The Matter of Friendly Fire
Have you seen those posts on social media about why no one sings in church anymore or 5 things Christians should stop saying, or maybe those memes of Republican Jesus aimed at pointing out the hypocrisy of born again right-wingers? Apparently, it’s now trendy for Christians to slam other Christians. While at times I agree with the message, there are many cases, like the meme below, where the message raises a visceral sense of injustice in my spirit. I wasn’t exactly sure why, until today.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an avid opponent of the “prosperity gospel”. The whole concept of a multi-millionaire televangelist is, to me, sketchy at best, and at worst, evil. I often eye the Christian church with suspicion, especially here in the US. In a sense, the very concept of a mega-church seems to be at odds with the heart of Jesus’ teachings. That said, I am also not a fan of Christians attacking their own, nor, in general, the perpetuation of damaging or untrue allegations about anyone.
In regard to the meme on the right, I can’t speak to what’s in the heart of Joyce Meyer. I don’t know her and am not affiliated with her in anyway. Maybe she really is a hypocrite and too caught up in the material trappings of this world. God only knows. But He also knows that I’m guilty of those same things, just on a smaller scale.
After seeing this meme today, I did some research and discovered that Joyce Meyer, a successful Christian author, and Bible teacher, founded the St Louis Dream Center about 15 years ago. In 2014, according to their website, SLDC provided over 966,000 meals to the homeless and under-resourced of St. Louis. The staff and volunteers also made 85,000 visits to area homes, schools, nursing and senior communities, including children outreaches.
That’s a radically different posture toward the homeless than is portrayed in this meme. In fact, by taking the position it does, and even worse by putting words into Jesus’ mouth, this cartoon is, to me, as hypocritical and unhelpful to the true gospel as Creflo Dollar’s campaign for a shiny new $70 million jet.
In further research, I found that Joyce’s ministry also partners with 50 other ministries across the globe to help bring humanitarian aid to people in the form of food, education, and rescuing women from human trafficking. If I were to view this information with a skeptical eye, I might assume that at least half the ministries they partner with are fake organizations used to line Joyce’s pockets with money from her donors. If that were true, it would mean only 20 or so of these ministries are actually helping people.
But wait a second. That means she’s partnering with 20 or more different legitimate ministries who are really helping people and doing so in the name of Jesus. That seems to me a Christ-like way for someone to spend their riches. Even if those riches are allegedly ill-gotten and filtered through greedy fingers, they are still bringing relief to humans and glory to God, right?
What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” —Philippians 1:18
It occurs to me that no one ever publicly chastises hypocritical Christians who are poor or Christians who don’t lift a finger to show God’s love to other people. The target is always Christians of wealth and fame who are doing something. This makes me wonder if sometimes the reason people pile on wealthy Christians is not rooted in a desire for justice or the purity of the Gospel, but rather in envy.
Here’s a news flash for you: rich and famous Christians do not have the market cornered on hypocrisy. It abounds at all levels of fame and fortune, in and out of the Christian faith. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Christianity does not purport to bestow moral perfection on its adherents. Rather, it teaches that all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23. And, even more importantly, it teaches that all are loved by God (Rom 5:8). And, by the way, “all” includes gays, police officers, liberals, Donald Trump, radical Islamic terrorists, Justin Bieber, refugees, and, yes, even televangelists. God loves us all.
So rather than posting negative attacks on Christians (or anyone, for that matter), I think we Christians should use our sphere of influence on social media to promote what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let’s post about these things. (Phil 4:8) Let’s use our voices to share what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who read (Eph 4:29).
Interestingly, the words of James below apply equally to the slick televangelist scamming innocent old ladies out of their life savings, and to the self-righteous souls on social media promoting an agenda that paints all “successful” Christians with the same broad brushstrokes of greed and hypocrisy.
“Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” —James 3:13-18