There’s a spiritual crisis in America. It stems from the fact that people see some Christian ministers for who they are – hypocrites and purveyors of self-interest. They’re in the business of making money and will avow any zealot who helps line their pockets. They use the Gospel of wealth messages in the Bible to justify their actions.
Jesus said, “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” He was calling out these very people who use the message for their own gain and own self-interests while denying the interests of others and burying their heads in the sand when it comes to helping the poor.
This is nothing new. Every generation has had its wolves. The Catholic Church has seen its fair share with those wolves seeking their own sexual needs and devouring the innocence of children with the sexual abuse scandals. The Church is working to root them out and has addressed its policy in turning clerics and these issues over to the police.
Moliere created the legendary character “Tartuffe” in 1664. He too was sexually promiscuous minister who benefited financially from his mischievous schemes and resembles the evangelical zealots of today.
The duplicitous nature of such a character can be problematic. People are looking for moral guidance when they see that immorality is running rampant. They look to the churches to guide them and churches are looking the other way in recognizing corruption at the highest levels of society in government and commerce.
Recently, Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. has been in the news for sexual promiscuity. Falwell’s wife Becki was having sexual relations with the pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, while Falwell watched. They had business ties to this individual and there are recordings to corroborate these facts.
There are pictures of Falwell with his pants unzipped and a woman who is not his wife. Jerry Falwell, Jr’s. deeds are nothing new in the evangelical community. Rev. Jim Bakker, Rev. Jimmy Swaggart and a list of others who committed petty crimes and felonies.
Falwell has carried on his father’s business by residing as President of Liberty University, a religious university which he helped to bail out of debt by mirroring the practices of for profit universities even though it is a tax exempt university due to its religious standing.
Liberty is an evangelical university that prides itself on a “strict Christian code of conduct.” The university “does not allow women to wear skirts, its students to drink alcohol, watch R-rated movies or attend dances.” The University has recently condemned his actions.
The Falwell scandals have all the makings of a Moliere play. It has financial, institutional and political corruption in the highest order. It seems as though the wealthiest figures at the top have a “do as I say not as I do attitude.” Where have we heard that before?
While on the witness stand, Michael Cohen, the president’s lawyer, detailed this information about the evangelical leader. Cohen also said on the witness stand, as was reported by Vox, that he solicited John Gauger, the chief information officer at Liberty, to rig polls at Liberty in favor of Trump.
Paybacks for political endorsements would come and millions of dollars of evangelical votes would come from the political scratch on the back.
There is no direct ties to the campaign’s involvement other than Cohen’s word but as it was reported in Vox, it didn’t need to be. Cohen’s acknowledgement on the stand that the scandal existed was enough to prove that hypocrisy was in full swing and everyone knew it. Meanwhile, evangelicals look the other way.
I’m not here to condemn anyone. I’ve demonstrated that I could be pretty good when it comes to sinning and we are all works in progress. But to avow yourself to an agenda that looks the other way while you condemn others is “the albatross around the neck.”
It’s one thing to call out sinners, it’s another thing to call out sinners and condemn them to hell when you in fact are committing those sins yourself. Another sin that Jesus noted was acknowledging the beam in your eye:
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or who can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your won eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s.”
Certain fundamentalist ministers look the other way at morality because they are profiting from it. They espouse the gospel of wealth without acknowledging that the poor are really struggling these days.
Schools who provide lunches for their students are seeing an uptick in requests for meals for their entire families. Inner city schools are working with local food banks to support them in their need to help feed those families. Over a fourth of students at a local high school in Cleveland are reliant on meal assistance from meals that the local schools are providing.
I’ve personally seen the miracle work that institutions like the Cosgrove Center do in helping the poor. The Church’s non-profit status has served our community in ways most people do not see. But people are exhausted by seeing hypocrisy of such institutions like Liberty University who profit and exploit their religious status in the name of profit and in the name of Jesus.