The Message of Paula White: It’s All About Me

August 31, 2007

Before the scandal broke about Randy and Paula White, I really didn’t know anything about them except that they were televangelists. Of course, this led me to assume that they were probably charismatics and since they were televangelists, they were probably health and wealth proponents.

But, I found out that I really didn’t assume enough! I am incredulous at the stuff these people are preaching! It is totally a self-centered message targeted at promising people a world of goodies, and that God is at our disposal to give us whatever we want. God is our genie, and Paula has figured out the formula for rubbing his lamp in just the right way to get my three unlimited wishes granted.

But it’s really worse than that. It’s all about these preachers. They seem to exist for themselves, their own enrichment, their own fame, their own success. “Making merchandise of men’s souls” is the line from Peter that comes to mind.I was tooling around on Paula White’s website, and this is what I observed.

Just glance at the main page on the site and here’s the visual message you’ll get:

It’s All About Paula
24 times her name is visible on the page
5 more times if you hover over menus
8 photos of Paula in various poses,and
1 flash slideshow with a few more.(

This is the same self-promoting visual message you get from the covers of Joel Osteen’s books. What other reason would they allow their own face to be splashed across the front of their books? I hate to say it, I really do, because she’s not anything like Osteen or White, but even Beth Moore’s stuff is just getting more and more plastered with bigger and bigger images of Beth. Can’t these authors tell the publishers, “No, you will not make me the central focus. You will not put my face prominently placed on the cover of my books. It’s not about me, it’s about Christ. I will not become the center of attention like some kind of celebrity in ministry.”)

It’s All About Money (almost $40 million worth in 2006, $35 million of which was just offerings, and $1.5 million of which (in 2005) was used to purchase a used jet)
“Support the ministry” tab with 4 submenu giving options
“Sow a seed” button/graphic
“Partner with Paula” link
“Click here to give” an Atonement Offering button
“Click to become a Covenant Partner” button
“Click for Pay Per View” button

The Lyrics to Paula’s Theme Song:
Today, can’t wait
Today, her way
All the things confronting me fail,
Never gets the best of her today
Paula gets what Paula wants today

———-

UPDATE: The above lyrics are what it really sounds like to me. Michelle commented below and gave me the closed-captioned version. Sadly, they aren’t much less Paula-promoting than the lyrics I attempted to decipher from listening to the song multiple times. Here you go:

Today, – can’t wait
To take – away
All the things confronting me -they’ll,
Never get the best of the day
It all begins with Paula White today

———-

Wow. I guess so! This is so blatantly self-promoting! Shameless. This sounds like how someone would poke fun at a woman for being a little diva! This is supposed to be the theme song for a MINISTRY! Supposedly!

I think Toby Keith has the lyrics to give Paula’s song a second verse:”I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one, oh my, me, my, what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see. I like talkin’ ’bout you, you, you, you usually, but occasionally, I wanna talk about me!”

Was this the focus of the apostles? Peter? Paul? Christ??!

This sentence from Paula on page 3 of her downloadable financial audit report just sums up her mentality and theology: “Every day GOD affords you the opportunity to make your mark, impact your world, and take yourself to the next level.”

It’s all about me isn’t it? Not Christ, not God’s glory, not the Gospel. Me. Me getting what I want – today, because I can’t wait. Taking myself to the next level. Paula will help God help me help myself, to make my mark, impact my world take myself to the next level. I get what I want today. I don’t wait. I do not learn godly contentment. I am not a satisfied woman or man. I am dissatisfied and want Paula to teach me how to get what I want so I’ll be satisfied.

It’s about me being the center of my universe. That’s what this Paula White/Joel Osteen message is all about: Me. Not Christ, and how HE is the satisfaction of our souls that frees us from the bondage of our lust for the dissatisfying things that define health and wealth, but how WE are the satisfaction of our souls when we finally get everything we see.

