Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Off The Presses

Purported Christianity seems to be a hot topic in the print media this week.

The Chicago Tribune features a piece on feel-good guru Joel Osteen, who's performing shows there later this week.

According to the Trib:
Joel Osteen stands behind the lectern in stylish suits and preaches in a soothing Southern drawl and a big, easy smile. His sermons speak less to Gospel and Scripture than to staying positive and praying for a better life.

...This week, the man known as "the smiling preacher" will bring his encouraging message of faith to thousands in the Chicago area when he preaches at the Allstate Arena on Thursday and Friday nights. His 15-city U.S. tour has been packing such large crowds that scalpers in Dallas, Charlotte and Chicago were selling $10 tickets for more than $100 each.

"The message that I want to get across is hope. It's that God has a better life for you," Osteen, 42, said in a phone interview.
And that better life begins by selling tickets to an Osteen show at a 1000% profit. More money to spend at the dove concession!

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has obtained new records showing that prosperity preacher Joyce Meyer and her family received millions of dollars from her "not-for-profit," donation-supported ministry, a possible violation of federal law which, according to the Post, "bars founders of tax-exempt religious organizations from reaping huge personal benefits from their ministries."

Says the Post:
The ministry's board of trustees, which is headed by Joyce Meyer, agreed to pay her a $900,000 annual salary in 2002 and 2003.

The board agreed to give her husband, Dave Meyer, the board's vice president, an annual salary of $450,000 in each of those same two years.

The board agreed to provide the couple with free personal use of a corporate jet and luxury cars, a $2 million home where all bills are paid by the ministry and a separate $50,000-a-year housing allowance.

The ministry paid $1.475 million to buy three houses for the three Meyer children.

The board authorized Joyce and Dave Meyer to control a $790,000 fund to be used at their discretion for bonuses to "executive management."
The Post adds that board minutes show Mr. and Mrs. Meyer being present at the 2002 and 2003 meetings where their salaries and perks were approved.

Said a spokesman in defense of Meyer, "We believe that the Bible teaches that if you give, you will be blessed. She's been saying it from the stage for years."

From the stage indeed.

TIME Magazine has an interesting piece on Christianity on college campuses, focusing particularly on Indiana University as a microcosm.

There are a few things that are outright disgusting in the article, and I think many of the professing young Christians profiled in it demonstrate, at best, a dangerous lack of wisdom. But what made the article jump out at me was the absolute lack of sneering in the tone of the piece itself. For the first time perhaps ever in my memory, the mainstream media takes a look at some form of evangelical Christianity without treating it as an exotic species of animal or a science experiment. It reads like something that could have easily been printed in Christianity Today (which maybe says a little something positive about the article itself and negative about the current state of Christianity Today).

I don't like everything that is portrayed in the article, but it's mostly objective, which is highly unusual.

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