AFFLUENZA AND CELEBRITY PASTORS IN CHRISTIAN CULTURE
So I am pretty much over blogging and writing about celebrities. You thought this post was going to be about Mark Driscoll and Shia LaBeouf, didn’t you? Whoops, well, it’s not. Sorry to disappoint. Today, I want to talk about a disease that is devastating our country right now. Worse than the chicken pox and the measles, our society is suffering from what is now being diagnosed as The Affluenza.
Last week, in my beloved state of Texas, a judge mercifully sentenced teenager Ethan Crouch (mercifully) to a few years at a six-figure rehabilitation center for driving drunk and murdering four people. Poor Ethan, his parents were so wealthy that they never bothered to set boundaries. No research has ever been done on Affluenza, but let me tell you that it is real. In fact, I know a quite a large population here in the United States that is sick from its own Affluenza: its Church.
In the United States, no matter what church you are a part of, regardless of its doctrine, the one thing that makes teachings all relative is the worship of MAMMON. In seminary, I was once told that I should keep checks on myself since Black Baptist pastors have a reputation for being overly ambitious and levying a lot of power of their congregations. The funny thing is, this quest for power knows no skin color or creed. Affluenza is color-blind. Take the example of Mark Driscoll for example. He is a mega-church pastor, has a large following, and posts that STAN for him say as much: his defenders CAN’T be found disagreeing with Driscoll because he has “saved” them (ummmmm I thought only Jesus saves, SOLUS CHRISTUS???????)
Absolute power in the United States is venerated as untouchable, and what I have learned recently is that sometimes money and power DON’T go together. And I may have to write about how that works some other time, but for now, I want to discuss how power consolidates itself. Okay, so you’re an uber-popular profit of the Lord, and a publishing company makes a money from your “work,” then that publishing company is going to STAN for you. The most recent and just shameful example right now is Tyndale House, publisher of Joel Watts’ beloved NEW LIVING TRANSLATION bible. Joel, to his credit has been quite prophetic and critical towards a book corporation that has given Joel a lot of gifts. In fact, as Joel has pointed out, Tyndale House is covering up Mark Driscoll and his lying and his stealing WITH EVEN MORE LYING. They are telling half-truths like Janet Mefferd apologizing????? Ummmmm no! First of all she was sorry she didn’t go to Tyndale first, but then again, given Tyndale’s disastrous response to this disaster, I think maybe she did the right thing in the first place!
Tyndale is just one company, but they are a big example of what Christianity looks like today: the Church is dying from Affluenza. Joel is wrong. This whole Driscoll/plagiarism thing is NOT ABOUT ACADEMIC INTEGRITY. There is no need to contact Amazon. Christianity is a religion where the TEN Commandments are pretty important, haven’t you ever read, “Thou Shalt Not Steal”? I mean Conservatives use this verse all the time right to talk about taxes, but now they are STANNING for Driscoll who is stealing authors’ private property. Commitment to power and money is what causes people to act hypocritically a lot of the time. The Affluenza of Christian Celebrity culture has got to stop. But where can we find healing from this disease?
I would suggest, given this Advent season, and this first post for Tyler Tully’s and my synchroblog, #fleshYGod, that the answer lies in the dirty, straw-filled manger. In the Gospels we have a story about an infant who’s parents were too poor to buy animals to sacrifice, so they had to purchase doves instead. How embarassing that our Savior’s family was not even privileged enough to do something as normal as that. It’s sort of like families who aren’t able to afford a yearly vacation out of the country, EXCEPT IT’S not. My point is, is like liberation theologian Joerg Reiger said years ago, that we should watch the money, watch where it flows, who has it, and how it is used. We should also be watching WHO LOSES the money, who doesn’t have the power, and confront those institutions and practices that do enable monetary predators and power-mongers.
Recently, Transformers star and actor Shia LaBeouf was caught plagiarizing a comic book for an “independent” film that he “made.” Shia admitted his fault on the Twitterz, and more than that, has taken down the video. Now Shia must face ADDITIONAL shaming from movie fans (in addition to being a part of Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogy, am I right???). Tyndale and Logos Bible Software have yet to do the same with Driscoll, as Driscoll has yet to admit any wrong doing other than the ole “blame the intern/plebian routine.”
LaBeouf said it best,
“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation. I’m embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work. I f***ed up.”
The thing is, Shia LaBeouf doesn’t have to claim he stole “for the Glory of God;” Hollywood might be white supremacist and suffer from just as much Affluenza as the church, but at least these artists follow through on their own ethical code. Meanwhile, Christians? We have the Decalogue. Let’s, ummmm look to it, maybe?
Jesus Presented in the Temple
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.- Luke 2:22-24 niv