Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Absurdity and Biblical Justification of the Word of Faith Movement

The Word of Faith (WOF) movement and Star Wars have something in common. They both use the word “force” when describing a power that transcends reality, and ostensibly manipulates situations to the benefit, or detriment of its adherers. Albeit, WOFers do not frequently suggest that they can move physical objects even though Jesus suggested that faith as small as a mustard seed is capable of moving a mountain. Of course, WOF proponents will tell you that their ideology is based on truthful principles while Star Wars is based on Science Fiction.

The WOF Movement describes faith as a force. One can acquire health, wealth, and favor in just about any circumstance when they simply use the power of faith. How is this faith manifested? Faith comes through the power of the tongue and can have a variety of intriguing outcomes. They outlandishly believe that simply saying an idiom is a risky proposition. For instance, “that tickled me to death” can literally be fatal for the victim daring enough to utter the words. (Note: I will be referring to followers as victims for the remainder of this blog) Conversely, saying words that have a positive flare will presumably increase the likelihood of beneficial outcomes in the victim’s life. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne uses many of the same metaphysical principles but does not emphasis God like WOF devotees tend to do.

So let’s meet the players. Some would refer to Kenneth Hagin as the father of this movement but E.W. Kenyon was the original gangster. E.W. Kenyon was heavily influenced by eastern mystical and New Age religions. He tied those in with Christian teachings and came up with this steaming pile of dung. Today, Creflo or “cash flow” (as I like to call him) Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and Benny Hinn are just a few of the swindlers but their numbers are expanding all the time. Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in North America.

All the while, the pastors of these mega churches are amassing fortunes. Incidentally, Creflo Dollar and Jesse Duplantis have their own room in Kenneth Copeland’s $6 million church owned mansion. Copeland has accumulated a fleet of private jets that he uses to spread the WOF gospel. He also uses the private jets to fly to exotic locales for vacation but he adamantly denies these allegations. There are countless examples of how these cronies misuse the churches money with minimal fear of consequences.

Unfortunately, this accounts for a deeper problem that occurs when the Bible is used to back an ideology. Verses of scripture can justify just about any stance a person desires to support their deceitful agenda. There are numerous verses in the Old Testament suggesting that those who follow God will also enjoy an accumulation of great wealth. However, the New Testament has Jesus stating:

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 19:24

In other words, it appears damn near impossible to get to heaven if your wealthy. The NT also emphasizes that followers should give away all of their possessions if they desire true “holiness”. (Matt. 19:21) Somebody should have told that to Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon and a whole host of other OT figures who enjoyed massive inheritances of financial prosperity. They generally only gave away some of their loot if they were concerned about retaliation, such as in the case of Jacob and Esau.

Consider some of these OT jewels which directly contradict Jesus’ notion of wealth. In striking contrast, wealth was considered a form of verification that you were doing God's will in the OT.

(Deuteronomy 8:18 NRSV) But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

(1 Samuel 2:7 NRSV) The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.

(1 Chronicles 29:12 NRSV) Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.

(Psalms 112:1-3 NKJV) Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. {2} His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. {3} Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever.

Paradoxically, Jesus demands that we sell the very possessions that he originally intended for us to have as a result of our obedience! In the NT, Jesus insinuates that we are not doing the will of the father unless we have little to no earthly possessions. Jesus even advises that we must abandon our family to follow him. (Matt. 19:29). The WOF movement has a strong case to suggest that god deliberately makes people wealthy out of maintaining a faithful relationship with him. Conversely, other denominations can make a case that wealth is detrimental to a relationship with god. This presents a conundrum becaue Christians can make the Bible say whatever they need it to since there is no objective ways of interpreting scripture. This is why there are 38,000 different denominations of Christianity in the world all proclaiming that they have the right brand of B.S..

Getting back to my central theme, there is an underhanded catch for the WOF movement victim to contend with. Money is one of those things we all would like to have more of and the WOF movement milks this notion for all its worth. Indeed, the enticement of the movement is the promises it makes to the victims. Faith and your faithful tithing are the main components which will ensure that you reap an abundance of cars, houses, and basically any other earthly desire your little heart can ponder. God is viewed as a cosmic Jinni that only needs an appropriate form of provoking and manipulation to get the stuff you want.

The victim has to tithe and I do not mean just a ten percent tithe but above and beyond what they can afford. I have heard of people giving their last buck away in hopes of a bountiful return. Conveniently, I also hear of story after story where people did this and end up being blessed immensely. These stories generally come from the pastor and the person has usually long since vanished. Or, you may hear of this concept of "sowing a seed"; you give ten bucks and you can expect to get one hundred back. The only one who really gets richer in this situation is the evangelist. It’s a give until it hurts kind of philosophy. This is very appealing to the church because they enjoy a tax exempt status. Consequently, they can do whatever they wish with the money acquired from the victim with no ramifications to consider. These people are nothing more than con artists.

One of the real tragedies in all of this is the consequences this movement has for its naïve victims. People will avoid medical attention because it would show a lack of faith. A lack of faith presumably diminishes any healing powers that it could provide for the victim. Pastors and other members of the church will often blame the family for lacking faith if one of their loved ones passes from a terminal illness. And what may be even more disturbing, the church family often condemns the family by suggesting that it was a lack of faithful giving which resulted in the family member's untimely death.

In closing, I hope this will give my reader(s) a little foretaste of what the WOF movement is all about and how to warn your loved ones of its many evils. Although not endorsing, I would like to give a bit of credit to some of the Christian denominations out there who are exposing the tyrannical actions of the WOF movement. The CRI (Christian Research Institute) has done many journal articles against them and Hank Hanegraaff of the Bible Answer Man broadcast has made two editions of books entitled, Christianity in Crisis which exposes their fraudulent behaviors. On the rational side of the fence, James Randi has done many real life experiments in which he exposes these frauds for what they are. He has dedicated the latter part of his life to exposing counterfeits of various persuasions. In recent history, I would argue that the WOF movement does more devastating harm than many of the other denominations out there to its victims.

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