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american individualism, american capital

American Individualism: Sunday Message

America prides itself on being a “Christian” nation, a nation “under God” with “liberty and justice for all.”

But is it really liberty and justice for all, or is it just liberty and justice for the individual, the “successful” individual, the individual with the right skin color, the right family and neighborhood, the right access to wealth and opportunities?

We worship at the altar of American individualism.

Our nation “under God” is the nation of the individual. We cherish a national belief that if “one” only works hard enough to pull oneself by his (or, more rarely in the metaphor, her) bootstraps, one will find success.

In this nation “under God,” we also cherish the idea that the grace of God covers all. How can we be under a God who created  every human being  with love and grace, while worshiping the accomplishments of the individual?

See the irony?

Is American Individualism a Godly Trait?

American individualism and the idea of American exceptionalism go hand-in-hand. American individualism says:

I worked my way up the ladder at this job.

I earned this car and this McMansion.

I built this empire.

I am an exceptional individual in an exceptional nation.

American individualism ignores the plight of the collective. American individualism has no time, or desire, to love one’s neighbor. In America, so many people are treated as mere dust under the feet of the “successful.” Those people trapped in poverty by family, skin color, or a bad economy, do not have any bootstraps to pull themselves up. They are left in the dirt in a primal struggle to survive. People locked out of the job market with disabilities, or a history, or family responsibilities are disdained as “nonproductive individuals.”

Imagine. We as a nation have the disrespect to call children of God nonproductive individuals.

Whatever happened to community? Who is their brother’s keeper in this system of individual achievement? Is this God’s plan for a “godly nation”? Did He change His mind since the Old Testament when he continually told Israel to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow? Is God’s plan different for America?

No, American individualism is not God’s plan. Over and over in the Bible, God told us to love and take care of each other. The mighty prophets of old spoke God’s voice to Israel to take care of the poor and to practice hospitality. Jesus said that to love one’s neighbor as oneself fulfilled all the Law and all the prophets. We now have the Holy Spirit to whisper God’s word in our heart. She teaches us the wisdom of Love.

Neither God, nor Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit teaches us to be selfish, greedy individuals. We are all children made in God’s image. No one is greater. I cannot find exceptionalism, American individualism, or even a pair of bootstraps anywhere in Scripture.

American individualism is a national, and personal, sin.

American Individualism and God’s Grace

The American Protestant church, for the most part, follows the Calvinist doctrine of grace alone. John Calvin proclaimed that God chooses people individually for salvation, and that Jesus’ blood only covers these individuals.

Calvin’s doctrine teaches that we are saved by God’s grace alone, not by any of our works of faith or charity. Taken to the extreme, people turn this doctrine into a magic salvation prayer. They believe that if they say one prayer to Jesus asking for God’s grace and forgiveness of their sins, they are saved for eternity. They have no responsibility to change their life or do works of charity.

The Calvinist salvation prayer is their ticket to heaven, get out of hell free card. They treat the blood of Jesus like a game of monopoly.

I have even heard American Calvinists actually speak against works of helping one’s neighbor, saying that works are vain boastfulness (Calvin himself believed in works of charity as evidence of faith). These lazy, greedy Christians disobey all of Scripture that commands us to care for the poor and least of these. They pursue the reckless rat race of American individualism, covered themselves with the “grace of God.” What blasphemy.

Now, I do believe that salvation starts by the grace of God. He calls us out of a human life of sin, selfishness, and greed. We would not pursue selfless kingdom living in our own dark human hearts. His work of grace transforms us into people with the capacity to love and live selflessly.

What I don’t understand is why those Christians who believe in grace alone do not extend that same grace to their poor neighbor, their struggling employee, their sick brother.

No Place for American Individualism in God’s Kingdom

God’s kingdom is a wedding feast to which all are invited, but few come. Jesus’ kingdom is a narrow road of picking up your cross, giving your riches to the poor, and being a good Samaritan on the road of the hurting and the oppressed.

