Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blessed With Adversity?

Creflo Dollar is a fraud! There...I said it! Creflo Dollar is a fraud, a false teacher, and; even if you don't believe him to be, he is seriously in danger of validating every cultural stereotype concerning jack-legged ministers and duplicitous pastors ever made. I'm not an alarmist. But I've seen this before. In 1994, Hank Haanagraff of The Christian Research Institute, and radio's the "Bible Answer Man", wrote a book called "Christianity In Crisis". The book was a watershed moment in modern Christianity for its "outing" of the so-called prosperity gospel, and its adherents. Haanagraff's book delved deeply into the sway that men like Kenneth Copeland, Rod Parsley, Oral Roberts, John Hagee, and myriad others had in perverting the Gospel of grace into a gospel of greed.

At the time, the only major African-American player in this movement was Frederick K.C. Price, but a little known Kenneth Copeland disciple named Creflo Dollar was quickly asserting himself amidst the Jesse Duplantis' and John Osteen's of the world. Fast forward 13 years, and "Dr. " Dollar and his wife Taffi have become the subjects of an investigation into his ministry and finances. A quick word search on YouTube reveals some disturbing snippets of Pastor Dollar's view of how money and faith play out in the maturity of believers. Suffice it to say that when he suggests that Christ was universally misrepresented as a suffering saviour, who embraced poverty and lack, but instead wore designer robes, was rich, and; if he where in the world today, would be driving a Rolls and flying Lear Jets...we can be assured that it is Dr. Dollar who clearly misses the mark!

In all fairness to the aptly named pastor, he's not the first one to make mention of Jesus' alleged "designer duds", but he is one of its most notorious offenders. He continues to perpetuate a roundly discredited view of scripture onto an historically oppressed people for the purpose of bringing people into a Kingdom of Wealth on Earth. He says "if you don't know any better, you'll think livin' in the ghetto is okay". He alleges that God wants your best, and it is expressed in having money. He suggests that operating in poverty is an evidence of spiritual immaturity. He believes that his message is necessary, particularly in the "black church". But what of all of those verses of scripture that speak to suffering and faith. What are we to make of those of us who've been blessed by adversity? I'm convinced that when Scripture weighs in on the role of suffering and adversity in life (particularly in the life of believers), it is at odds with material prosperity.

Indeed, more people are blessed by witnessing right responses in adversity, or enduring affliction than ever have been admiring the pursuit of riches. I am reminded of the death of Redskin All-Pro safety Sean Taylor. The sentiment surrounding his death's and its eventual impact on the team's season was both palpable, and disheartening. However, any subsequent grieving by the Redskins or their fans seemed to be summed up in these words: "If you had to pick anyone to lead a team through this tragedy...It would be Joe Gibbs". Joe Gibbs is widely known and respected as a tolerant leader of men. A Hall of Fame coach, with an eye for getting the most out of his players, and inspiring great performances from ordinary players. Joe Gibbs is also widely known to be a devout Christian. He is recognized not only for what he believes, but how what he believes informs his decisions. Recently Coach Gibbs retired as Head Coach and President of Football Operations for the Washington Redskins because "things had changed for his family".

For those who are unaware, Coach Gibbs has a grandson who has leukemia. After the loss of Sean Taylor, and the subsequent burden of being away from his family in their time of need, Gibbs remarked; that at the end of one's life "I don't think I'll say I wished I'd spent more time coaching football". Coach walked away from a $5 million salary, a job that he loved and fans that he cherished. He walked away from familiar things, and a job that was as much apart of his identity as anything else. Yet he walked away. Choosing the narrow road of adversity with his family, than the wide path of continued prosperity and distraction. Don't get me wrong, Joe Gibbs is far from driving headfirst into poverty. He is, however, making decisions based on trusting his God to provide, and not on providing God with a decision to make him prosperous based on avoiding adversity. On that day, when most of us were saddened by his departure, Gibbs seemed almost giddy. Adversity was bringing Joe Gibbs home, and we all were made richer for seeing it!

Skully (K. David Williams)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Being Black...And Proud!

I was shocked! As the majority of Americans celebrated the birth of the late Martin Luther King Jr. , I was moved by how unremarkable the day has become. Not simply because we all have become more or less comfortable with recognizing January 15th as more than a prelude to African American Heritage Month, but because...I forgot. I forgot that yesterday was Martin Luther King's Birthday! In many circles, the notion of such a cultural faux pas would begin, or perhaps, even continue the preceedings to revoke my "significant brother" membership. Guilt aside, I chose today to wax nostalgic. As a Reagan-Era sophomore at Hampton Institute (now University), there was nothing more passion-inducing than the promotion of a national holiday to celebrate Dr. King's legacy. It seems overly-simplistic now, but I saw the success of this movement as essential to measuring my place (and face) in society. After all, who doesn't want to fit in, right? As such, promoting Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday was less about unanimity (?)... Is was about feeling necessary! It was about pride!

Many years, and countless responsibilities later...I forgot how necessary I felt then. And, you know what...? That's not such a bad thing! Cultural pride, like one's "blackness", in itself is not evil. It is, however, flawed. Rarely does pride elevate us to the level of dignity exhibited by Dr. King, or many of his peers. In fact...it never does. We, nevertheless, pursue the significance that we associate with pride as an end of itself, hoping that it will eventually promote equity and respect from our neighbor. Measuring ourselves with one another has always been unwise. Particularly because it falls short of what we call "authenticity" these days. It disallows clarity in seeing who we really are, and disavows any view that would appear to assault our pride...even the truth. How then do we genuinely appeal to anything that applies to "all people, at all times, and in all places" if we are constantly filtering things through the prism of "my culture...right or wrong"? I believe that to be the question that this blog will attempt to answer.

Who knows? There may be a few who might never forget what is most essential, by learning what is most necessary. What do you think?

Skully (K. David Williams)