Feb 16 2011

“Prosperity Gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 4

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:11 am

The previous posts in this series are here, here, and here, and are essential background for understanding what follows.

The first three posts in this series were to set the table, so to speak, for the videos posted over the last few days from the Manhattan Declaration website and the Planned Parenthood videos, showing Planned Parenthood employees essentially enabling human trafficking, sex crimes, and underage prostitution.  If you missed them, they immediately precede this post, or you can click the links above.

It seems that human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation, has eclipsed abortion as a major concern of some Christian non-profits and churches, especially some Christian colleges and universities, and some churches that are busy moving or staying left, whether they are “emerging” or were simply left/liberal to start with.

As demonstrated by the videos referenced above, there is considerable irony in this, since the easy availability of abortion is one of the enabling factors for human-trafficking pimps.

Should your Christian organization that is justifiably concerned about human trafficking also be just as concerned and visible in its opposition to legal abortion-on-demand?  But you see, there’s a small problem with this.  In the modern media and academic environment, it’s not popular to take a strong stand about legal abortion-on-demand, because it is very clear that one political party is essentially for it, while the other is essentially against it.  That is simply an uncomfortable fact, an “inconvenient truth,” if you will.  Uncomfortable, that is, for those who want to court the left, for those who want to say that while they are “pro-life”, abortion-on-demand is really a political issue, and not an appropriate focus for Christian non-profits with other fish to fry.

Does your church or para-church organization pride itself on its commitment to “justice,” or even “social justice,” with annual workshops, conferences, presentations, etc., which focus on human trafficking?  Does your organization expend as much effort on reducing abortion, by educating people about its realities, by providing support for women in “crisis” pregnancy (and after birth of a child), and also working to change the laws that allow abortion for essentially any reason at any time in the pregnancy?

Have the leaders of your organization signed the Manhattan Declaration, surely one of the most ecumenical of documents?  If not, why not?  Ask yourself, with what public policy initiatives does your organization ally itself?  What is different about those public policy aims and the aims of the Manhattan Declaration?

If, upon closer examination, you notice that those aims seem to be identifiable with the left, you have your answer.

Which leads to even bigger questions, doesn’t it?


Feb 10 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 3

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 10:12 am

The previous posts in this series are here and here, and are essential background for understanding what follows.

The problem for faithful Christian organizations is this: there will come a day when the choice is between being faithful to mission, by maintaining a powerful Christian witness for truth, or being safe and well-regarded by the secular world. It will probably not be something so dramatic as a secular sovereign attempting to force a recantation on pain of death. It’s more likely to be the temptation to adopt an essentially secular perspective or initiative that “sounds good” on the surface, one with non-Christian or even anti-Christian origins, but one that is highly socially acceptable, and to bathe it in proof-texted Christian sounding rhetoric. Or it may be the temptation to withhold speaking out on a crucial moral issue, perhaps a controversial one, in which taking sides comes with some risk of negative public relations with some group whose approval we court. Another danger is the retention of leaders or employees whose dismissal will cause some inconvenience (lawsuit, perhaps bad public relations with a sister organization, etc.), but who are clearly out of sympathy with the Christian world-view that is presumably at the root of the institution, or who are having a negative impact on the institution’s ability to carry out its Christian mission without hypocrisy.

Self-delusion is easy. We can say that we have taken particular actions or adopted particular policies because they are the right things to do, not merely because we expect them to bring the good regard of the world and success in our direction. And certainly there can be overlap. But one thing is clear: the agenda of the world is not Christ’s. If we can not fairly easily point to several specific ways in which we have risked the world’s approbation for our church, para-church organization or institution, and risked it for the sake of being true to Christ and standing firm, it is likely that we have succumbed to a carnal view of our mission of leadership, wherein we judge ourselves more by our press releases and public image than by our faithfulness to Christ’s teaching.

One of the more seductive tendencies for 21st-century Christian organizations is to seek social acceptability by moving to the left. This is sometimes packaged as “maturing” and becoming less “simplistic.” Since the opinion makers in media and academia are mostly on the left, that may seem to be the only way to gain the good report of the world. Not that this is always a consciously chosen grand strategy; rather, it is often the cumulative result of many small compromises. It may also come about from adopting perspectives, initiatives and vocabulary of un-Christian or even anti-Christian origin, and then trying to find scriptural support for them.

