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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

337 The Prosperity "Gospel:" He who dies with the most toys goes to heaven... (really?)

Day 337 Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

The Prosperity "Gospel" He who dies with the most toys goes to heaven.

We have reached the halfway point in Black History Month. I find it so important to realize the struggle of Black Americans is inextricably bound with the struggle of all people who live under oppression, who are seen as "less than" or "the other." And our churches are all too often part of the problem in that so many now teach something called the "prosperity gospel," an idea whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, which teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.

He who dies with the most toys goes to heaven?

Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Elie Weizel, Cesar Chavez, Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King offer us a radically different and challenging perspective. They do not offer us an easily digestible spiritual Happy Meal which encourages us to make ourselves comfortable. Rather they confront us as prophets do.

Think on these uncomfortable quotes from Oscar Romero:

“There is no dichotomy between man and God's image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being, abuses God's image.”

“A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — ​what gospel is that?”

or this from Elie Weizel who survived Auschwitz

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Many churchgoers want to remember a sanitized Dr. King. Wasn't he the World’s Leading Proponent of Kumbaya?

As it turns out, if you actually study King’s work, it's little wonder that many pastors either don’t know King’s real challenge to all of us, or are fearful of sharing such a challenging message from the pulpit. Here are a few excerpts from King’s speeches and writings, just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about.

The popular clergyman preaches soothing sermons on “How to Be Happy” and “How to Relax.” Some have been tempted to revise Jesus’ command to read, “Go ye into all the world, keep your blood pressure down, and, lo, I will make you a well-adjusted personality.” All of this is indicative that it is midnight within the inner lives of men and women. from King’s sermon “A Knock at Midnight”

….I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice….— from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

Softmindedness often invades religion. This is why religion has sometimes rejected new truth with a dogmatic passion……Softminded persons have revised the Beatitudes to read, “Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God.” There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness…… A nation or a civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan. — from King’s sermon “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart”

“Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory. — from King’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies”

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.”

-- Oscar Romero

King, Romero and our other prophets emulated the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament, as well as the example of Jesus Christ, who mostly called out - not the unchurched pagans, but the hypocrisy and greed within religious institutions.

After his death, King’s message (and Jesus’s too!) seems to be watered down and over-spiritualized, too radical and uncomfortable to be repeated in the pulpit. But King’s teachings are just as relevant today as they have ever been.

…. Which brings me to my challenge for us as an Emmaus community with close ties to JustFaith.

As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, let’s take the time to actually read his writing and listen to his words. Professor Dr. Brogdon recommends starting with The Power of Nonviolence (1957), “The New Negro of the South (1957), and “The Drum Major Instinct (1968), which will give you a sense of the progression of King’s thought and the issues he sought to address.

Some excerpts from "Taking Black History Month a Little Deeper" by Susie Tierney of JustFaith


Following the Nonviolent Jesus:

A Lenten Series Based on John’s book, “Walking the Way.” Every Monday in Lent for seven weeks thru Easter Monday, February 22, March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, April 5, 2021 With Rev. John Dear

Sign up using this link:

This Monday Lenten series will take us through several key episodes in the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus from the perspective of Gandhian/Kingian nonviolence, including his baptism; Sermon on the Mount teachings; campaign to Jerusalem; arrival and civil disobedience in Jesus, his last evening, his execution, and on Easter Monday, his resurrection. In preparation for the class, it is recommended that participants read at least one or maybe all of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Questions will be proposed for each class. John will also invite us to name “stretches,” or doable, concrete challenges, that we can work on during Lent as we follow the nonviolent Jesus to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Each online zoom class will begin at 7:00 p.m. EST/4 p.m. Pacific

each Monday and last about an hour and a half, February 22, March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, April 5, 2021. It will cost $100.

SONGS from NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts

KeiyaA: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert


Please check out these wonderful reflections from Geoff Wood and Jim Fredericks

They are attached to this Blog and you can download them.

Geoff Wood reflection for Valentines Day 2021
Download DOC • 27KB

Jim Fredericks 14 February 2021 on leprosy
Download PDF • 197KB

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