Wednesday, November 12, 2008


“Somebody needs a job….” the background music plays, "somebody needs a home…” A dozen or so dancers in black body suits sway in background.
A preacher who calls himself “bishop” dabs the sweat from his brow. He gives an excited bounce, voice trembling as he promises the supernatural. “Don’t listen to the skeptics and scoffers,” he screams “The Spirit of God is telling me the time to move is NOW!”

The Christian network is holding a give-a-thon, and the scoreboard across the top of the TV screen lets you know how many telephone lines are available: 0, busy: 209. So evidently this screaming is effective.

The bishop runs across the stage, breathless and hoarse announcing that this is a “twenty-four hour movement of heaven… your angels are going to be working overtime” for you if you go pick up the phone. He even guarantees that if you give more than you can afford, God will send someone to give you what you need. Suddenly a charismatic tongue breaks forth as the music gets louder.

“Watch me now” he chants as the lady with the pink cotton-candy hair, standing behind him, lifts her hands into the air and moves her mouth as if in prayer. The bishop announces that God just told him, as he was standing there, that 499 of those watching will send $1000 to this ministry. He bends forward and begins snapping his fingers over and over to the camera and your eyes catch the glint of his gold rings and cufflinks.

“Some say, ‘bishop, I don’t have the $1000’ or ‘this doesn’t seem like the right time’ ” The preacher smiles knowingly and confidently replies that he is prophesying on God’s authority, “as sure as I am standing here… Go to the phone…. Hear the word of the Lord; hear the word of the Lord…. go to the phone…. This anointing that is being released is for you…”

A man comes and takes the mike away from the speaker and announces to the television audience that if you go call to pledge and hear a busy signal it is “a sign from God.” Keep trying and “the blessing are coming.”

“The moment you pick up that phone, God is going to get involved.”

“As soon as the gold in the casket rings, the rescued soul to heaven springs.”

Wait, those last words came from my head, not the TV….where did those words come from? Well, about five hundred years ago a very infamous Catholic priest supposedly said them--Johann Tetzel. Martin Luther used Tetzel's words as inspiration for the 95 Thesis and the abuses of indulgences to foment the Reformation.

Wow. I thought. I am witnessing modern-day Protestant indulgences. But the difference is that Johann Tetzel supposedly bragged that the money you gave to the church released the souls in purgatory. Actually that is bit more altruistic. These preachers are saying you give to their ministry and God will give you, personally, a big bonus of some kind. The inference is that it will be money, but I also heard him promise a guy named Nelson and a woman with a crippled child, healing.

With these modern-day Protestant Indulgence abuses, I am wondering where our modern-day Martin Luthers are to post a few good Thesis---maybe in Christianity Today or at least go on Good Morning America.