Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me

Kate Bowler writes in the NY TIMES:

“I am 35. I did the things you might expect of someone whose world has suddenly become very small. I sank to my knees and cried. I called my husband at our home nearby. I waited until he arrived so we could wrap our arms around each other and say the things that must be said. I have loved you forever. I am so grateful for our life together. Please take care of our son. Then he walked me from my office to the hospital to start what was left of my new life.

But one of my first thoughts was also Oh, God, this is ironic. I recently wrote a book called “Blessed.”

I am a historian of the American prosperity gospel. Put simply, the prosperity gospel is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith. I spent 10 years interviewing televangelists with spiritual formulas for how to earn God’s miracle money. I held hands with people in wheelchairs being prayed for by celebrities known for their miracle touch. I sat in people’s living rooms and heard about how they never would have dreamed of owning this home without the encouragement they heard on Sundays.

I went on pilgrimage with the faith healer Benny Hinn and 900 tourists to retrace Jesus’ steps in the Holy Land and see what people would risk for the chance at their own miracle. I ruined family vacations by insisting on being dropped off at the showiest megachurch in town. If there was a river running through the sanctuary, an eagle flying freely in the auditorium or an enormous, spinning statue of a golden globe, I was there.

Growing up in the 1980s on the prairies of Manitoba, Canada, an area largely settled by Mennonites, I had been taught in my Anabaptist Bible camp that there were few things closer to God’s heart than pacifism, simplicity and the ability to compliment your neighbor’s John Deere Turbo Combine without envy. Though Mennonites are best known by their bonnets and horse-drawn buggies, they are, for the most part, plainclothes capitalists like the rest of us. I adore them. I married one.

But when a number of Mennonites in my hometown began to give money to a pastor who drove a motorcycle onstage — a motorcycle they gave him for a new church holiday called “Pastor’s Appreciation Day” — I was genuinely baffled. Everyone I interviewed was so sincere about wanting to gain wealth to bless others, too. But how could Mennonites, of all people — a tradition once suspicious of the shine of chrome bumpers and the luxury of lace curtains — now attend a congregation with a love for unfettered accumulation?

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/

opinion/sunday/death-the-prosperity-gospel-and-me.html

Big Picture – Pope Francis in Mexico

By John AllenFebruary 17, 2016

EL PASO — Pope Francis’ Feb. 12-17 swing through Mexico reaches a crescendo on Wednesday in Ciudad Juárez, just across the US border from El Paso. So far history’s first Latin American pontiff has been a sensation, drawing rapturous crowds and saturation media coverage.

In the United States, Wednesday’s border stop is likely to be viewed through the prism of the politics of 2016 and debates over immigration reform, but Mexicans value the gesture for another reason, too: Ciudad Juárez is also associated with their country’s epidemic of gang- and drug-related violence.

In 2010 and 2011, homicidal mayhem drove an estimated 100,000 people across the border into El Paso and neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico, many of whom remain out of fear. For those folks, Francis is coming not merely as a champion of migrants, but also, as he put it in advance, an “instrument of peace.”

Mexico is a pivotal Catholic country, the second-largest by population in the world, and clearly Francis thought carefully about where he wanted to go, what he wanted to say, and how he wanted to say it.

Here’s one sign: The normal free-wheeling and extemporaneous Francis has stuck fairly closely to his scripts, a sign of his personal commitment to crafting them.

In some ways, this is the biggest papal initiative of early 2016, and so it’s worth taking stock of what we’ve learned. As the Mexico trip nears its end, here are three thoughts about its big-picture significance.”

http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/02/17/as-pope-winds-up-mexico-trip-thoughts-on-the-big-picture/

Speak the Perfect One in Me

You spoke
And matter came to be.
Beauty and wisdom
Reigned over form,
And substance served
Your Thought.

You ruled the spheres and firmament
To create both void and fullness.
Your creation dawned in darkness,
And You let there be light.

First and last and all in between
Found a place in Time.
You spoke forth Man
And, in my time, me.

You said,
“Be perfect
As I am perfect,”
And set free the human heart,
That it might know,
And love,
And serve Thee.
Yet will resisted service
And loved naught but itself.
“Tortuous and beyond remedy”,
We hid from Thee.

In Time, You spoke, the Cure.
Announcing to the Virgin,
And by a Star
And angels herald,
Saving throughout creation,
Twisted hearts.
Jordan’s waters, purifying
By the Holy to make men holy,
Love made manifest
By descending Dove
Again You spoke,
“This is my Son.”

Now, bowing will,
Longing in Your Christ,
Receive me as son to Thee,
Anoint with Healing Balm,
Redeeming accursed Fall,
That perfect I, too,
May, please Thee, be.

When You speak
Life comes to be.
Speak now, the Perfect,
That I may perfect be
And, at long last, love Thee.

©2013 Joann Nelander