forsook all his earthly rights, and goods to seek the excellency of God wandering the fields and villages with no certain home, and that He himself had to pray for His daily bread -- where does this put us?

Whose disciple are we if we possess what He Himself put off and counted all as loss? Jesus said” “No man can have two masters and yet we have more than one. Jesus said: “You cannot be my disciple and serve – another, money, or the things of this world and yet we do.

If we therefore are not Christ’s disciples, if we indeed have the grace to see that Jesus is not our master, then whose servant are we, and to whom do we belong?

7 posted on 02/28/2005 6:21:34 PM PST by Rocketman
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To: XR7

That is one sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow website. geesh!

8 posted on 02/28/2005 6:35:41 PM PST by buckeyesrule
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To: buckeyesrule
Trusting the pastor's judgment, the flock simply surrenders their money to whatever service the corporation is hawking. In such a manner, countless Christians are fleeced every year.

So Williams' assertion is that any business who seeks a customer base in a church is somehow corrupt? Other than one specific ponzi scheme, he gives no examples of any actual wrongdoing taking place.

Maybe we can’t end corruption in the church, but we can demand that our pastors' refrain form any form of corporate sponsorship during their sermons.

Or perhaps we can convince churchgoers to start tithing again so the pastors don't have to go fishing for funds.

9 posted on 02/28/2005 6:37:38 PM PST by Can i say that here?
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To: buckeyesrule
Maybe we can’t end corruption in the media church, but we can demand that our conservative columnists pastors' refrain from any form of corporate undisclosed government sponsorship during their columns sermons.
10 posted on 02/28/2005 6:45:59 PM PST by peyton randolph (CAIR supports TROP terrorists)
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