October 31, 2014

Holy Week Hijinks…and Worse

Why is it that Holy Week seems to bring out the worst in American church culture?

Ministries and church leaders that call anathemas down on venerable traditions that have stood the test of time and kept the faith alive throughout Church history have no problem adopting the cheesiest and most insubstantial gimmicks to get people through the door during Easter season. Tetzel had nothing on contemporary pastors, who have wealth, technology, and media at their disposal.

Here is Pastor Rod (I have a really deep voice so you’d better listen to me) Parsley in his solemn Lenten best promoting his “Mission Possible” seasonal series by flying to the stage on a zip line, while the “praise” band plays the Mission Impossible theme.

Church du soleil.

* * *

If that were the worst of it, I’d just chalk it up to bad taste and shake my head. But what is worse, ministries like Parsley’s are actually promoting a dangerous, deficient message that has nothing to do with the season, the Cross, the Empty Tomb, or Jesus, and everything to do with money and power.

* * *

I’m normally not given to anathemas, but I have to ask this question:

Is it time we start viewing these “ministries” as we do groups like the Mormons — good, conservative, moral people who conceive of a different God, acknowledge a different Jesus, proclaim a different Gospel, and practice a different faith than orthodox Christianity?

Comments

  1. Where are the dancing poodles and plate spinners?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Pre-empted by the Special Guest Preachers:
      Kim Kardashian and Honey Boo-Boo.

  2. Ugh. I watched both videos and now feel like I need to take a shower. He makes tithing sound like a slot machine.

    • For those in need of a cleansing after viewing the clips, I offer the following Jesus-shaped remarks today by Francis at
      whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/

      It will take as long to read as it did to watch the vids. I promise: you’ll feel better after a bath.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And of all the gaming you find in a Vegas casino, slots have the highest odds in favor of the House.

  3. Why bother calling them “good, conservative, moral people” when they’re basically hucksters? I’m talking about the leadership, not those in the audience who keep handing over their wallets.

    • copy that, Jonathan; my LDS friends want an apology for getting thrown in with “……(ahem.)Pastor rod”..

      • +1 Comparing these clowns to Mormons is an offense to Mormons everywhere.

        Well stated Greg.

  4. Rick Ro. says:

    “Whatever you’re facing, God is greater than that.”

    And you can prove it by sending me $1013!!!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “SOW YOUR RESURRECTION SEED BY MARCH 31st!!!”

    • Hey, don’t fall for this because you can get a way better deal this week! Send $1000 to Todd Coontz of RockWealth International Ministries and get a “triple favor” blessing from God. Oh, and help pay the rent on his $1.38 million high-rise luxury condo.

  5. Gag. I’m not given to anathemas either, but I can say this for sure – there is nothing Jesus-shaped about that ministry.

  6. “Is it time we start viewing these “ministries” as those who conceive of a different God, acknowledge a different Jesus, proclaim a different Gospel, and practice a different faith than orthodox Christianity?”

    It’s called closed communion.

    • With all due respect, I don’t think the application fits the problem here, boaz. We are not talking about people who come to us, but those whom Paul called “super-apostles” with their sensationalism and spectacles (2Cor 10-13), and those who chase after them.

      • Good point. I certainly have no problem criticizing stuff like this, which does hurt people. But I question how helpful it is to rank heterodoxy.

        Generally, I think it’s more important to find who we agree with and confess the same things as, and to preserve that confession, (closed communion) than to go categorize others’ confessions and practices when we don’t have anything to do with them. I have my confession in my tent, which I think is the best understanding and most faithful continuation of what Christ and the Apostles taught, and then there are lots of others outside who confess to various degrees of heterodoxy. I don’t see the need to rank the severity of errors of those outside my tent beyond identifying the errors.

        • I do see the need to differentiate. Maybe not when it comes to altar fellowship, but there Lutherans should be able to recognize Pentecostals and Catholics as within the extended family, and non-trinitarian cults as not.

    • Yeah, closed communion is not necessarily the statement that those denied are unorthodox. Heterodox, maybe, but heretics? Not necessarily. It is especially useless against religion like this because communion isn’t a necessary part of their spirituality. And it just confirms them in their suspicion that us Catholic-y types are just bound by our dead rituals.

  7. Clay Knick says:

    Certainly, a different Gospel. What’s odd is when I see the books these folks write or quotes from their ministries in the homes or the FB posts of friends and family.

  8. Radagast says:

    When you take all the holiness out of the liturgy and replace it with business, marketing and sales gimmicks to meet expected outcomes what do you expect? I’d rather be going to Church to get away from all those worldly things…

  9. Yes, Yes, Yes! That is the place I had to arrive at, no longer considering them part of orthodox Christianity. If Holy Week isn’t about death, burial, and resurrection, they aren’t orthodox.