God’s kingdom is not a place of the exceptional individual, but a place of a servant who is a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Reject prideful, greedy American individualism today. Embrace the humble collectivism of loving your brothers and sisters in need. Follow Jesus in the way of the cross and the holy kingdom. Then we will truly have a nation under God, with justice and liberty for all.

prosperity preachers, flying money

Prosperity Preachers and Whitewashed Tombs

Prosperity Preachers Give Messages of False Promise

“Come to the altar today. Bring your tithes and offerings and lay them at Jesus’ feet. He is here to heal you. He only asks for your 10%.”

“Are you hurting today? Are you lonely, don’t know where to go? Do you have troubles?

Well, that is what happens when you withhold the blessing from the Lord. Get into a regular tithing routine, and the Lord will bless you and take care of all your troubles. Get right with God today.

Remember, he will meet you 90% of the way. He is only asking for your 10%. Only a little seed money. Even Jesus said to have faith like a mustard seed. Come on, get right with God and plant those seeds today.”

Blasphemies, blasphemies all around.

Prosperity Preachers Steal The Tithe

Sermons about tithing echo across the land every Sunday. Prosperity preachers cry out for money, promising “God’s favor” and heaven in return. They constantly say God will bless you with prosperity if you give money to them and their ministries.

Perhaps these churches should be labeled as commercial enterprises, as they actively buy and sell on the market of indulgences. These pastors grow fat and lazy feeding on the indulgence money of the sheep they are supposed to shepherd.

Rather than care for the people and care for their flock, these prosperity preachers ignore the starving people, the homeless, the victims of injustice in their churches and communities. Worse yet, these pastors blame the poor and the helpless, saying that it is their own fault that God has not prospered them. Many churches will not even give a basket of food or a drink of water to someone who is not a tithing member of their specific denomination.

Yet the very tithe they proclaim was instituted by God to take care of the poor! Here is the passage they often quote:

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

But look at the context of this verse. Here is what Malachi said just a few verses earlier:

Malachi 3:5 (NIV)

“So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.

Look again at verse 5, this time from the Message Bible:

“Yes, I’m on my way to visit you with Judgment. I’ll present compelling evidence against sorcerers, adulterers, liars, those who exploit workers, those who take advantage of widows and orphans, those who are inhospitable to the homeless – anyone and everyone who doesn’t honor me.” A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

How far they have strayed from God’s word! The prosperity preachers, and the American Evangelical church in general, take advantage of widows and orphans by blaming them for their own plight.

“Look at that single mom,” they scoff. “Shouldn’t be breeding like that and stealing good tax payer money.”

They are inhospitable to the homeless, not allowing them on the church grounds because the homeless “smell” or “aren’t dressed properly.”

The tithe of the storehouses is God’s provision for these needy ones, but the prosperity preachers are stealing this tithe to pay themselves 6-figure salaries!

Jesus Spoke Against Prosperity Preachers

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see heaven.” (Luke 6:20) Yet the prosperity preachers say, “Cursed are the poor, for they have not tithed. They will never be blessed or see heaven.”

What blasphemy against the Father! Jesus called the religious leaders of his day white-washed tombs.

Matthew 23:27 (NIV)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

The religious leaders, the prosperity preachers, of this generation are truly white-washed tombstones, pretty on the outside with their fancy designer suits and gated mansions, but filthy on the inside, full of dead bones and a rotting heart.

Jesus is coming soon, very soon, to judge. The scales will be weighed, and many of the religious leaders will be found wanting. Their good deeds are nothing more than filthy rags, blown away as chaff by the breath of the Almighty.

The church buildings will fall to pieces, and the prosperity preachers will be struck with famine and disease, revealing the spiritual wasteland which they claim as their empire. Beware of the prosperity gospel, and beware of these pastors that feed on greed and destroy human souls. Take heed and run from them.

Prepare your own heart for the wedding feast and get the oil while you still can. Renounce this world and prosperity. Do not make your home on this earth, or you will perish in the coming storm. If you are financially blessed to give, bring your seed money for the poor and oppressed, not to pad the preacher’s pocket.

Turn to Jesus, take up your cross, practice holy justice, and be saved.

prosperity preachers, seed money
Image credit: [Pixabay] Markgraf-Ave Licensed under CC0 Public Domain