And since you presumably have even more to be thankful for today than you did yesterday (the American Family Association ended its ban on Wal-Mart, freeing us to not shop there; the distant relatives probably went home, and might not have to talk to them for another year; etc.), so today might be a good day to think about how you can share some of your blessings with the less fortunate.
Scott posted about giving toys to homeless kids (which is possibly the easiest way to make your own day, as well as to bring a smile to a kid, EVER!).
My church is having a drive to donate stuff to the local thrift store (the store employs people who really need jobs, it offers bargains on a wide array of stuff to the general public, and it donates household goods to people who need it, AND it allows the community to get rid of clutter without guilt), which is an easy way to feel like I’m doing something good. You might want to go through your own closets and donate something (even something good) to your own local charity this weekend, since it’s a way to help others without spending any money.
But, of course, we don’t want you to forget Anntichrist S. Coulter’s friend Lee, who has probably had as hard a life as anyone living in 21st century American can. So, if you’re feeling a warm, post-holiday glow today and want to extend the feeling by doing something nice to somebody who deserves it, think about using the PayPal button other there and sending a few dollars to help Lee get the brain surgery she needs.
Now, on to the snark. As I was going through the ULTIMATE WINGNUT nominations (which I hope to announce tomorrow), I thought of a new category for the contest: “The Next Ted Haggard.” I see this as a chance to recognize those men of God who most deserve a spectacular fall from grace, even though winning this award won’t actually guarantee that their hidden vices will become public knowledge, alas. My nominee for this honor is Pastor Rod Parsley (who apparently isn’t the same person as Ross Parsley, who took over for Pastor Ted). Here are just a few reasons why, courtesy of an American Prospect Online piece from last year:
Parsley, a Bible-college dropout who claims to have begun his evangelical career in his parents’ backyard by preaching to a tiny congregation nearly 20 years ago, now boasts a 12,000-member church with affiliated schools offering education from preschool through college; a daily television program, Breakthrough, seen on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and other fundamentalist-Christian television outlets; a 2,000-member fellowship of affiliated churches; and a political organization, the Orwellian-sounding Center for Moral Clarity. But Parsley, who is hailed by the theocratic Christian right as a model of virtue and a representative of “values voters,” has been questioned by congregants and even his own family about his church governance and secretive fund-raising practices.“Probably President Bush would not be in office today had it not been for him,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, a black pastor from the Washington, D.C., suburbs and a fellow rising star in the religious right. ‘Nuff said.
Now, on to reason #2: Because of the people he hangs out with.
Owing to the breadth of his appeal (black, white, young, old) Parsley has been embraced by the GOP leadership and the right-wing punditocracy as a representative of “moral values” — from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (who had Parsley and Jackson at his side when he hosted a news conference in support of the judicial nomination of Janice Rogers Brown), to Texas Governor Rick Perry (who had Parsley, along with Perkins and American Family Association President Don Wildmon, on hand when he hosted his controversial Sunday bill-signing ceremony at a Christian school, where Parsley called gay sex “a veritable breeding ground of disease”), to Ann Coulter (who helped him launch his book tour), to National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard (who has called Parsley “a bold, dynamic man of faith who’s committed to doing the right thing no matter what”), to Bush himself (who included Parsley on a conference call to religious leaders shortly after the announcement of John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court).
Anybody who’s been endorsed by Frist, Ann Coulter, Don Wildmon, Bush, AND Pastor Ted deserves a fall, don’t you think?
But here’s probably the most important reason: because he preys on the poor.
Exactly how Parsely purports to “help” the poor, both black and white, is evident in his practice of Word of Faith theology, also known as the “prosperity gospel.” Word of Faith is a nondenominational religious movement with no official church hierarchy or ordination procedures, which emphasizes the absolute prophetic authority of pastors, the imperative to make tithes and offerings to the church, and the power of an individual’s spoken word to lay claim to their spiritual and material desires. Purveyors of Word of Faith, like Parsley, teach their flock to “sow a seed” by donating money to the church, promising a “hundredfold” return.
Word of Faith has been popularized, in large part, by the immense growth of TBN — a nonprofit entity with a 24-7 lineup of regular evangelists and faith healers, including Parsley, assets of more than $600 million, and annual revenues approaching $200 million, making it the closest competitor to Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.
The most prominent critics of Word of Faith are Christians who consider it a heretical distortion of the Bible. According to these critics, Word of Faith preachers prey on people of modest means, promising prosperity in return for putting money in the pocket of a self-anointed prophet.
Yeah, that’s pretty much the gist of why I think Pastor Rod deserves to be the next Pastor Ted: because he asks his followers to donate money they can ill afford, and he offers no accountability for what he does with the money. (Although it is known that he has a million dollar house, a personal jet, and several relatives on the payroll.)
In fund-raising appeals, for example, Parsley has urged people to burn their bills and donate to him to free themselves from debt. Through his Web site and television program, Parsley sells “covenant swords” and “prayer cloths” — kitsch objects that he claims will bring the purchaser miraculous freedom from financial problems as well as any physical or emotional ailments. He has written that “one of the first reasons for poverty is a lack of knowledge of God and His Word,” and that “the Bible says that to withhold the tithe is to rob God.” He pressures his congregants to tithe 10 percent of their gross income, in addition to offerings, which are aggressively sought two or three times during each service.Besides the kitsch and the advice to give him the money that should be going to pay the electric bill, his claims that he can heal the sick, inclduing AIDS sufferers, if they will just show enough faith by donating money to him, are also pretty obnoxious. Anyway, if you want to be disgusted, read the rest of the article.
But here’s a bit more, from Christianity Today’s Meet the Patriot Pastors:
Parsley spends 15 minutes explaining how the [Center for Moral Clarity] has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court regarding an upcoming abortion case. He runs through several emotional tales of children who survived abortions as their pictures flash on the screens above. But amicus briefs don’t write themselves. Soon the donation envelopes go around; $40 gets you a World Harvest Reformation Bible and a copy of the brief.And that’s why Rod Parsley (AKA “Male Pubic Hair”) is my nominee for the “Next Ted Haggard” award. Feel free to submit your own nominees, if you think there is anybody more deserving than ol’ Rod.
This plea for money is a staple of Parsley’s services, with people urged to stand up, raise their hands, or hold their cash in the air. Parsley routinely exhorts church members and viewers of his television show to donate (or “sow a seed”) with the expectation that God will bless them 30, 60, or 100 times. Parsley has written that “the power to create wealth is one of God’s gifts under the covenant” and that James 5:3, 7 promises “that in the last days there is going to be a great transfer of wealth [to Christians].”He is living proof of the “success” of this prosperity gospel. News reports and property records have detailed his 7,000-square-foot home, his San Diego vacation property, and his two $60,000 vehicles. In high demand as a speaker, Parsley travels everywhere by private jet, even to Botkins, a small town two hours by car from his base near Columbus.