Friday, April 19, 2013

"Christianizing the American dream"

Shai Linne tells it straight, which is why his "Fal$e Teacher$" is the first rap song to be a Καθολικός διάκονος Friday traditio.

Health and wealth, "living your best life now," you can have it all in this life, are ever present temptations for Christians, for the Church. This is why Pope Francis, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, following the fine tradition set by such Latin America bishops as the late Brazlian Archbishop Hélder Câmara, who turned his archepiscopal mansion into a homeless shelter and food kitchen, lived in a simple urban apartment rather than the mansion he could've inhabited. In his first meeting with journalists, which occurred the Saturday after he was selected to walk in the shoes of the fisherman, at one point he said, "How I would like a poor church for the poor."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose martyrdom I remembered on 9-10 April, gives us the antidote to what Shai correctly denounces as "selfism" in his song: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." Of course, Bonhoeffer's words are an echo of those of our Lord, who said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matt. 16:24- emboldening and italicizing emphasis mine).

Shai Linne

In a Christian Post article about Shai's hard-hitting lyrics, James Arinaitwe, a Yale University global health fellow from Uganda, speaking at a recent forum, highlighted the same issue: "This kind of Christians in the evangelical movement preach love your neighbors as you love yourself but then the pastor is driving a BMW, a Benz and is living by the sea in a mansion while the congregation is living without healthcare or food. This is what I see in Uganda when I go home, so where did we lose that peace?"

During the 1994 Synod of Bishops that took up the consecrated religious life in the Church, I remember some bishops of the developing countries criticized Western religious orders for living such wealthy lifestyles amidst what is often grinding poverty, saying that it compromised their Gospel witness. Of course, this falls far short of the shenanigans of those Shai called out by name (Osteen, Meyer, Hinn, Paula White, etc.).

Don't be deceived by this funny biz, if you come to Jesus for money, then he's not your God, money is! Jesus is not a means to an end, the Gospel is He came to redeem us from sin, and that is the message forever I yell! If you're living your best life now you're heading for hell!

If you're interested in what has ensued since the release Linne's song, namely an exchange which began with an open letter by Paula White's son Brandon Knight to Shai. When pressed about what aspects of White's teaching were problematic, Linne produced a video with this text: "Paula White did a series called '8 Promises of the Atonement,' that at the time of my writing this, is currently featured on your ministry website. In it, she states that physical healing and financial abundance in this life are provided for in the atonement of Christ." You can read more over on the Christian Post's Jesus Musik blog. Of course, as with all of these teachers, this is but one of many examples that could've been given.


  1. While the worst of the promoters of the "Prosperity Message" (Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker come to mind)have been effectively dethroned, please do not think that this idea has totally vanished from Evangelical Christianity. It hasn't. There was plenty of this thinking driving events of 2012.

    Dcn Norb in Ohio

  2. I disagree wholeheartedly, Swaggert, et al. were not the worst. They were certainly the most flamboyant and, at least from a marketing perspective, made a lot of stupid mistakes. The new generation, those who Shai calls out, have learned all those lessons and continue not only to fleece the flock, but to take advantage of those who can least afford it. Joel Osteen and Meyer make Swaggert and Bakker look like the amateurs they were. Benny Hinn, who dates back to those days, is still going strong.

  3. Scott: I think we agree more than we disagree. I just happen to be more familiar with those discredited earlier promoters than I am with Osteen and Meyer.

    I mentioned 2012 deliberately. Much of the political background noise of that time not only pushed the idea of the "Prosperity Message" but also ignored traditional Roman Catholic teaching that "Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins."