Most Americans know about TV preachers and that they get money from their viewers. Many of these TV preachers are Pentecostals, an often-emotional and loud group of “Christians” whose movement to promote Spiritual gifts, miracles, healing, and especially “speaking in tongues,” was started in Los Angeles, California at the beginning of the 20th Century.
There are many types of Pentecostals. I have encountered several of these groups, churches, and conferences–and have mixed feelings about them. Some Pentecostals are humble, kind, and helpful to their fellow human beings. They believe that God is God and can do whatever miracles He desires through His Spirit. Others are proud, entitled, promoting the “Prosperity Gospel” view that a real Christian, blessed by God, will have lots and lots of money (and probably not share it with homeless people). They believe a good Christian gives “tithes” and “gifts” to support “the ministry.” In conferences, they often take more than one noisy “offering” from the less affluent people there.
The problem with Prosperity Gospel adherents is that their leaders are very, very rich–and proud of it. Many are found on T.V. shows, running entire TV broadcast businesses and publishing houses. Some call themselves Dollar, fly in private jets (and sometimes die in them), live in huge mansions on large estates, brag about their yearly income, wear expensive clothes and hair designs, vacation in exotic places, and continue to extract money from their followers with the promise that they, too, will be rich.
Pentecostals draw more on some Old Testament examples of wealthy Jewish leaders than the New Testament teaching of Jesus and his followers, who often marked money as an evil snare and rich people as oppressors of the poor. Wealth also led to the fall of Old Testament heroes–and the tragic end of their families and personal empires. Job was the oldest Old Testament rich man who suffered much because of his riches. Gideon was a hero, mentioned in the book of Judges, who saved Israel from a huge enemy army. However, he asked for all the gold earrings (and other gold ornaments) from that army, built a giant gold statue near his hometown, got lots of wives and children, and turned Israel back to Idol worshipping. He also lost all but one of his 70 sons, and his inheritance plunged into nothingness.
Now for my story. As you know from my previous issues, I taught English overseas for more than 5 years. I went alone, with no credit card, backup plan, or help from home (I had no American family to help me). I lived in the economies where I taught (Russia, Turkey, China). Sometimes I was paid well; sometimes I wasn’t paid at all. When I came back to America after this hard duty, I felt like a soldier who had suited up every day to battle language barriers, cultural differences, and dangerous surroundings. I was attacked by men in all 3 countries (thankfully, I took Self-Defense classes, so I was not raped or killed). I returned worn out, tired of trying to get around in Taxis driven by people who didn’t understand me, toxic air, acidic water, and nauseating food. My Armenian/Turkish husband helped for part of my overseas journey, but he could not get a work permit, and his family was poor (better than my entire lack of family). Continue reading