At least Benny Hinn’s website (despite himself) has a link on “How to Receive Christ,” where at least the Gospel is given in it’s most basic form! (Honestly this surprised me). Paula has no such means to get to the Gospel that I can find. But it’s a really really sad day when the clearest presentation of the Gospel you’ll get from this group of self-promoters is from Benny Hinn – of all people! He’s the granddaddy of them all! He’s the richest, most shamelessly money-grubbing of all those charlatans. But he seems to be being outdone in the self-promotion department.

It is disgusting that these “preachers” 1.) have a voice in the public arena, 2.) are the public face of what the world sees and hears when they see Christianity, 3.) completely distort and corrupt the Gospel of God’s grace through salvation from our sins into a means to personal riches and self-glory.

Disgusting.

What do I really think about them? Well, to borrow words from meanders: they are “pulpit-snakes.” Click the link and read the poem that these words come from. It is a fitting, Christ-centered way to finish off this blog post.


Ted Haggard’s Overseers Squash His Fundraising Attempts

August 30, 2007

Ted Haggard has been chastised by his overseers for his pleas for funds to underwrite his living expenses and college studies. Here’s a statement from the story in Christianity Today:

“Ted Haggard’s recent request for money to keep his family afloat while he attends school was “inappropriate” and “unacceptable,” according to a statement Wednesday by the group that oversees the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals.”

Instead, he will be seeking secular employment, not ministry. Although, he is still enrolled in classes to pursue a counseling degree.

This is a good development in the story. I’m glad his overseers are not just a false front that only gives the impression that he’s being held accountable, but are actually involved with him. God bless them. It sounds like they’re getting a workout with him.

(HT: Justin Taylor)


“The Route to a Renaissance of the American Fine Arts Lies Through Religion.”

August 29, 2007

Those are not the words of a theologian or pastor, but of Camille Paglia. Who’s she? She is, according to Wikipedia, an “American social critic, author and teacher. She is a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.”

She’s no fan of Christianity, by her own admission. But, boy does she have some helpful insights about the need for Christians to get their artistic act together!

In a rather lengthy, but extremely interesting article (which gives a helpful overview of art, iconoclasm, and church history from the Reformation to today’s modern art – I learned several things!), she writes,

“…would anyone seriously argue that the fine arts or even popular culture is enjoying a period of high originality and creativity? American genius currently resides in technology and design. The younger generation, with its mastery of video games and its facility for ever-evolving gadgetry like video cell phones and iPods, has massively shifted to the Web for information and entertainment.

I would argue that the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion.”

Why does she think this?

“I view each world religion, including Judeo-Christianity and Islam, as a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe.”

She decries the fact that knowledge of the Bible is “dangerously waning” not only in the West generally, but particularly among aspiring young artists and writers. She is actually a proponent of putting “the study of comparative religion at the center of the university curriculum.”

“Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.”

Talk about being more discerning than Christians! She makes so many good points, it’s embarrasing. Go ahead, read all of these, you can do it! There are gems in this list. [Comments in brackets]

  • “This is a practical, commercial nation where the arts have often been seen as wasteful, frivolous, or unmanly.”
  • “The Puritans’ [who I constantly read and adore theologically and devotionally as a Christian pastor] attitude toward art was conditioned by utilitarian principles of frugality and propriety: art had no inherent purpose except as entertainment, a distraction from duty and ethical action.” [this attitude is still with us, unhelpfully] Although, “The Puritans did appreciate beauty in nature, which was “read” like a book for signs of God’s providence”
  • “Though American drama and the visual arts may have languished in the wake of Puritanism, music was tremendously energized…This emphasis on congregational singing is one of Protestantism’s defining features.”
  • “Hymnody should be viewed as a genre of the fine arts and be added to the basic college curriculum.”
  • “There was a second great confluence of religion with the arts in nineteenth-century America. The Bible, in its poetic and indeed Shakespearean King James translation rather than in today’s flat, pedestrian versions, had a huge formative influence on the language, imagery, symbolism, and allegory of such major writers as James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville.”
  • “Because of the divergence between religion and the prestige fine arts in the twentieth century, overtly religious art became weaker and weaker”
  • “If there were few open conflicts in America between religion and the fine arts through most of the twentieth century, it was simply because the two realms rarely overlapped.”
  • “Though work offensive to organized religion constituted only a fraction of the projects annually supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, conservative demands for the total abolition of that agency escalated.” [Ah, might this explain, at least partly why Christians are so antithetical to art?…because of the controversies of Serrano and Mapplethorpe? Have Christians thrown the baby out with the bathwater?]
  • “The stereotyping of artists as parasitic nihilists that was beginning to take hold in the popular mind in America.”
  • “Though controversy has subsided, the NEA disturbingly remains at the top of every list of government agencies that many citizens across the nation want abolished. “
  • “For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center.”
  • “Art lovers, even when as citizens they stoutly defend democratic institutions against religious intrusion, should always speak with respect of religion.”
  • “Conservatives, on the other hand, need to expand their parched and narrow view of culture. Every vibrant civilization welcomes and nurtures the arts.”
  • “Progressives must start recognizing the spiritual poverty of contemporary secular humanism and reexamine the way that liberalism too often now automatically defines human aspiration and human happiness in reductively economic terms.”
  • “If conservatives are serious about educational standards, they must support the teaching of art history in primary school”
  • “Without compromise, we are heading for a soulless future. But when set against the vast historical panorama, religion and art—whether in marriage or divorce—can reinvigorate American culture.”

