preaching bs

i was at the fitness club the other morning, sweating profusely on the treadmill, and nationally-known (but, coincidentally, local to me) tv preacher was on the tv (the same tv preacher i saw on the tv in my hotel room in lusaka, zambia, preaching a sermon for american independence day, about how the u.s. is god’s chosen country). there’s an array of tvs, and he just happened to be on the one i was near. actually, i was listening to serj tankian (lead singer of system of a down) on my ipod at high volume. but the tvs are set with no volume, but with subtitles on. i wasn’t actually paying attention, but i caught that he was preaching about mary magdeline, and how her life changed when she met jesus. ok, other than the suit, pretention, and entire format, i was ok with that premise so far. hence my not really paying attention.

until he turned it into a talk on addictions.

so… um… mary magdeline was addicted to what? sex? prostitution? what are you actually suggesting here about this biblical text, mr. tv preacher scripture twister?

now i was paying attention. enough to catch these final several sentences in their entirety:

(this is word-for-word, as best as i can remember)
“there are all sorts of addictions in our country. addictions to alcohol and drugs. addictions to pornography. sexual addictions. there are lots of programs trying to help with these. and some of them are helpful. but i want to tell you about a friend of mine who can really help you. i’m going to give you his name, and i’ll even give you his phone number. his name is jesus christ, and all you need to do is pray…”

(hold onto your seats — or treadmill handles, as it was for me — because here comes the must absurd, shallow, damaging, churchy lie i’ve heard in a while…)

“once you try jesus, you’ll never want that other stuff again.” end. let’s pray, and send in your money.

actually, they went to a marketing bit about an alaskan cruise hosted by this tv preacher and his wife.

i looked around to see if anyone was watching. i wanted to tell them, “look, i’m a follower of jesus. i know and believe the bible. and i just want to tell you that what you just read on that tv screen was a lie. and all christians don’t live in world of stupid-easy answers that don’t work and betray a shallow unexamined faith.”

22 thoughts on “preaching bs”

  1. Great thought Marko – O how I want to choke such statements and yet I find myself sometimes saying things that are so shallow and then I have the audacity to say it “in Jesus’ name.” We need each other to hold each other accountable and be willing to take and give feedback about what we are saying.

  2. nothing gets me more than to hear someone say this stuff. as someone who is in the middle of helping a family member with addiction, let me say that who ever that man was has probably never walked a loved one into a treatment center or found them with a gun in their hand about to pull the trigger. i have, just recently. if we could put those fancy bumper stickers on everything that’d be great, but it just ain’t that easy. I am so thankful we have a God who is truly not relegated to that propaganda. Someone should ……well, nevermind.

  3. It is amazing how some folks will make a living by twisting the good news for their own gain. I say that as one of those people who was instantly delivered from addiction. But that was after I came to know the Lord, and was not my reason for coming to Him in the first place.

    I came to know the Lord because He pursued me until I was exhausted. I finally could not escape His awesome presence, and then He delivered me without my asking. He’s still cleaning me up after 20+ years.

    I know we are supposed to let the tares grow up with the wheat, but sometimes I just yearn for the harvest.

  4. You can only say things like that if you have never been addicted to anything or been around anyone with an addiction. All that preacher did was show that he isn’t ever around anyone who’s hurting.

  5. i dont know why marko, but i am tearing up right now. i think i am angry and hurt. what a lie. i know for myself. all this does is keep people in bondage. what a load of… whatever.

  6. The sad thing is…the tv preacher, you, me, and all other Christians are painted with the same brush in the eyes of the unbelievers and cynics. It is unfair to the rest of us who are trying to preach and teach the truth out there. TV Preachers tend to make our job ten times harder. Preach on brother, preacher on!

  7. Wow, I am completely floored, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I can see why my first mdiv class started with the professor telling us that this class was to protect the church from us.

    It’s a good warning to me.

  8. This story made me think of the video that you and Tic did for the Core last year about unsuccessful ways to deal with kids who tell us things. There was one where you looked all serious and said, “Christians don’t struggle with *that*!”

    “…you’ll never want that other stuff again!” Right. Somebody needs to brush up on St. Paul and “doing the very thing I hate.”

  9. In the words of Will Ferrell in Elf…
    “I KNOW him!!”
    I have to say, I don’t know if it was this particular sermon, but I have heard him speak on Mary Magdelane before and was very glad that he emphasized strongly the fact that she was NOT to our knowledge a prostitute and that was a false depiction propelled by tradition. At least there is that. As for the rest of it…sigh.

  10. 1. I agree with Romey, I’m just shocked you made it to the gym. btw… you’re only a half pound ahead of me!!! Watch out!

    2. Even more ridiculous than slamming a a sermon from a guy that (for whatever reason) God has given a national platform to, is the massive assumption that this guy has never struggled with addiction, or walked with someone who has. Come on people, puhleeze!!!

