Ugandans wake up; the money of a fool is enjoyed by the shrewd!
'How preaching Jesus Christ became a commercialised business'
By Dr Emmanuel Mutyaba
Since God's revelation is understood through interpretation by human mind, quite often preaching the word of God is merely rationalization to justify preacher's ambitions.
When it comes to Christianity, the word of God revealed in Jesus Christ, we know it through the interpretations by the Western mind founded on the ancient Greek philosophy of Plato and his student Aristotle (W.E.H, lecky., History of European Morals from Augustine to Charlemagne, Longman, london, volII, 1899, p. 81).
Plat's teaching (read Plato's Republic) on ascetic life (a life of self denial of all material wealth including family) as the noblest that leaders ought to embrace influenced greatly the early church. The ideal Christian was the one who did not strive for material goods but grace.
This idea was preached since it was in line with Jesus' teaching as seen in Mark 10: 17-25. When he told the rich young man that to be saved, he had to sell all his material wealth and give the money to the poor and then he follows Christ.
This means that being a Christian (a follower of Christ) is incompatible with greed for earthly things. When the rich young man refused to detach himself from his wealth and he went away, Jesus turned to his disciples and told them that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than a rich man to enter heaven.
In Aristotle's Politics., Book II translated by B. Jowett, Clarendon press, Oxford, 1905, p. 46), we see Aristotle's teaching which also influenced the early church that, "of all forms of making money usury (charging interest on loans) was the worst…. money should only be used for providing basic needs not for accumulation of wealth for its sake.
The early church upheld this teaching since it was in line with the Bible as seen in Deuteronomy 23:19-20 which condemns charging interests on loans. Christianity condemned obsessive love for money basing on the scriptures like Mathew 21:12-13.
Early Christian held whatever they had communally as we read in the Bible, Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35. They preached that it is difficult to avoid sin in money mindedness since too much money leads to fraud, lies, selfishness, and all sorts of evils. The Christian church in the Lateran council of 1139 condemned usury no matter how moderate it may be not even money gained from it could be accepted in church offerings.
In the council of Vienna which took place in 1311, the church declared usury as robbery/theft.
A theologian known as Thomas Chobham taught that usury is worse than prostitution since at least a prostitute sweats for her money even if such a work is ignominious (Jacque le Goff., The Usurer and Purgatory.
In center for Medieval and Renascence studies. Yale University press, New Haven conn 1979, pp. 28-30). Actually usury was condemned alongside avarice (excessive love for money) as the root cause of all evils. John of Salisbery preached that there is no sin worse than avarice. And Bernard preached that avarice is worse than hell.
Actually today's pastors preach the opposite, they take the advantage of the misery of their flock and tactfully get a lot of money from them promising them blessings. To them I address these words of St. Ambrose "it is the hungry man's bread that you withhold; the naked man's cloak that store away, the money that you bank is the price of the poor man's ransom."
The turning point
How did Christian churches particularly Pentecostal churches turn away from the original massage of Christ as seen in the scriptures: Mark 10: 17-25, Mathew 21:12-13, and from the word of God in Deuteronomy 23:19-20 and other? What made pastors to be so money minded than saving souls for Christ?
Churches have become business places for pastors to the extended that they are now days registered as NGOs not houses of God. A famous Pastor known as L. Ron Hubbard said in Los Angeles Times of August 3, 1987, that the quickest way of becoming a multimillionaire in USA is to found for yourself a church. Actually he founded the church of scientology.
The turning point was the reformation period which was championed by Martin Luther (a former catholic priest of the Dominican order) the founder of Protestantism.
To gain support from rich men, princes and queens, he preached what they wanted to hear. He preached that the accumulation of wealth and money was a blessing from God. He reversed the former Christian teaching by preaching that usury and avarice cannot prevent one from being saved.
This preaching very much attracted usurers, avaricious men and merchants including Queen Elizabeth. This idea was taken to its extreme by other reformation leaders particularly John Calvin (the founder of the Dutch Reformed Church) the aim was to give a blow to the Catholic Church's teaching.