Thank you Camille Paglia. You have given Christians much to consider and act on.

ADDENDUM:

This is from Gene Edward Veith’s blog today:

The Art & Music Candidate. . .
. . .is Mike Huckabee, the Baptist minister who was governor of Arkansas and a favorite of Christian conservatives. A personal cause for him is encouraging art and music education.

“I call it a weapon of mass instruction. It’s a critical part of education,” Huckabee said during a visit to Northern Virginia last weekend. “This whole idea that music and art are great programs if you can afford them and have room for them — that’s utter nonsense. It’s the stupidest thing we’ve done to education in the last two generations.”

I love it when Christians defy the stereotypes. Christians SHOULD be cultivating the arts, as they have for centuries. It’s the non-Christians who are assaulting the very concept of beauty. Many Christians today are all for truth and goodness as absolutes, but when it comes to the other and related absolute, beauty, they are just as relativist as the postmodernists they decry.


The Christian Community’s Neglect of Art

August 29, 2007

“Christians today often talk about influencing the culture through the arts. This often means, in practice, Christians letting themselves be influenced by the culture through the arts.”

Those are the opening words of Gene Edward Veith’s article “When Christianity Shaped the Arts” in the February issue of Tabletalk magazine.

In truth, most Christians just don’t care much at all about art. And they often don’t have a clue about how Christianity and art go together. But that is actually a new development in the history of the church (apart from the iconoclasm that occurred in the Reformation). As Veith goes on to point out in his article, “Evangelicals are often oblivious to artistic achievements” of the ancient church. For them, it was a vital part of their faith. For us, in our ever-pragmatic worldview and lifestyles, we just don’t find visual art “useful” to the mission of the church or the everyday lives of Christians seeking to be obedient to God and to be witnesses to the world.

In the ancient church, yes the pre-Roman Catholic church, “the life of the mind and the life of creative imagination were not just kept alive but were nourished and inspired inside the church, and in a way that would eventually win over and civilize the barbarians outside the gates. Today’s Christians would thus do well to emulate their [ancient] brethren.” (Ibid.)

The ancient church cultivated the arts in the midst of incredible onslaughts of war, social disorder, Muslim assaults, and the political upheavals. They saw it as one of the important means to advancing the mission of the church, that it was a means to survival. The church today, on the other hand has neglected the visual arts for far too long. The church has discarded the cultivation of the arts as somehow distracting to the mission, or unhelpful to our witness.

The sad state of Christian art has been reduced to something on the order of eagles soaring above mountaintops, churches covered in snow, and utopian landscapes of serene cottages by streams. That’s what passes as Christian art today, and that’s just about all Christians will let “Christian art” be. To further downgrade it, that art is then so over-reproduced that whatever aesthetic value it had to begin with is diminished terribly low through it’s sheer ubiquity. I commented to my wife leaving Wal-Mart on Monday to take a look how Kinkade (of whose art I own 2 prints) was now reduced to being on a spare tire cover for an SUV. Something about that just makes it seem banal, reduced in value, superficial.