    For me, the tripping point was several years ago I was heavily involved in a church with a big build up towards Easter Sunday crowds. The message was the first of a new series on “How to be a better…”. Jesus and the resurrection was never mentioned. I realized it was over for me.

    For local craziness this week, a “Code Red” sermon based on an emergency room drama. Nothing about the resurrection.

    • Allen, funny that you and I share the same name (albeit a different spelling) and the same story.

      My journey out of the Evangelical circus has actually been a very long process. But one of the key moments along the way was a few years back when during the course of the Easter service at my (then) “church”, there was barely any mention at all of the fact that it was even Easter. Similar to your experience, the message that day was part one of a new series…..sigh….

    • Allen:
      Mine came during Christmas one year. I wanted to take my children to a service that mentioned Christmas. My own large evangelical church the year before did something that did not mention the birth of Christ.

      So I ended up at a liberal Anglican church at which the service was more orthodox than my ‘on fire’ evangelical church that was walking in signs and wonders and the prophetic.

  10. Flannery O’Connor used to write stories about preachers like Rod Parsley. Very entertaining.

    God struck her dead with lupus at age 39, but still…

    • Christiane says:

      Flannery O’Connor certainly understood and expressed the ‘dark side’ of human nature in her stories . . . a master writer in the Southern Gothic tradition.

    • Wise Blood is a must read. Very good.

    • Miss Flannery was a great one. Tormented by the state of the Church, but still very much in love with the old girl. Sounds like a lot of us here, huh?

      You should read Erskine Caldwell’s “Deep South”. His dad was a Presbyterian minister, and he was deeply offended at the lack of education and antics of many charismatic pastors. I’m a particular fan, as my mom was almost expelled from her high school back in the 1950’s for bringing a copy of “Tobacco Road” to school. Caldwell’s dark look at the poor in the South was not very popular back then.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “He has NO book larnin’, and He Is LOUD!”
        — highest complement possible for a preacher in rural KY, from an old IMonk thread

        • I found this quote from Wise Blood:

          The Bible was the only book he read. He didn’t read it often but when he did he wore his mother’s glasses. They tired his eyes so that after a short time he was always obliged to stop.

          That was Hazel Motes, the preacher who founded The Church Without Christ—“where the blind don’t see, the lame don’t walk, and what’s dead stays that way.”

  11. Unfortunately, Rod is a reflection of the desires of our culture. Pastors like him wouldn’t be successful if there weren’t people beating down the doors of his church hoping for their “miracle harvest”…I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said “In America, there are no poor people. There are only millionaires-in-waiting.”

    People can go to church, see Rod, and believe that they can be rock stars, rich, and have everything go ok, and get all the eternal benefits of being a Christian, just in exchange for a tithe and a faithful prayer. There are no monastics or ascetics in this culture. It’s a “Me”-centered gospel.

    So, that being said, I think we could make an argument for defining Rod’s brand of religion as a different sect.

    The question is, how far do we go? This week, there have been two SBC bodies in our area, one that promoted “40 Days of Focus”, encouraging people to fast and pray about building projects; another sent out a mail out inviting the community to attend “Our March 31 ‘Alive Super Sunday’ Celebration!” (no mention of Easter). Another non-denominational body is promoting this week as “Love Week”, sending out a daily streaming message for one to pray over, with a hint of the Gospel in each one, and with a lot of inviting people to attend their church.

    Have we, in Western culture, “re-imagined” Christianity to the point that it’s just a shadow of what is true? Should we exclude those still trapped in the post-modern mindset? Sometimes I wonder…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This week, there have been two SBC bodies in our area, one that promoted “40 Days of Focus”, encouraging people to fast and pray about building projects…

      Lent is all about The Latest Church Building Project?

      Million-dollar fountains and multi-million dollar multimedia franchises?

      …another sent out a mail out inviting the community to attend “Our March 31 ‘Alive Super Sunday’ Celebration!”

      “Only THREE shopping days left until Alive Super Sunday!!!!!!”

      Well, if you can kick off a Seven Day Sex Challenge on the same Sunday that Romanists(TM) celebrate the Feast of Christ the King…

  12. So church isn’t supposed to be a hybrid of pep rally, boxing match and professional wrestling with smatterings of Bible verses and hyped-up claims that take people over the edge of hysteria? Led by someone claiming a sword of anointing was passed onto him by another Elmer Gantry like personality?

    Lord have mercy…

    • “Lord have mercy …” Hey, get that empty paptist ritual out of here!

      Spin me ’round Jesus. Like a record…

  13. I went to a megachurch once where the Easter sermon was showing a video about the Shroud of Turin that presented it as absolute proof of the resurrection – absolutely embarassing. I think that was pretty much the last straw that made me leave it.

