The Fellowship of Rolls-Royce Jesus Scoffers
I was walking back to the Belmont El station, having procured a bag of timothy hay for our family rabbit, a mini-rex named Peanut Butter, and I got hungry for a sandwich. I settled on The New Modern Diner on Belmont and Halsted. I walked in, bought a Patti Melt with onion rings and coke and sat at the bar where I could watch them prepare my food. A television hung on the wall to my left and CNN was on. I loved this environment. Working class people, or like myself, working class wannabes. Aaah the smell of margarine toasting my rye bread. Yes, I was hiding out on the way home. The wife knew not where I was (until she called). I was having the highest cholesterol lunch I’d had all week. And it was wonderful.
The day before I’d read in a blog that Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa had launched an investigation into the alleged financial mismanagement of six Christian ministries. CNN’s report ran the tagline “False Profits?” on the bottom of the screen. After giving us the story, the interviewers introduced one of the ministers being investigated, Creflo Dollar, there in the newsroom. The opportunity to watch prosperity preachers get roasted before the eyes of the world delighted me. I must have been grinning from ear to ear. I felt a bit naughty about it really. I wondered whether I was being a bad witness. The middle aged man to my immediate left was finishing up his meal, and threw his wadded napkin to emphasize his disgust. I can’t repeat his exact words here, too much profanity, but he was red under the collar. “Stupid televangelists. Stealin’ people’s money. Fraud it is!” After watching awhile he yelled out, “It’s Jim Bakker all over again!”
Someone behind the counter had never heard of Jim Bakker so he schooled him.
“You don’t remember Jim and Tammy Faye? They defrauded little old ladies and Jim spent years in prison. They made an example of him.”
Creflo Dollar assured his interrogators that he would never misuse the Lord’s money for his personal gain. They flashed on the screen a list of Dollar’s ministry expenses. A personal jet. A Rolls-Royce. Creflo said that the Rolls was a gift from his congregation. They asked him why a Rolls and not a BMW. Dollar replied that they wanted to give in keeping with their faith. They have big faith. On the screen flashed the scripture, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.” They read it aloud and asked Creflo, “What do you make of this verse?”
Oh, this was getting good. The man to my immediate left took off by this time. Creflo began to tell the story of the rich young ruler, and how all Jesus was asking him to do was to “honor God with his stuff or give it up.” The words “Oh Shut UP!” just flew out of my mouth at the TV. I was a little embarrassed and unsure that this was proper. The woman interviewing Creflo asked in response, “If Jesus were around today would he drive a Rolls Royce?” Creflo smiled, beamed, and piped up, “Why yes, I’m sure he would!”
At this remark the diner burst into jeering. Somehow everyone got the absurdity of the thought. One guy in an apron with his eyebrows partially singed off repeated Dollar’s words for effect, “The man said Jesus would be driving a Rolls Royce.” We all laughed again. I loved this crowd. I sort of wish Creflo could have said, “Thank you I’ll be here all night.” But he was dead serious. “How do you justify such wealth as a minister when people are dying of malnutrition, AIDS, and such poverty all over the world?” the interviewer pleaded.
“I believe in empowerment. I have an international ministry and we’re all about empowering people. In my neighborhood we work to prosper our young men out of very bad situations.”
That was it, I’d finally had enough. I could tell the others had too. We didn’t have to turn down the set to tune this joker out. We, the Fellowship of Rolls Royce Jesus Scoffers, whether claiming to know Jesus personally or no, had the good discernment to spot a huckster when we saw him. A Rolls Royce driving Jesus was certainly no biblical Jesus we’d ever heard of.
There is something wrong in our society when anyone on the street can pick out a huckster using Jesus, (claiming that he rode a new donkey—the Rolls Royce of our day) while hundreds of thousands of Christians across America believe Dollar and his ilk are men and women of God and faithful ministers of the gospel! The sad fact is that, were I watching this minister in some churches, I would no doubt have to keep my mouth shut or leave. Someone there would say, “Oh, let’s not judge now. Let’s not “sit in the seat of mockers.”
Only in America do we have a society where CNN newsroom anchors know the Bible better than one of our assumed “men of God.” Only in America can CNN serve as a prophetic voice to shame a false prophet. What does it say about church authority in America when it takes a Senate investigation and a syndicated newsroom quoting the Scriptures to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
Why can’t we model a way of living in the Spirit of Christ that doesn’t have money or a government enabled tax status as its principle power? When the Spirit fell on the early Church in Acts money and property lost its power, and liars like Ananias and Sapphira fell under divine judgment. What would happen if Christians began investing themselves in losing enterprises in behalf of the poor and homeless? They would surely be chased out of liberal upwardly mobile neighborhoods. They might be a sign of scorn for invested churches. They might be called sloppy, ugly, dirty, undiscerning, and lousy managers.
Why can’t we Christians be the kind of Church willing to suffer humiliation and defeat for Jesus Christ? Maybe because we like the power and money just a little too much.
The actual transcript of the CNN interview with Creflo Dollar on Nov. 7th is here.