But it looks like there are rays of hope on the horizon for the church and art.

MSNBC.com recently ran an article on how a renaissance has begun in the church. In it they interview Makoto Fujimura, who said,“I am a Christian. I am also an artist and creative, and what I do is driven by my faith experience.”

The report, “On the grass-roots and institutional level, evidence is mounting to support that view: Art galleries are opening in churches; prominent seminaries are investing in new centers exploring theology and the arts; and, graduates from evangelical film schools are making Hollywood movies.”

Yes, even the SBC’s own Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has done as much by establishing The Center for Theology and Arts, which is aimed at equipping “pastors and church leaders to think biblically about pivotal issues which dominate contemporary culture,” and will “will focus on the interaction between Christian theology and the various arts,” and on helping “Christians develop a biblical understanding of such issues as aesthetics, artistic expression and appreciation.” (source: BP)

Add to that, Fuller Seminary’s establishment of the Brehm Center, which “aspires to be an evangelical arts think tank, with five stand-alone institutes focused upon worship and music, film and moving images, art and architecture, drama, journalism and creative writing, [and] preaching.”

This has been a long time coming.

“These artistic evangelicals, though still relatively small in number, are striving to be creators of culture rather than imitators, said Dick Staub…There is a desire, he said, to avoid inventing a parallel arts universe with Christian knockoffs for Christian audiences.”

“For too long, Christian art has implied pale imitation,” Craig Detweiler of Fuller Seminary said. “We’re trying to get back to the days of the Renaissance, where the church was the patron of the finest art.”

Wow! A new passion for GOOD art! (Hear that CCM?)

Andy Crouch, editorial director for Christianity Today’s Christian Vision Project, said, “The very parched nature of evangelical visual culture is making people who have grown up in this culture thirsty for beauty,”

Yes, we are indeed thirsty for beauty. And thirsty for God-centered means to enjoy it. The pleadings of Francis Schaeffer in the 60’s and 70’s to engage the culture, including the arts, are starting to take root.

“If we as Christians believe that creativity and imagination is a gift from God, why have we neglected it for so many years?” said center director Steve Halla, a former Dallas Theological Seminary professor and a woodcut artist.

yes, Yes, YES! God did give these gifts to His creatures. But why are they neglected in the church? Is it because of a fear Christians have that was alluded to in the opening quote from Veith? Is it because Christians don’t really think you can do high-caliber art without becoming worldly? I’ll tell you that that is an assumption made by many Christians I have known. It is a fear of becoming tainted by the world. And one can somewhat understand their fear, when they look at how much that passes as Christian art is nothing but an imitation of the culture that’s been baptized in romanticized Christian cultural trappings and language.

I hope this news means that we are about to be delivered from the ghetto of Christian art as we now know it, and a recovery of the arts, a revival of creativity as the ancient church once knew it. We need an infusion of good, beautiful, enriching, God-glorifying art. Visual, literary, performing, crafting, etc. Paintings don’t need to be littered with obligatory images of crosses to be God-glorifying any more than furniture builders need to make only pews or communion tables to glorify God in their craft.

I am praying for this new renaissance of artists. I welcome them and hope to encourage them as much as I can. I want their art and craft to be driven by good, solid, enriching, biblically theological underpinnings, and crafted with the greatest degree of amazing craftsmanship and talent that God has endowed them with. And I hope that they will bless the church with their gifts, as well as be a light of God’s glorious beauty to the onlooking world. Christians, go make something beautiful! Artists, we need you!

ADDENDUM: For those of you who are truly interested in doing art well, and in helping facilitate a renaissance in art in the church, then you will want to read this short essay over at The Scriptorium, entitled: “On Great Artistic Ages.”


Is This Paula White’s Justification for Her Divorce?