There is irony in this. The left generally despises traditional religious and moral perspectives. It is usually anti-American in significant ways, and generally denies what it considers to be the flawed notion of western cultural superiority (including the “progress” narrative, the assumption of ever greater material prosperity, etc.). Yet the assumption of success due to intelligent effort is the most American (and conservative) of perspectives. The idea that you can do good and get rich is extremely American, not to mention capitalist at its core, with its assumption that when you do good by providing a service, or creating a product, you deserve to benefit when people freely buy whatever you’re selling. When that assumption animates church and para-church organizations and institutions, which then gradually shift to the left (because, after all, moving left sells, don’t you know, in the media and academia), the irony is complete. They become busy marketing a left-leaning perspective, one which is inconsistent with the underlying assumption that the practice of selling something that people want is to be justly rewarded.

There is another paradox. The Christian left is prone to agree with the secular world that “America is not a Christian nation” and to disagree with the notion of “American exceptionalism” that is generally held by conservatives and many “mainstream” Americans.  How sad, then, when a critical part of the self-image cultivated by some Christian institutions is that non-Christian, unexceptional America likes them, as measured by ratings in magazines, opinion polls and the like.

If any of this is interesting to you, stay tuned….  we’re about to get to the nitty gritty.

The next post in this series is here.


Feb 08 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 2

The previous post in this series is here, and will help provide background for what follows.

There are many instances of people and groups who take risks for the gospel, do the unpopular thing, and God does bless them. But obvious worldly blessing is not a given. God has His own agenda and ways of doing things, and we cannot assume that our worldly success is due to God’s blessing, nor our difficulties evidence of our failure to seek God’s will and do it. Some missionaries are murdered, and martyrdom in Christ’s service did not end with the fall of the Roman Empire. Lesser difficulties also occur with some regularity, even in the modern world.

Yet how many boards and leaders of churches and para-church organizations proceed with the assumption that apparent worldly or financial success equals God’s blessing, with such a rigid conflation of the two that any policy which carries some attendant risk of worldly disapproval is assumed to be the wrong one? Consider the logic: if we are doing good, God will bless us in worldly ways. Therefore, we should not consider doing something that risks getting worldly disapproval, since if the world disapproves, by our benighted definition, God is not blessing us.

So how can we decide if we are making our decisions according to God’s plan, from a fully Christian worldview, or if we are simply doing what seems best to us, within our human expertise (and afflicted with human pride and desire for power), as we try to strengthen our organization or institution in a worldly sense? There is no way to know for sure, of course….

But one thing seems indicative.

If we find we are mostly making decisions from the point of view of what the world will think of us (not from the point of view of God’s will, God’s commands, God’s moral precepts, and Christ within and among us), even if we have great institutional and public success, even if we are doing some good, we are not doing what God desires of us. Christ’s way is one of sacrifice and risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, most particularly the risk of being misunderstood and vilified by those who do not know Him. This is true whether we are explaining His way to the world, or standing for the principles He taught.

I’ll be developing this idea further in subsequent posts.

The next post in this series is here.


Feb 07 2011

“Properity gospel” for Christian institutions?

Much is made of the centrality of sacrifice in the Christian life, and justifiably so. Christ’s own life on earth was one of individual sacrifice and service, and not only on the cross, though that is the preeminent example. Simply being incarnated was a sacrifice (Philippians 2:5-9), and his very manner of living was sacrificial, in that he never married and had a family but instead lived for others, took risks of many kinds at various times for the sake of doing his Father’s will and speaking the truth, and so on.

As individuals, we are all called to sacrifice in one way or another for the sake of Christ and the gospel, though it’s a mistake to assume that everyone should live sacrificially in the same ways. One may choose to live simply and have greater financial freedom to give more (though all should give some), another may choose to give greatly of time and service (though all should do this some), and another may choose a lifestyle of great self-denial of one kind or another (though all of us must deny ourselves in some ways), all for the sake of doing God’s will. Few are called to sacrifice all. What seems fairly clear is that a person who has sacrificed nothing, not time, not finances, not manner of living, is likely to be a person who is not listening to God’s whispers, and probably a person who has not closely read the scriptures.