  11. todd — check you out! the new todd — slammin’ me on my own blog! that actually makes me happy, even though your theology is, i believe, completely and totally nuts on this one. because someone has a national platform, you assume god gave it to him? is god giving benny hinn a national platform? did god give hitler a “national platform”? come on. sure, god can give someone a national platform. but that’s a big jump toward a completely mechanistic universe, bro.

    i agree with you, though, that it’s a jump to say that he’s never walked with someone who has struggled with an addiction (though i’m guessing if he’d actually struggled with one himself, it would be hard for him to say this kind of thing unless he really did experience that kind of instant change (which, of course, does occasionally happen)). he may be merely expressing a stupid, unbiblical, simple, cheesy, unhelpful, destructive, fund-raising-savvy idea without connecting it to whatever experience he has or hasn’t had with addictions.

  12. I don’t like the statement in context, but I’m not ready to throw out the statement itself. I think Marko’s absolutely right – this is a simple and cliche-ish answer to some very painful and difficult problems. On the other hand, for a few people, it’s also a true statement. The fact that it is few should make us throw out the statement on it’s own, but to say that Jesus can’t/hasn’t/won’t take away our desires for that addiction is denying what he’s done in some people’s lives. I wrestle with this because I want students to experience that same life-giving, addiction-freeing power in their lives; the Bible does clearly state that God can and does set us free from bondages. At the same time, I know from experience that He doesn’t always do it immediately, or miraculously (at least, not miraculously like most people think). It’s similar to the fact that God does miraculously heal and raise people from the dead, even today… but he also uses doctors and allows people to die. So, no, I don’t like the context of the statement, but neither do I want to throw it out 100% either. Maybe the bigger issue is that he did just leave it at that, which was truly misleading, and causing many to turn from Jesus when He doesn’t come through like they think He ought to because some preacher said so. Maybe there ought to be more about how we need Jesus for all of our sins, not just addictions. I don’t know – it just seems like it’s not untrue, but it’s not 100% of the truth, either.

  13. I agree in part with Paul…however, I have found myself really hating the “cliche pat answers” that are so often found in our churches today. The biggest ones are “God will provide” and “God has a plan for you”…..while both are true, as is the idea that Jesus will help free you from your addictions, when you are trying to find the strength to not slit your own wrists out of despair, or can’t find a way out of your depression, the cliche answers are often more of a cop out for people who either don’t know the answer or don’t care enough to get to the heart of the problem and really help you. And unfortunately, I have often found that it is the latter. And when it feels like God isn’t listening, or that no one cares, it’s really hard to believe the cliche answers to the questions you have. I have tried to avoid the pat answers….a friend once equated them to being a bandaid on a severed leg. They may help for a brief second, but in the long run, your leg is still severed, and one bandaid isn’t going to stop the bleeding.

    I see the minister in question falling into that trap. Rather than trying to stop the bleeding, it’s easier to put a bandaid on it and hope that it heals on its own. I see a lot of Christians falling into this as well….unfortuntately for the Christians that do want to go deeper, the Bandaid Christians are the ones on television. It’s rare to see a television minister with any sort of real depth nowadays.

    Maybe Marko should start his own show………

  14. Marko — The TV preacher has Jesus’ phone number? I think I can guess at what he was trying to say about prayer, but I can’t get this picture of Jesus with an operator’s headset on sitting in a sea of cubicles waiting now to take your call out of my head.

    I definitely appreciate what Paul and Miranda have shared. Television as a medium for preaching doesn’t lend itself well to nuance. While I also agree that the life Jesus offers to us is more satisfying and true than anything else out there, thirty minutes of television preaching is a lot like a sitcom — you have just enough time to introduce a conflict and resolve it (with a pleasant soundtrack, of course), but no time for the actual mess of what life can actually be like.

    I am strangely reminded of that 80s CCM album, “Addicted to Jesus.” I always picture strung-out Law&Order-type junkies running from the cops.

  15. Marko,

    I agree with you that the statement alone sounds crazy and cliche and totally typical of preaching BS. However, after watching the entire sermon on my DVR, I think you may have taken his remarks out of context. The gyst of the message was that Mary Magdalene has been villified by popular and church culture, and that she was never a prostitute – she was merely affected by seven demons. He goes on to say that he’s not sure if we have actual demons today, but that we do have demons of drug addiction, pornography, etc. (He does NOT, as you suggest, imply that Mary herself was addicted to anything.) While he does make the remark “Try Jesus and you’ll never have to try anything else,” he is not implying that Jesus gives us an INSTANT solution. He is merely stating the fact that Jesus is the PRIMARY solution.

    All I’m saying is, I think it’s important to listen to a whole message before you evaluate the statements made within the message. Again, I agree that the sentence in question sounds cliche, but on the whole, the pastor was only saying that Jesus is THE answer to life’s problems, and that other methods have their place and are helpful as well.

  16. Marko didn’t name the pastor so I won’t either. But, my wife’s parents go to this pastor’s church and in my experience visiting there, this type of trite answer is typical of his sermons- inch deep, mile wide, and filled with simplistic catch phrases. Also, it may be better to think of him as the typical pastor of a larger evangelical style church, rather than a TV preacher (which gives some additional connotations that aren’t necessarily true of this guy to give him some credit). Again, in my limited as it may be experience, too many contemporary pastors, TV or not, preach a similar theologically inaccurate, misleading, and if I may add- damaging message.

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