Friday, April 28, 2006

The prayer cloths of prosperity

I just returned from a 5-day software conference in Orlando. It was sunny and 32 the whole time, which means that all of you are jealous. Fortunately for me I was able to sit inside virtually the whole time sipping on real-fruit smoothies while listening to giant nerds from New York blather on about product updates and code improvements. To the point though, I didn't write this entry to brag, rather to mention some very disturbing things that I witnessed on American TV.

On Sunday evening (after Sportscentre) I was flipping around the channels and I came across one of those evangelist shows. You know what I am talking about. A well-dressed guy sitting in a southwest themed room with giant cacti in every corner, open bible before him, praying fervently. Now I was intrigued because these things are never what they appear...and I was not disappointed. Within seconds of the prayer finishing this fine gentleman had several donation numbers splashed up across the bottom of the screen and was advocating that you call in with a donation and he would set up a prayer cloth for you, which he would then pray over at the end of the show. Moments pass and he's being inundated with donations of varying amounts (I can't say whether they are legitimate or not, but that's beside the point). He then saunters over to his "Middle East" set which has stone-like walls sitting in front of a desert backdrop, with an alter in the middle. He begins laying out the prayer cloths on the alter and then starts praying. He prays for Sue, $25; Richard $1000; Gary $400 and on and on. He thanks them for their assistance and offers nothing more in prayer. The whole spectacle was disheartening to watch, but it doesn't end there. The very next show was another guy who was offering "prosperity cloths" because "God wants you to be happy". Such shows simply reminded me of other, more notable, television wahoos like Robert "Look at my giant window church" Schuler, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Chuck Swindell. These guys may not be as overt, but don't be fooled, they are on TV because it's TV not because it saves people.

Seeing all of this really made me grateful for our church and the truths that consistently manifest themselves during our times together. The "culture of Christianity" is a frightening thing, particularly when it makes itself onto television and people presumably look for answers in very wrong places. I have no doubt that there are people all across the world that seek answers from false teachers. I have no doubt that prayer cloths have some sway because then people don't have to pray themselves; it gets taken care of. Prosperity cloths are an easy way to make people feel like they've done their piece in approaching God now he's going to show them the money. Hmmm, where have I seen this before...oh right...buying indulgences anyone?

The whole experience left me feeling a little dirty. But it also reinforced the necessity of the Gospel and for the simple truth the good news extends to all who believe. There are false prophets everywhere making money off of false teaching. I think what is most frightening is that such unsavoury types have made it onto mainstream media to salve the conscious of unsuspecting watchers. It's false teaching direct to your home and it's a direct affront to the faith.

Pray that we may be faithful watchers.