Yet some churches and para-church organizations seem to operate as if it is God’s will for them never to suffer or risk suffering, and never to choose a path that is hard and uncertain, or one that is likely to earn some degree of disapproval from the world, especially the secular world. Some para-church organizations operate as if their leadership believes in a sort of “prosperity gospel” for their organization (even when they deny that as a proper perspective for individuals), assuming that their role is to manage their organization with the same professional risk management as they would apply for any secular organization. And this risk management is fine, up to a point.

The “prosperity gospel” approach to a church or para-church organization is that somehow it can just get bigger and bigger, more and more popular, and it will all be because of God’s blessing. This may work for a time. And God may indeed be blessing certain efforts of the institution, while at the same time some of the institution’s apparent success may be coming from “playing it safe,” maintaining “good public relations,” even innovative business practices and good luck with market demographics or placement. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for people in an organization, including its leadership, to really know what measure of an organization’s apparent success is due to God’s blessing of its efforts, and what proportion is due to good business practices, smooth marketing, or just plain good luck. The temptation, of course, is to ascribe all success to God’s blessing, especially in public pronouncements.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. The assumption that God will increase the institutional strength and vigor of any organization that is doing His will is itself evidence of “prosperity gospel” thinking, not scripturally sound thinking about the nature of sacrifice for Christians, and Christian organizations. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament and church history reveals many instances of people and groups (institutions) who appear to be following God’s commands, but who suffer in various ways, sometimes almost in a “no good deed goes unpunished” sort of way… which is of course, the intention of Satan. The point is that apparent prosperity in the world is not proof of God’s blessing. Indeed, it is a sort of heresy to assume so.

I will develop this line of thinking further in future posts.

The next post in this series is here.


Mar 19 2009

The Left At Christian Universities

Category: harmonicminer @ 8:19 pm

The first post in the series is here, and they each link to the next.

Below are links to the individual posts.

Part one.

Part two.  Why it matters.

Part three.  Diversity.

Part four.  Diversity.

Part five.  Silencing free expression the gentle, positive way.

Part six.  You can’t post that HERE!

Part seven.  Speech codes.

Part eight.  Violently non-violent.

Part nine. The student’s parents are idiots.

Part ten.  Rewarding the indefensible.

Part eleven.  You know your Christian college or university has gone or is going left when….

Part twelve.  Revisiting the evangelical mind.  Why aren’t Christian universities more “diverse”?

Part thirteen.  Infiltrating, or enabling?  Placing students in internships with Leftist organizations.

Part fourteen.  Does the secular Left believe its faith more firmly than the Christian academy believes its own?

Part fifteen.  Summer camp was never like this.

Part sixteen.  Psychological psychos?

Part seventeen.  Intolerant lovers of “tolerance”?

Part eighteen.  Fear of Fundamentalism.

Part nineteen.  Losing it.

Part twenty.  We’ve been here before.

While not exactly a part of this series, here is a link to another group of posts on the “Prosperity Gospel for Christian Institutions.”


Mar 10 2009

Other Series

Category: harmonicminer @ 4:47 pm

While you can always search for posts on a topic using the CATEGORY flip menu, about half-way down the right side on the home page, or do a direct search of the blog in the title bar on the upper right, this page also links to other groups of posts on particular topics.  In each case, there are two links for each series.  The first link takes you to the first post in the series, which links to the rest.  The second link takes you to a page showing all the posts in the series.

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The Spiritual Poverty of Socialism

The Spiritual Poverty of Socialism. All posts.

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Britain, R.I.P.?

Britain, R.I.P.?  All posts.

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Misusing Scripture

Misusing Scripture.  All posts.

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Prosperity Gospel for Christian Institutions?

Prosperity Gospel for Christian Institutions?  All posts.
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Hey, What About MY Choice?

Hey, What About MY Choice?  All posts.

As time permits, I’ll put links to more series here.