Archive - Sep 2006
Today's game ended in a tie, 3 to 3. The Kickin' Chickens were down by two goals, stormed back to take the lead, but then gave up the equalizer near the end. Elliot seemed a little more timid this week...not going after the ball as aggressively. He definitely prefers to play defense and try to prevent goals than to try to score them (thought he tries that some too). Here are a few more photos:
In three of the Gospels, Jesus warns that each of his disciples may have to "deny himself" and even "take up his Cross."
In support of this prediction, he contrasts the fleeting pleasures of today with the promise of eternity: "For what profit is it to a man," he asks, "if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
Generations of churchgoers have understood that being Christian means being ready to sacrifice. But for a growing number of Christians, the question is better restated, "Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?"
For several decades, a philosophy has been percolating in the 10 million-strong Pentecostal wing of Christianity that seems to turn the Gospels' passage on its head. Certainly, it allows, Christians should keep one eye on heaven. But the new good news is that God doesn't want us to wait.
Known (or vilified) under a variety of names -- Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Theology -- its emphasis is on God's promised generosity in this life. In a nutshell, it suggests that a God who loves you does not want you to be broke.
Its signature verse could be John 10:10: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." In a Time poll, 17 percent of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61 percent believed that God wants people to be prosperous.
"Prosperity" first blazed to public attention as the driveshaft in the moneymaking machine that was 1980s televangelism and faded from mainstream view with the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals.
But now, after some key modifications (which have inspired some to redub it Prosperity Lite), it has not only recovered but is booming.
Of the four biggest megachurches in the country, three -- Joel Osteen's Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes' Potter's House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar's World Changers in Atlanta -- are Prosperity or Prosperity Lite pulpits (although Jakes' ministry has many more facets).
While they don't exclusively teach that God's riches want to be in believers' wallets, it is a key part of their doctrine.
And propelled by Osteen's 4 million-selling book, Your Best Life Now, the belief has swept beyond its Pentecostal base into more buttoned-down evangelical churches, and even into congregations in the more liberal Mainline. It is taught in hundreds of non-Pentecostal Bible studies. One Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor even made it the basis for a sermon series for Lent, when Christians usually meditate on why Jesus was having His Worst Life Then.
The movement's renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen's by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?" he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"
Andrew Sullivan said:
There are few messages more obvious in the Gospels than a disregard for the biological family and a rejection of earthly wealth. Jesus says nothing about abortion or homosexuality, but he is quite clear about abandoning your spouse, parents and children and divesting yourself of all worldly goods. These are terribly difficult doctrines; and few of us who call ourselves Christians are able to live by them. But most Christians have at least not deceived themselves into thinking that the Gospels are actually about family life above everything and wealth as a critical element of Christian life. Until now. The Prosperity Gospel is one of the greatest blasphemies against the message of Jesus - but it is increasingly a part of the American "Christian" landscape.
From Mike Cope:
The basic movement of the gospel is clear (Phil. 2:5ff): self-denial and self-sacrifice rather than self-fulfillment. We follow one who had no place to lay his head, who warned us that life does not consist in the abundance of things, who told a wealthy man to sell all and give to the poor, who insisted that we cannot have two masters (God and $$). Followers of Christ in other cultures have often lost all as a result of their faithfulness to him.
David from Light and Salt contrasted Osteen's message with a powerful quote from "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne:
So I did a little survey, probing Christians about their (mis) conceptions of Jesus. It was fun just to see how many people think Jesus loved homosexuals or ate kosher. But I learned a striking thing from the survey. I asked participants who claimed to be "strong followers of Jesus" whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what He did. We can applaud what He preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore His cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not KNOW the poor. When the worlds of poverty and wealth collide, the resulting powerful fusion can change the world. But that collision rarely happens. I could feel it happening inside of me. One of my punk-rock friends asked me why so many rich people like talking to me, and I said because I'm nice to them. He asked me why I was nice to them. I said because I can see myself in them. That gives me a little patience and grace. I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other. It's no wonder that the footsteps of Jesus lead from the tax collectors to the lepers. I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.
The Week magazine makes recommendations for good TV viewing. Here are some of them from this week:
From an article of the same title by Rafe Needleman on cnet's news.com:
A new service, MyChurch.org, is a narrow social network. The site was created so churches could add social networking to their own online and social programs, giving both a church's congregants and the "un-churched" a place where they can meet each other (and church officials) and do standard social network stuff: Make friends, get dates, chat about things, and show off their photos.
MyChurch is more of a sales strategy than a clever new technology. Unlike the beautiful and highly interactive Faces.com social network I covered yesterday, MyChurch feels like a very spare version of MySpace. From a social perspective, it's more like Facebook -- it lets you go deep into a particular community, rather than broadcasting your personality to the entire world. MyChurch is probably a great business (churches can pay extra for additional bandwidth, storage, and services), but it's hardly a technical breakout. Although there is one very clever feature: Users can invite all their MySpace contacts with one click, co-founder Joe Suh told me.
From a Reuters article of the same title (sub-titled "Procedure has three times higher mortality rate than babies born vaginally") on MSNBC.com:
A new study has found a higher risk of infant deaths among infants born by Caesarean section to mothers who have no medical need for the procedure.
While C-sections have saved the lives of "countless" women and babies, and the risk of infant death is still very low, it is crucial to determine the reasons for the higher infant mortality seen with C-section, because the rates of this surgery are becoming increasingly common, Dr. Marian F. MacDorman of the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control in Hyattsville, Maryland and colleagues conclude.
Rates of Caesarean have risen steadily in the U.S., from 14.6 percent of all first-time births in 1996, to 20.6 percent in 2004, MacDorman's group notes in the September issue of Birth.