August 27, 2007

This is the text of an article Paula wrote on her website entitled “Associations.” [Comments in brackets]

[I’ve already posted my thoughts on her divorce, but when I read this article by her, I was just incredulous. Not only is so much of this is just plainly unbiblical, but it is so insightful into the way she thinks. I couldn’t help seeing the connection with her divorce.]

How would [you] describe the health of your relationships? Be honest, because it’s crucial for your life. There are four types of people in your life: people who add, people who subtract; people who multiply, and people who divide. If you are presently involved in relationships that prey on your heart and rob you of control over your life, it’s time to make a change.

[Was Randy preying on her heart and robbing her of control over her life? Is that the reason for this change?]

A healthy relationship is one in which there is balance. There is give and take and mutual appreciation and a building up of each other. It is one in which honest words of appreciation are exchanged without any hint of manipulation. Healthy relationships come along with people who have a common direction or destination—common values and goals. If you do not have a common direction, you will always be in conflict.

[Obviously her marriage was without balance. Is she giving up on the give-and-take and mutual appreciation of building up Randy? When did they let their common direction, values, and goals deteriorate into an unhealthy relationship? What did they fail to realign their hearts?]

The associations in your life show your value system. Associate only with people who add or multiply your life. If a person is subtracting or dividing, you need to separate from that person. Never compromise your character for anyone. Don’t give power to any person to manipulate and control. No person can make you lose your joy, your temper, or any other aspect unless you give that person that power. Don’t do it!

[Did association with Randy reflect badly on Paula’s value system? Was he failing to multiplying her life so badly that she has to separate from him? Is this a show of strength in not compromising her character for anyone, including her husband? And exactly what character quality does it display to divorce him? No person should make you disobey God. Paula, don’t do it!]

Trust God to help you recognize when a relationship is becoming detrimental to you, to your ministry, or to the health of your family life. Trust God to give you the courage to end the relationship, and then trust Him to give you broad shoulders and thick enough skin to take the criticism that you may face for ending the relationship. Put some distance between yourself and those who speak discouragement into your life.

[Is she trusting God with her marriage? Or, had her relationship with Randy gone so detrimental to her, her ministry, and the health of her family life that divorce is the best solution? Is she just putting distance between her and Randy because he was speaking discouragement in to her life? Is this why she is ending the relationship?]

It takes emotional energy to end a relationship, and if you cut every unhealthy relationship out of your life at one time, you are likely to be overwhelmed by the loss. Cut unhealthy relationships out of your life one at a time until you can look around you and say, “All of my relationships are pleasing to God.”

[Is a broken relationship with her husband pleasing to God?]

In all your relationships, don’t demand from people what only God can give. Only God can give you a deep awareness of how infinitely valuable and precious you are to Him, and what a glorious destiny He has for you. Only God can see and meet the unfulfilled needs in your life that even you don’t recognize. Only God can fix your heart. Only God can mend your mind. Recognize that no other human being can ever complete you, and you’ll save yourself a world of hurt.

[Is divorce God’s glorious destiny for Paula and Randy?  Paula, let God save you from a world of even more hurt, and let Him fix your heart on this. This is not wise. Let Him mend your mind, because you are not thinking biblically. Obey the Scriptures and reconcile with Randy. That is the unfulfilled need you need most right now.]


Another Scandal In The Church For The World To Find Hypocrisy In

August 27, 2007

Boy, the news is just popping today with news of Jesus’ deep and profound impact on the lives of very public figures. Here’s three stories for you.

1.) For starters (no pun intended), Michael Vick has now “found Jesus.” This after pleading guilty to cruelty and conspiracy charges for dogfighting and dog killing, and after loosing millions of dollars of money for being suspended by the NFL. A “jailhouse” conversion (sans the jail time – so far)? One can only hope he is sincere. At least he’s asked for forgiveness, which is more than you can say for the next story.

2.) Health and wealth televangelists Randy and Paula White have found a way to get divorced and still keep on preaching to massive crowds that flock to their church services and other meetings. Paula (whose popularity far outstrips her husband’s) is leaving her husband and kids back in Tampa and setting up shop just outside of San Antonio, TX, where she is partnering with another pastor-and-son duo who, interestingly enough, have just both gotten divorces in February. Wow, there a whole lotta divorcin’ goin’ on out there in the charismatic church’s leadership.

