Friday, 1 September 2017

Floods and religion,

Floods in Texas and floods in Mumbai. Which one had the most victims? Which one got the most media attention? Here's a link to an article about living on the streets of Mumbai in the flood. Both places need assistance.

Here is the headline to an article about aid to the flood victims in the USA:

Why did America's biggest megachurch take so long to shelter Harvey victims?

Joel Osteen, who runs the megachurch has come in for a lot of stick for not opening the doors of his church to flood victims fast enough. Fair comment! Isn't Christianity supposed to be about compassion, among other things. The church finally opened its doors after a few days, providing supplies if all kinds and explaining that the ranks of seating in the building making it a difficult place to offer as somewhere for flood victims to sleep.

America is a strange place. We tend to think that we must be pretty much alike, Americans and Britons, because we share a language. And yet I don't think we understand each other at all. These megachurches are one example. Here's a short extract from the article:

"Osteen is one of America’s richest pastors. When congregations for multiple services are combined, 35,000 to 50,000 people attend services at Lakewood church weekly, and Osteen’s sermons are seen by more than 7 million people on TV and online. His 2004 book Your Best Life Now was on the New York Times bestseller list for over 200 weeks."

Do we have similar organisations in the UK? Do masses of people listen to sermons on television and online? I am aware of radio and television religious programmes and services but do people make money out of it? Does the idea of making money out if it even fit in with the tenets of Christianity? 

Here's another bit of the article: "His wife, Victoria, is co-pastor. The Osteens are thought to be worth millions of dollars and live in a part of Houston of that makes Beverly Hills look understated. Their net worth was calculated at over $55m in 2012, and although the church draws revenues of over $70m a year, Osteen says his only salary comes from book sales. His Night of Hope worship tour has appeared at venues such as New York’s Yankee Stadium.

The Osteens preach a distinctively American form of Christianity: the “prosperity gospel”, which holds that God rewards the deserving with material success. Immense wealth, they might argue, is not only compatible with their beliefs but a validation of them. The logical reverse side of such gospels is that poverty is in essence a matter of individual responsibility.

“I preach that anybody can improve their lives,” Osteen, a youthful-looking 54, has said. “I think God wants us to send our kids to college.” It clearly chimes for many residents in Houston, a city that touts a can-do, dynamic capitalist ethos inflected by the get-rich-quick spirit of Texas’ periodic oil booms.

With a huge choir, expert musicians, slick preachers, giant screens and audio-visual flair that rivals anything you might find on Broadway, the church’s emphasis is firmly on scale and spectacle. That Lakewood’s services feel like the intersection of religion and entertainment is thanks in no small part to the venue itself, the onetime home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets."

Donald Iloff Jr, Lakewood’s chief of communications, defended their not offering immediate shelter on the grounds of safety concerns. He went on to add: “You have the haters. There are people who don’t like our ministry, don’t like Joel, don’t like Lakewood church specifically. And then there is a significant portion of the population that hates faith and religion.”

Of course, it could be that some of the "haters" just dislike the idea of the church as a business venture.

Here is another aspect of the megachurch business:

"The selection procedure for Pastors is quite different from anything... a young American Pastor told me: he had applied to a Church who'd given him a 'Pulpit Call', and then paid for him to come to Oxford to read theology. After the first week, he realised it was way beyond him, so he sat in his room [private house] for the rest of the time, emerging for meals, and occasional walks. Nothing could encourage him to speak to his Tutor, or to find help - he just waited it out. But when he returned to US he would of course, have 'studied theology at Oxford' even if he had nothing to show for it. Perhaps this helps explain why, for some, there is a curious interpretation of what God says/means/intends... Short of theology [among other skills]."

And "just about anyone can start a religion/church in USA and get tax free status, as S Colbert showed one night. Legacy of all the religious types unwelcome in Europe (Quakers, Puritans, etc) manning colonies. I tried reading at Oxford, a guide book, but got motion sickness on the tour bus. If just reading, sounds fine, but if one has to submit papers, oral exams... that's a fish of a different color".

What an odd situation!

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