    • So Shroud craziness isn’t confined to Catholics only, huh? I have no opinion one way or the other on the Shroud; there is a new book coming out that says it has been dated by new tests to the 1st century, not mediaeval as the official series of tests concluded.

      I don’t much care. I don’t base my belief in the Resurrection on the Shroud or the Mandylion or the Veronica. I think that you can use the Shroud as an image for devotion to the Resurrection the same way you use a crucifix as an image for devotion, and I don’t see a problem with that. But pinning your faith on “physical evidence that can be backed up with real science!” is only going to be as strong as “no contrary results”, and if the Shroud is proven to be a fake, where does that leave you?

      Official position of my lot on the Shroud: it is not stated to be the authentic burial cloth of Christ. However, it can be legitimately an object of veneration (much the same way as an icon or a crucifix). There will be a televised exposition of the Shroud on 30th March:

      “On March 30th (Holy Saturday) in the late afternoon (Italian time) in the Turin Cathedral there will be a TV exposition of the Holy Shroud. The exposition will be broadcast by the RAI Uno television network. This event, connected with the “Year of Faith,” will happen 40 years after the first and unique TV exposition of the Shroud on November 23rd, 1973. The Shroud will remain in its room in the Cathedral and the length of the exposition will be around one hour. On March 1st in Turin at 11.00am a press conference will be held regarding this special exposition.”

      Anyway, today is Spy Wednesday, so a blessed Passiontide to you all!

      • My mom is a dyed-in-the-wool fundamentalist, who drove me over an hour-and-a-half to Bob Jones Academy (aka: high school) for four years.

        She is a true believer in the shroud.

        It’s a strange day when fund-baptists and Catholics are on the same side of an issue. I credit her OK-ness with the Shroud for moving me beyond the strict confines of my church’s world view. Although I was really worried about her “spiritual walk” when I discovered some of the journals she was getting on the topic were compiled by nuns and sometimes priests wrote articles in them. Scandalous for a 13 year-old who listened to Ian Paisley preach several times a year.

      • Lent Madness? LENT MADNESS! Why are you just NOW showing us this? It’s always Lent at my house! Why celebrate the most wonderful time of the year for only 40 days?

    • I think you’re in trouble if your faith in the Resurrection depends on the Shroud. That said, I think you’re also in trouble if the idea that the Resurrection event left behind NO evidence of itself doesn’t strike you as strange. It was a concrete, physical, historical event after all. There’s still an empty tomb. You can go see it. They built a whole church around it.

      As for the Shroud, whether it turns out to be authentic or not, it does seem to me to be one of the more plausible relics FWIW. Seems like the kind of thing the disciples would have held on to.

      • I think one of the good things about relics is that regardless of whether or not they are real, they emphasize that whatever they are supposed to be is real. Even if we can demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the Shroud of Turin is a medieval forgery, there most certainly was a real shroud that the real Christ was really buried in, and it was just as tangible as that medieval forgery. There’s something striking about that. You’re reminded that the story of Christ isn’t just a story in a book, or even something that you believe deeply; it occupies the same reality that the we occupy every day.

  14. I wish I was attending that church so that I could STOP attending that church!

  15. Matt Purdum says:

    Guys like Parsley are simply crooks or egomaniacs who need to be loudly and consistently called out and condemned. As for the followers, I have no idea how to break through the morass of superstition, urban myth, and bad religion they carry around in their heads. What I know is that most people who watch TV preachers are typical lazy Americans who won’t crack a Bible or sit still for actual Bible teaching.

  16. One of the comments for the first video says that the church is God, and the leader of every biblical church is God.

    No wonder “we” have a problem.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …and the leader of every biblical church is God.

      Skipping the obvious Polytheism here, what about “The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers”? Are we going to see all these Biblical Church Leader Gods telling all the others to Go To Hell — Literally?

      “Rod Parsley is LOORD! DIE, HERETIC!!!”
      “Mark Driscoll is LOORD! DIE, HERETIC!!!”
      “Grinning Ed Young is LOORD! DIE, HERETIC!!!”
      “Fred Phelps is LOORD! DIE, HERETIC!!!”
      “Cee Jay Mahaney is LOORD! (Humbly, of course…) DIE, HERETIC!!!”

  17. “Is it time we start viewing these “ministries” as we do groups like the Mormons — good, conservative, moral people who conceive of a different God, acknowledge a different Jesus, proclaim a different Gospel, and practice a different faith than orthodox Christianity?”