Of course, not a hint of concern is expressed by them that they have disqualified themselves from pastoral ministry (all gender role questions about the office of pastor aside). They admit that there has been no infidelity. Well then, they do not have biblical grounds for divorce, and are therefore sinning by divorcing, and doing so very publicly and unrepentantly.

This is such a terrible witness for the life-transforming, marriage-solidifying power of God in the Gospel. As public Christian leaders, they are telling the world that obedience to Scripture is optional, and that the grace of God available to us to obey the commands to love each other and be faithfully united to one another in a covenant marriage for life, despite difficulties, is really not sufficient for things like that, it’s only sufficient for health and wealth. What a sad irony.

Paula said: “We don’t look like ministry material. We don’t act like ministry material. But we are fruitful because we have a heart towards God that is pure and hands that are clean.”

Is that supposed to be a convincing justification for her sin? No, this divorce renders them to no longer qualified as “ministry material.” Paul is very very clear in 1 Timothy 3 that those in pastoral leadership must have a blameless life – this action by the Whites disqualifies them. As far as being “fruitful” goes, they need to “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.” Until that happens, the only fruit that they are going to produce is the fruit of Christ and His church being ridiculed and less able to impact the world. The world sees this for the hypocrisy that it is.

3.) Last but not least, disgraced pastor Ted Haggard is asking for cash from supporters to underwrite his bills while he goes back to college. Details here. He doesn’t seem to see how this is presumptuous or hypocritical.

What strikes me most is that it’s all just so shameless. They don’t seem to have a pang of conscience about these things. And, oh, the damage that TV preachers have brought on the advancement of the cause of Christ and the believability of the Christian message by the world. Swaggart, Bakker, Gorman, Grant, Popoff, Tilton, Lea, White…will it ever stop?

It all makes the Gospel less credible to unbelievers. No one is looking at this and glorifying the Father in heaven.


Now Ted Haggard Wants Us to Give Him Money

August 25, 2007

Fox News reports that disgraced pastor Ted Haggard, who was forced to leave his church over sexual immorality (among other things), is now asking people to support him financially on a monthly basis so he and his wife can go back to college.

My advice for him is to get a job, and put himself through school like everybody else has to. Or, just get a job, don’t go to school, and try to rebuild his personal life. Sadly, he put himself and his family in this position when he made the choices he did to sin. No, his wife and kids did not deserve this, and that’s what makes this situation even more heartbreaking.

His statement reads: “It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years,”

I really don’t want to sound heartless here, but it sounds like to me that he’s just wanting people to help him adjust financially after throwing away a fairly lucrative salary (by ministry standards). So what exactly is “adequate earning power” in his mind? At what level does he think he is supposed to live?

I’m sure this is a hard transition for him since he made some $115,000 just for the 10 months he pastored in 2006, not including an $85,000 bonus that same year. When he resigned he got a severance package of $138,000, and still collects royalties on his books, which I can only imagine are not selling well these days. He is also trying to sell his $715,000 home, which is a good move. I hope for his sake that it sells and he can be frugal with his funds and live on it for a while. Just a thought. : )

In my humble opinion, it sounds like that if he tried, he could live a while on what he’s got, and would still probably not have to resort to rice and beans like a lot of people have had to do. I know plenty of people who have to survive on way less than what Haggard has been used to. It ain’t fun, but its do-able.

So, is it just me or does this just seem like he just doesn’t want to bear the difficult consequences of his own choices? Nobody wants to have to go from having everything to nothing, but unfortunately, he did bring this on himself. I feel for his family, and I hope that he can be restored and find a new and productive life that doesn’t involve leadership in pastoral ministry.

He’s going to school to become a counselor. I just wish he would let himself be counseled for a long time before he tries to become a counselor to others. That would take humility and patience, but that’s what it takes to be restored. I hope this post doesn’t invite a pile-on. Pray for Ted Haggard and his family to be restored. And pray for the honor of Christ to be restored to the church.