all that glitters...

The gray clouds swept over the mountains and continued through the city. Their transit time was less than an hour and the relief they brought was minimal. It was just enough to coat the leaves of nearby trees the damp air clinging to my lungs. My wife and I sat on our front porch and munched on left-over pizza. As I washed down a bite with a cold beer, the wind began its invisible movements over the earth. I could see small clouds in the distance glowing red as the sun began to set. Then the show began. A tree living in yard not far from us began to twinkle in the twilight. Between the wind, the fresh coat of rain, and the sunset I was privy to the creation of a golden masterpiece. It looked like strands of natural Christmas lights, like a flock of Tinkerbells, like a shower of stars and I was fortunate enough not to miss a single burst of golden light…

I like to flip during commercials. Sometimes between just a few channels; at other times I attempt a marathon through every channel. One time I happened to catch the local “Jesus channel” which featured a show from Robert Tilton. I guess it was a show, though truth be told it sounded more like an infomercial. Robert, dressed in an expensive suit, hair coiffed, face freshly tanned, stood on a harbor in front of numerous boats and yachts. He was earnest and I could tell he believed what he was sharing. Tonight, he wanted you to call and buy his book, “How to Be Rich and Get Anything You Want”. I watched him for about five minutes as he told me I could get rich and he had the scripture to prove it.

I know a little bit about Robert’s past fall from grace and the theological atrocities that he has committed over the years. However, here he was again, touting his wares on “Jesus TV” and it made me wonder how many people were ordering at that moment. He wouldn’t do it if people didn’t buy it. He couldn’t do it if people didn’t want to take the easy road out. The thoughts that ran through my mind were grizzly. He believed what he was sharing because it worked. People who are desperate; who need contact and care send him money because he tells them it will help them. I am pretty damn sure that it doesn’t…

I know Robert Tilton is a nothing, a nobody who earns millions raping the bank accounts of the poor and the infirm. I am really not all that mad at him. I save my ire for the programmers and people who own the stations that allow this abuse to occur. Those who fill the time slots with whoever will pay, regardless of the message.

There are many more like Robert, some have been caught in their lies, others are more sneaky and insidious. They would rather peddle a pitiful gospel in the hopes of warming your hearts and greasing the gold in your wallets. What I don’t understand are the people who buy into this theology. I realize that theology is a finite pursuit by a finite species. It is an imperfect craft that can both serve and destroy humanity depending on which parts you choose to highlight.

Regardless, however you twist the words, prooftext the source, or hone your charisma the message of Christianity is service and suffering punctuated by moments of beauty, healing and wholeness. I don’t understand how some “preachers” come to any other conclusion, especially those who espouse a theology of prosperity. Christianity is the ultimate existential enterprise culminating in death and the hope of eternity.

There are beautiful things about life in the body of Christ, but it is infotainment, ill-conceived righteouness, and abuse that is all too often seen by others. Today, much of the public face of Christianity stands on the precipice between relevance and huge joke. Whether it is intelligent design, faith-oriented politics, the theology of prosperity, the “smiling preacher,” or some purpose-driven self-help drivel Christianity will not be taken seriously as a way of life that can change this world while abuses continue. Even worse, we risk becoming irrelevant.

Until we recover the beauty of the relationship between God and ourselves, God and EVERY one else (regardless of race, gender, religion, lifestyle, sexuality, whatever other label you want to ascribe to others), and God and this world we live in, we will be a joke and not a very good one at that.

I don’t want a revolution. I don't want a new style of worship or fancy gimmicks and light shows. I don’t want a public figure speaking for my faith and what I need. I don’t want faith based initiatives, prayer in schools, intelligent design or the Ten Commandments posted anywhere.

I want us to go outside and see the sunset. I want us to wave to our neighbors instead of hunkering down in the air conditioning. I want us look beyond theology and find God once again. I want us to understand sin, and better yet understand grace. I want us to live responsibly and conserve our resources so that, should I ever have children, that their grandchildren can see the beauty of this world. It is not enough to get all I can while I am alive. All that glitters may be gold, but I will happily take the gold of my sunset over what some of Christianity is peddling at this moment…

grace and peace



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