He preached the doctrine of predestination where salvation does not depend on morality but predestination. Those who were predestined to salvation even if they acquire wealth in immorally ways they will be saved.
Likewise, those who were not predestined to salvation, even if they live morally: no avarice or usury they will still suffer damnation. He preached that worldly prosperity is a sign of God's grace. So a poor pastor has no God's grace/no sign of salvation. Pastors began to look for wealth in whatever way to prove that they have grace, after all the way wealth is earned does not make one to miss salvation.
Calvin's gospel of wealth accumulation reaches America by the puritan missionaries. There rose Preachers like Catton Mather one of the most influential English preacher of that time, preached that Christians should glorify God by doing good to others and by getting wealth for themselves (Cotton mather., A Christian at his calling. Boston, 1701, quoted from Richard Hober., the American idea of success,McGraw, Hill book company, New York, 1971, p. 12).
William Penn, one of the founders of the church of the Quaker Pennsylvania, preached that wealth is a visible sign that one lives in the light of God (Willian Penn, the advice of William Penn to his children. Quoted in Richard Hober., the American idea, p. 14).
Max Weber in his work the protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism, on p. 56, translation of T. Persons, Unwin, London 1930, accused pastor Benjamin Franklin for saying that we live to accumulate wealth rather than we accumulate wealth in order to live. Since that time to date, any Pentecostal pastor who does not assure his flock Jesus the giver of wealth looses it to another pastor. In 1836, Pastor Thomas P. Hunt published a book "the Book of wealth" teaching that it is a duty of every man to accumulate wealth.
An article was written in his Merchant Magazine that Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden because they failed to do business there. Pastor Panker Thomas of Boston Unitarian church preached that no saint is higher than the saint of trade. The church of Christ has gone into business.
The situation reached its climax during Ronald Reagan's period with its slogan of "enrich yourself". Justin Dart a member of Reagan's kitchen cabinet, taught that greed is good; it should be invoked in whatever we do (Los Angeles Times of Feb, 6, 1982 quoted by Bellah et al, habits of the Heart. University of California press, 1985, p. 264).
Jerry Falwell the then pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Virginia, preached that money is a sign of God's grace. He actually paid himself an annual salary of $100,000 from his church's collections (Frances Fitzgerald., cities on a Hill, Picador, London 1987, pp. 143-195. And John Tayor., Circus of ambition, wirner books, New York, 1989, p.3. and Times of August 3, 1987). Since then Pentecostal pastors seek money from their flock at all costs.
We here in Uganda pastors selling holy rice, many have personal TV channels not belonging to their churches but to them as individuals getting money from church offertory, and the rest. Actually in 1987, in America, there grew the most successful TV evangelist known as Jimmy Swaggert who according to the Times of Aug. 3. 1987, run a television ministry as a family business. He gained billions of dollars out of it, he built three luxurious homes and two Lincoln town cars.
Pastor Robert Schuller who broad casted one hour of healing power every week in Califonia paid $ 86,000 salary plus tax exemptions and a house allowance of $ 43,500. Pastor Jim Bakker earned $ 638,112 and six luxurious homes with bath room-taps planted with gold; it was his habit of adultery that led to his down fall.
Here in Uganda, the situation is not different. Pastor L. Ron Hubbard's advise as reported in Los Angeles Times of August 3, 1987 that the quickest way to becoming multimillionaire is to construct for yourself a church is being followed by many pastors.
The clearest sign that they are not doing the work of God but look for wealth is the conflict among them.
One tells people that do not go to pastor so and so's churches that there is no grace, simply come to mine. If they all do the work of god why should they mind to which pastor people go to? Each one wants to keep his customers from which he earns greatly.
One may wonder how people keep flopping into these churches where pastors look for their own wealth at the expense of their flock. But how can they fail to go there if they were well tricked into believing that they are the pastors who have the powers to deliver them from all sorts of misery? The more money you donate the more you fasten your deliverance.
Ugandans wake up; the money of a fool is enjoyed by the shrewd!
The writer is a lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University