So Jennifer is recuperating from the holidays and our daughter just went back to school today so writing a blog was the last thing on her mind. So I figured why not jump on here and write my own article for the Wednesday Woo series? Today I will be talking about some of the woo like beliefs that many Christians follow even if there is no biblical standard for any of these beliefs. While New Age beliefs and Fundamentalist Christianity seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theism some of the beliefs are so similar that you would think they are one and the same.
One of the major ways that American Christianity sets itself apart from the rest of the world would be the plethora of televangelists that promote what is commonly known as “The Prosperity Gospel.” What this set of beliefs attempts to promote is the idea that god will financially bless anyone that fully puts their trust in him. Now how does one put their trust completely into the hands of god, you ask? Well by sending cash to whatever televangelist you happen to like best.
This belief is built around a scripture in the parable of the Sower:
“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:20
So basically the parable is about reaping souls for god, in other words saving lots of people from the fires of hell. However those who promote the prosperity gospel will use this verse and a few other cherry picked scriptures in an effort to give the idea that god wants to make you rich. The other scriptures that these pastors will use deal with the idea of tithing, giving a tenth of all your increase(income) to the priestly order, a practice that was stipulated in the old testament and continued by many Christian sects throughout the centuries. What they then say is that if you give 10 dollars you will receive 100 or 1000 in return and so who wouldn’t want to give a small offering if god is definitely going to return to you all of it and way more.
Well the facts are tithing is a tremendously arduous and sometimes painful process. If you have never practiced tithing, imagine having to set aside ten percent of your income, income that may be needed for food or bills, and giving it away, hoping that you will be blessed in the future. Now charity is good but tithing is in some ways nearly murder. I have known elderly women on social security who have begging for food simply so that they can pay their tithe and not fear the wrath of god if they don’t. This is one of the main reasons that when I was a minister I never taught on tithing, it’s one of the few things that I am proud of from that facet of my life.
So anyway, you give your 10 dollars and you get 100 back, everyone wins right? No because you almost never see this return and when you don’t see the blessings that the minister guaranteed who is at fault? If you said the minister, you’re wrong. The person who is always at fault is the one who gave the money to begin with. What you will hear is that the person gave with the wrong idea in mind, because if you give wanting a blessing then you will never receive that blessing, even if the minister promoted the blessing as the only reason to give.
Now imagine if you went to buy a car, you give the dealership your money and the dealership throws you out on your ass. When you ask why the dealership states that you gave your money expecting to get a car in return and so you don’t get the car. If you had only showed up and given the money with no expectations in your mind, the dealership would have blessed you with a car in return. Does that make any sense? Absolutely not, but this is the exact same mindset that the prosperity gospel promotes. Give your money because a blessing will be returned to you but be sure that you aren’t doing it expecting a blessing because if you do that you’ll end up fucked….It’s absolute bullshit.
Name It And Claim It
In the same vein as the prosperity gospel is the “name it and claim it” crowd. An offshoot of mainline Pentecostalism this group of ministers claim that your words have power and that if you claim good things you will receive good things, if you claim bad things you will receive bad things. If you think this sounds exactly like new age gobbledy gook then you would be 100% correct.
Basically, what this theology teaches is that our world is shaped by the things we think and more specifically the things we say, hence the “name it and claim it” moniker. While on the surface it might seem innocuous in reality this belief system can be incredibly dangerous. Positive thinking can help to a certain point and a healthy psychological perspective can be built around telling yourself good things that you like about yourself.
Saying “I like my smile” may bring you a simple confidence boost and help you feel better about yourself, however when you look at the opposite side of the coin things get very murky. Let’s say you go to the doctor and the doctor runs some tests only to find that you have cancer, well the “name it and claim it” crowd would tell you that if accept what the doctor says then you do have cancer and it will only get worse the longer you say things like, “I have cancer.” So what are you supposed to do? Go around saying, “I don’t have cancer,” and believing that god has healed you of your cancer. You don’t receive chemo, or surgery, or anything that would take away any amount of trust in god and you simply believe that the cancer doesn’t exist. Do you see the problem with this type of theology?
To bring this to a personal note, my great-grandmother went to a revival meeting one night and asked for prayer due to a heart issue that she had suffered with for several years. The minister prayed over her and asked her if she believed she had been healed, she said that she believed and so he told her to throw away her heart medication in a show of faith before god. The minister moved on to another revival in another town and my great grandmother, full of faith and lacking the heart medication that she desperately needed died of a heart attack. I’m sure the minister never thought of my great-grandmother again but the family lost a matriarch and a young boy got his first taste of skepticism which would stick with him and helped aid him leave the faith many years later.
Oil, Sand, and Other Such Bullshit
I’ve laughed and joked about crystals and salt lamps in the past but Christianity has its own bullshit market filled with trinkets that will definitely get you closer to god. You can buy oil from the holy man that has been prayed over by a televangelist. You can buy sand supposedly from the path that Jesus walked which has healing properties because Jesus walked on it at some point in history. I knew a man who had a cloth that he said was dipped in the blood of Christ that he had purchased during a revival, in reality it was a cloth that had been dyed red but he earnestly believed that when he prayed with that cloth in hand that he was closer to god.
A local woman had scriptures written all over her house because it protected her from evil spirits. Really all it protected her from was visitors because there was no way that I was going into the creepy scripture coated house. She had them on her walls, in her cupboards, in every drawer and in every room, the worst thing was she had them scrawled all over the walls of her kids rooms too. I was friends with her son for a short period of time and knowing what teenage boys do with free time on their hand I can only imagine the psychological torture of having to wank it with the bible staring you straight in the face 24/7….not that he wanked 24/7 but you get the picture.
Anyway, most of the trinkets and practices that you see going around from church to church have little to no biblical backing whatsoever and they are simply done because it makes the person who owns it feel better. I’ve always found it hilarious that many people walk around with crosses draped around their neck even though the bible explicitly prohibits any sort of iconography. The Catholics get around this by simply removing that commandment from the top 10 but isn’t that just cheating?
To finish up I’ll leave you with another personal story. We had a woman in church, an elderly woman whose husband had died many years prior. She had her husbands bible and she would say that whenever she read from that bible it was as if her husbands warmth enveloped her and she felt gods power working deep inside her…Basically god granted this bible orgasmic properties which….more power to her but not the type of thing that a teenage boy wants to think about when he’s trying to wank it in his room after church….
That’s right I told the story of my great-grandmothers death and included two wanking jokes in the same blog….yep, I’m awesome!