    I think it’s overdue…sad

  18. I think a lot of this sort of thing can be attributed to the juvenilization of American Christianity (which I realize is the title of a book, which I haven’t read). Actually, in a AoG church I was a member at, the youth pastor did this same sort of thing probably like 10 years ago. I have a hard time understanding why people even think it’s entertaining. If I want to be entertained, I can go see professional productions at the local theater. Why would I go see sub-par productions at the local church. If a church has nothing to offer besides poor parodies of what the world is doing, I don’t see it being around all that long. Eventually, I would think people would realize there’s nothing real there. At least that’s what I hope, I suppose.

    • Exactly right. I keep saying that as the Evangelical “church” trys harder and harder to be more like the secular culture, eventually the people are going to wake up and realize that the “church” is simply a cheap replica of the real thing (the secular culture). At that point, they will then make the simple decision to choose the real thing.

      • One could only hope, Alan, that they would choose the real thing, but I doubt it. The only reason these clowns continue on in perpetuity is because there is an audience.
        This is what concerns me the most–not the rod parsley’s of the world–but those supporting them. As long as there is a crowd, those guys live on and on, and more come along!
        It’s the individual heart that needs to be woken up–to the truth.
        It really does break my heart.

    • Quite right. As my Scripture professor used to say, ‘If you want to evangelise, don’t just get people to come to your church. Get people to come to church for what they can only find at church.’ (i.e. the Gospel and the Sacraments).

  19. ….meanwhile Pope Francis is shunning large apartments, paying his own bills, kissing the feet of AIDS patients, and demonstrating humility.

    Which one of these is showing that the Kingdom of God is not of this world? While there are some awesome, dearly humble evangelical leaders (chances are there’s a local pastor who could demonstrate this as well) The Coming Evangelical Collapse is going to have guys swinging from zip-lines and promising you a new anointing for money while everything around them is crumbling.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But that’s ROMISH(TM).
      Rock Shows, Zip Lines, and “Just like The Kardashians, Except Christian(TM)” — NO POPERY!!!

  20. Guys this isn’t news. Their doxology (if this could possibly qualify) is simply the result of their theology. They are not bending their own truths: they are applying them rather consistently and accurately. What you are seeing here is merely the end game of revivalism, the doctrine of Charles Finney that says people get saved when we get them all emotionally worked up enough to raise their hand and walk an aisle. This decision theology is a works-righteousness whereby we save ourselves through a decision for Christ, and the decisive factor in who makes the decision falls on the brilliance of the presenters. It’s Pelagianism 2.0, and as such has always been condemned as a heresy. So grab your strobe lights and fog machines, dump your wallet into our add promo machine, because their are souls going to hell because YOU slacking believer are not getting on board with our “outreach” to “unbelievers!” They have to be attracted to OUR MINISTRY, or else how will Christ possibly save them? Thank God for sending these super-apostles and glamorous celebrities of unusually heightened piety with the ability to creatively rescue all these damned sinners from not being able to choose Christ! It is your duty and moral obligation to get in step with their army for the Kingdom of God!

    I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: soteriological utilitarianism like this is the breeding ground for ecclesial circusry. Get “revival” OUT of our vocabulary, and let us return to faithful discipleship. Preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten.

    • Honestly, I’m not just trying to kiss your backside Miguel, but every time you post a comment, I think it’s your best comment ever…..until I read your next comment.

      As usual, SPOT ON!

    • Miguel, never mind what I said last week. You’re mostly right this week.

      I think I’ve posted this link before, but here is an autobiographical sketch by Langston Hughes, called “Salvation”. It’s what you said about the dangers of revivalism.
      http://www.courses.vcu.edu/ENG200-dwc/hughes.htm

      • That Langston Hughes piece was tragic, Ted, but I’m glad you posted it here. I’d never read it before. Thanks.

        • I think it should be required reading in seminaries, also Nietzsche’s parable of the madman in the marketplace.

          Sort of in the category of “this is what we’re up against, and we may be part of the cause.”

  21. “Sowing Your Resurrection Seed”… Wait a minute, is this another one of those Sexperiment sermon series?

  22. Let’s see now … Jesus carried his cross along the Via Doloroso to his death. Rod Parsley enters his stage via a zipline. Yep. Different gospel.

    • Why can’t he just enter the church on a motorcycle, like the other pastors on YouTube?

  23. Whom said they ARE believer??? They are far far away from the cross & the Gospel.

  24. Danielle says:

    Watching the above clip about giving, I can only think, “this is a reboot of an old trick”:

    “When the penny in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

    Health-and-wealth version: God is holding your marriage and future success hostage until you pony up; but once you sow ‘resurrection seed,’ his blessings will be secured.

  25. So here is a question for all of you.

    Our church at Easter hosted a community brunch in a local park on Saturday. We order of events was food, a magic show (featuring yours truly), and then a talk on the historicity of the ressurection (contrasting it with the magic show.)

    Note: Our church had very traditional Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.

    Thoughts as far as appropriateness?