Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Answer to a "Prosperity Gospel" Megachurch

The late G. K. Chesterton, an apologist for Catholicism in a nation (Great Britain) where that religion was then and is now a minority, has been quoted as saying, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." He must have known that this is not entirely true. History teaches that the early Christians, for example, were "communists" at least to the extent that they eschewed property ownership and organized in communes, perhaps mindful of the adage that the love of money is the root of all evil. Many years later, the psychologist Abraham Maslow, in Religions, Values and Peak-experiences, criticized today's organized religions as repositories of ossified belief, their adherents going to churches, mosques, and synagogues to mouth rote words that have lost their meaning for the congregations if not the priests and preachers, imams, and rabbis.

When it comes to religion, like Garbo I want to be (left) alone. I do not care to recite meaningless mumbo jumbo on Saturdays, Sundays, or any other days of the week, and that is why it chafes my butt when I get megachurch literature in the mail. Almost weekly now, I get one addressed to "Resident [address]." My name is not Resident nor does anyone named Resident live in my house. And while it is reassuring to see that they don't even know who lives here, I nevertheless regard such postal proselytization as offensive. The literature comes in the form of a postal card measuring about 5X8" and carrying, on one side, a huge slogan:


And, in smaller letters: "BECAUSE LIFE CAN BE * BEAUTIFUL.*"

On the other side, we're treated to an advertisement for the Bay Area Fellowship, run by a Barbee and Ken couple named Bil [sic] and Jessica Cornelius" and touting what appears to be a month-long series of sermons on such themes as "Ground & Pound" (explained as "attacking your problems head-on"); "Choke Out" ("avoiding destiny black outs"); "Tap Out" ("the power of submission in your life"), and "Escapes" ("how to free yourself from temptation").

The hype goes on to say: "Have you found yourself in a fight today? Not all agression is a bad thing. Sometimes the fights we face are challenges with people, sometimes with circumstances, sometimes even with ourselves. Let's face it, we learn who we really are when we are in a fight.

"Join Pastor Bil [sic] Cornelius this weekend for a series like no other. Learn what God says about how to fight. Life's battles can be viscous [sic], so learn how to become the ****** ULTIMATE FIGHTER."

Either the Corneliuses are poor proofreaders or they are illiterate. Surely they know that a battle cannot possibly be viscous, unless of course the conflict is fought in a tub of glue. But wait, it gets sillier: the very next paragraph, set off with more stars (again, six of them; one might suppose there is some coded message were it not for the fact that other star patterns on the card show a dozen of the pentagrams -- a pagan symbol you'd think the church would avoid), we read:

"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. MATTHEW 11:12 NASB."

This Matthew guy must have been an illiterate, too. Since there is a referent problem in the sentence, one is left wondering just what violent men take by force. Does "it" refer to John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven, or something else? NASB obviously refers to the New Revised Standard Bible, a version of the Bubble designed to render the message in the grammar and terminology in contemporary English. I don't know what the publishers found wanting in the King James, which was at least poetic. I forget who it was, in complaining about the apparent intrusion of foreign tongues in our nation, lamented, "If English was good enough for the Bible...."

Having received a good many of the Cornelius come-on's and having decided that their continued arrival in my private mail box constitutes an invasion of my privacy, I decided to take action to put a stop to the mailings. I sat down and wrote a letter to "Pastor Bil [sic]" and his blonde bimbo spouse. It follows:

15 April 2009

Pastor Bill & Jessica Cornelius
Bay Area Fellowship
7451 Bay Area Drive
Corpus Christi, Texas 78415


Dear Pastor and Mrs. Cornelius:

I wish to be taken off your list of those receiving your frequent postcards notifying citizens of “Ultimate Fighter” &c. church services locally and in other venues. These are not only a waste of a valuable resource – trees used to make paper – but an insult to all free-thinking people. By the latter, I mean those of us who are relatively certain there is no “God” and that if he lived at all, the person you call Jesus Christ was actually a Jewish rabbi named Reb Yeshua. His so-called religion was invented by Saul-Paul of Tarsus, a misogynistic bigot and a man full of self-loathing and pent-up homosexual tendencies.

If you persist in sending me these cards, I will publicly challenge you to a debate on both the existence of “God” and the delusions you peddle concerning his so-called son. The earliest Christians were communists who disavowed all property ownership, whereas you shill for something called “prosperity” gospel, an abhorrent thing that serves only the purposes of paying your home air conditioning bill and allowing your parishioners the false notion they are doing “God’s” work by hording those shekels they do not deposit in the collection plate.

Let me know when and where you wish to debate. Of course, I cannot win, nor can you. It is impossible to argue with dogma. While you base your theological beliefs on faith alone, I have science in my corner. You believe some supernatural being (an entity on the order of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus) created the earth in less than a 24/7 week about 6,000 years ago, while Mr. Darwin and his progeny have shown conclusively that the earth is billions of years old, that man could not have walked with dinosaurs, and that there never was a talking serpent enticing a female created from “Adam’s” rib.


James M. Martin