Another bit taken from my email conversation with my friend Mark, here we are discussing cults of personality in religion and Mark’s Christian perspective on such things.
Joel: Mark Driscoll may be building a cult of personality that is much like Joel Osteen or Kevin Gerald, but targets a different type of person.‚ What do you think about cult’s of personality in religion?‚ Even Billy Graham or Dr. Dobson?
Mark: I agree that many Christians fall into the trap of personality cults constantly and they are trying to make some ordinary man in the place of Christ.‚ However, I don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe it is necessarily the intention of these leaders like Osteen, Driscoll and Dobson, I think that their followers are the ones making the mistake of elevating them to superhuman status.‚ Then obviously their pride can get in the way and they start believing what their followers say about them, and thus their downfall occurs.‚ As far as what I think about personality in religion, I believe that no person should be worshipped, and that definition is different to different people, but essentially if you are making people your god, then you are in error.‚ I think these Christian self-help books and some of the stupid teachings out there have appealed to people in need and take advantage of them which sickens me to see just like it does you, and then they become money grubbers and swindlers.‚ Ultimately God knows their heart, but sometimes they make obvious errors.‚ I also believe God can use anyone to accomplish His purposes and He can use people like Driscoll and Osteen in different ways, but they are both imperfect people who make errors just like all of us.‚ But the Bible is pretty clear on how pastors are to live their lives and God does not look lightly upon people who intentionally lead people astray just to better their own personal satisfaction.
Joel: Personality cults in religion scare me, I’m glad you have seen that sort of thing too.‚ I was wondering how you feel about the Prosperity Gospel message preached by megachurch pastors like the guy who runs Saddleback church in Orange county california?‚ I dont like those preachers because they twist scripture to make lonely, sad poor people have false hope.‚ My mom has fallen for that crap.‚ Basically, they take promises made to specific individuals in the old Testament and try to say that they apply to people in their church… which ends up with them saying things like, “buy my special prayer book and say this prayer twice a day and you will be rich/healthy/happy”.‚ No self-respecting theologian agrees with them but loads of desperate people do.‚ It turns my stomach.‚ Maybe i should do a post on why the prosperity gospel is a scam operation.
Mark: As far as prosperity gospel, I don¢â‚¬â„¢t know those pastor¢â‚¬â„¢s hearts of whom you refer to, but in general I sadly have to agree with you, a lot of what I have heard and especially some of the guys I have briefly seen on TV are throwing out gargantuan lies, or at least stretching the truth badly.‚ It reminds me of what the Catholic Church did with indulgences to keep power and make money.‚ There may be some of the prosperity pastors who are doing it out of a good heart, but as far as my experience goes, if you teach Jesus message the way He taught it, zounds of people are not always going to follow, it also upsets many.‚ I guess I would have to listen to them individually and ask them a number of questions to make a judgment call on it, but overall I agree with you from what I¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard.
Joel: I’m glad you can recognize the megachurch pastors and televangelists who badly twist the bible to fit their own ends… they are just like the “psychics” who claim that they can commune with your dead relatives for you.‚ Basically they just prey upon people in their weakness.‚ I hate the guys who tell poor, ignorant people that “if you just repeat this prayer on a daily basis and give to the church, god will bless you with great wealth and bounty.”‚ Such garbage.
What do my readers think?