Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When they came for the health and prosperity preachers ...

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has opened an investigation into the financial affairs of several ministries, notably those headed by Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, and Binney Hinn, along with three others.

I don't follow these teachers, and the parts I've seen make me very skeptical of their message on several fronts. However, if they are mainly "prosperity gospel" preachers, as Fox News characterized them, I would think that charges of lavish personal spending are hollow. If they teach that great personal wealth is a sign of God's favor, and then rise to a leading position in that sort of movement, what does anyone really expect them to do with donations to their ministries? Criticism at this point seems to be the equivalent of slamming a Roman Catholic monk for moving to a monastery after taking a vow of poverty; isn't he simply living out what he claims is right?

I simply can't imagine that anyone following such teaching would expect anything else, and yet they choose to give financial support to these ministries. The teaching isn't Biblical, but it's a particular group's religious expression, and while it may be unorthodox or even unpalatable, the government should keep hands off.

It reminded me of Martin Niemöller's famous statement about not speaking up for groups singled out for attack, simply because they were not obviously of one's own group. Christians of a more traditional evangelical stripe should beware of brushing this aside, because a government with the right to investigate or dictate in matters of religion is a very, very risky thing to have around.

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