Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Columbia, MO
By David Rosman
In late October, word came down that the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, of Garden Grove California, was filing for bankruptcy. The ministry of Dr. Robert H. Schuller is in deep financial trouble, over $48 million worth of trouble. Yet with more than 10,000 parishioners, plus over 2,000,000 who tune into the “Power Hour” every Sunday, Schuller could not make financial ends meet. It is unfortunate, as with any nonprofit, and sorrowful that protection by the bankruptcy courts is the only way to survive.
Yes, I am sure there is more to the story, but this is not meant to be a discussion of nonprofit financing. It is about a branch of American Christianity that should start believers to question their leadership.
There are two Christian groups that seem to make a lot of noise. The first is the Rapture or Apocalyptic Christians.
Nicholas Guyatt, British author and religious scholar, defined this branch of Christianity for Reuters in 2007. “If the world ends then another one begins. Everything collapses and then you have this seven-year period where an evil world leader known as the anti-Christ takes over and is succeeded by Jesus Christ coming back down … and then there’s going to be a thousand years of peace and happiness.”
The second is commonly denoted as “Prosperity Christians.” As the name implies, this group believes that good things will come to those who believe. The reward in this life may be wealth in terms of finances, personal success, a good life and so on. But mostly financial.
Schuller’s ministry gave the appearance of a “prosperity” ministry, one that believes that one’s strong Christian faith will bring one wealth financially, personally and spiritually. I respect Schuller for his ministry, but not for the extravagance of the church or of the healing by prayer campaign he promotes on his televised ministry, Hour of Power, or his Web site. Those, in my humble opinion, are chicanery, as the snake oil remedies of the past, there only to make money.
Schuller has never been accused with scandal, though his purported leaving the church in retirement was a bit premature. The Money Times, reported in July 2010 that such rumors were quickly silenced by his daughter, Shelia Coleman. The Times said, “On Sunday several reports from different tabloids spread across the media and the internet stated that the 83-year-old Schuller, who serves as host of the long-running ‘Hour of Power’ televangelist program, will retire after 55 years in the pulpit.
“But Crystal Cathedral’s senior pastor and Schuller’s daughter Sheila Coleman expressed outrage over her father’s retirement reports, insisting he will not be leaving the church.”
The Fort Wayne Indiana News-Sentinel’s Kevin Leininger wrote about the church’s downfall, “‘God helps those who help themselves,’ Benjamin Franklin and others have observed…. But that is a philosophy, not a faith – and certainly not the Christian faith…” Yet many, maybe too many, believe that it is God’s plan that the reward for unquestioned faith is riches beyond their means.
I am not a Christian and thusly confused. Which brings me to question; how does one prove one’s devotion to God if not through one’s work or emotions? By just saying so? And if hard work and prosperity, financially or otherwise, does not prove faith in God or His payments for your faith, what does? How does one win grace? Grace alone will not help me feed my family, put a roof over my head, or provide me with medical treatments. Unless I am one who believes in the mysticism of faith healing. I do not.
Interviewed by Susan Page for the Diane Rehm Show on November 11, Deborah Cadbury, a member of the famous Cadbury chocolate family, talked about the Quaker ideals of doing business. How it was their belief that a business must take care of their employees and the region. That a business should give back to the community. That making a profit meant social responsibility while remaining austere, while maintaining their Puritan morals.
Capitalism today is based primarily on wealth creation and yet comparatively little given back to the society that helped build that wealth. Today, values focused on short-term gain regardless of the consequences to others and the planet. Quaker business stewardship, on the other hand, looks towards the long-term impact of their business and the society that support those businesses.
Speaking to Quaker capitalism, Cadbury said, “Wealth was only meant for personal gain was shameful, and everyone was meant to benefit. Quaker capitalism which is loosely defined as a business where all the stakeholders have to be considered; the workforce, the community and the society.”
Very humanistic and much in line of Franklyn’s, a non-Quaker Deist business ideals.
These Humanistic values were so important that the Cadburys built a “utopian” town for their workers, Bournville; a factory town that featured “hundreds of bright airy homes with gardens and fruit trees” and with “great emphasis was placed on open spaces, trees, public baths and what we would call ‘leisure facilities.”
Whatever happened to these Puritan values claimed today by many on the Christian conservative right? By those who believe that the person who dies with the most toys wins? Wins what? Leaving behind a garage full of worthless things that you family has to sell.
These same citizens want to argue that the rich should not be asked to pay a bit more in taxes to help those who cannot. The same citizens who want to see deep cuts in societal benefits to the poor and those unable to work, long as their own benefits are not affected. These are the same people claiming Puritan Christian heritage by referring to John Winthrop as proof positive that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.
The Christian scriptures tell us, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38, KJV). Not make it, keep it, horde it then show everyone how rich you are.
Instead of using Franklyn’s quote, why can’t corporations and the wealthy take a page from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. There is only so much one can buy to be satisfied. It is not the number of toys, it is how you are remembered that will give you eternal life.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.