The Common Good

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Transportation Edition

I’ve said many times before that I believe that some people who were Christians and left the faith or those who reject Christianity altogether do so not because of any objection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They object to the actions of Christians themselves

Tuileries Garden in Paris, SidBradypus / Shutterstock.com
Tuileries Garden in Paris, SidBradypus / Shutterstock.com

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The Christian Post recently reported that megachurch minister, Bishop, I.V. Hilliard, of the New Light Christian Center in Houston, made an interesting proposition to his congregation. According to the article, the church’s “Aviation Department” (yes, you read that correctly — aviation department) declared that the pastor’s helicopter (yes, you read that correctly — pastor’s helicopter) needed new blades. Click here to read the appeal letter.

This event is the same song but different verse of the prosperity gospel; this gospel promotes a tit-for-tat relationship with God. Since God wants you to be blessed and rich and prosperous, then giving to God will active that divine power within your life. At issue here is not only Bishop Hilliard’s request of money from the congregation for new helicopter blades, but also that Bishop Hilliard says that you will have divine favor in 52 days or 52 weeks if you donate $52. My initial reaction was “why not $40; that at least is a Biblical number?” Also, that’s quite a lengthy time frame — either a little over seven weeks or an entire calendar year. The problem with this mentality is that you will then start to look for it even if it is nowhere to be found.

It’s like having a pain in your leg and thinking that you have a serious medical condition because one article on WebMD or some forum post confirmed your suspicion. When we do that, we often disregard the mountain of other articles that state that your leg pain is merely a muscle pull. We want it to be one way so badly we are willing to disregard everything else. After those seven weeks are up and there still is no brand new Cadillac with a sun roof, XM Radio, and a V-8, then we are going to use the remaining time of our year to make the puzzle piece fit. This is not what God called the church to do; God does not call the church to try to solve the puzzle of whether something is a blessing because the church bought new helicopter blades.

What about that single parent who is faithful to their God and needs a car for work or school but can’t fork over $52? Are they just up a creek? Do they not reap the rewards of God’s blessing under this theological framework?

This type of theology is predicated on the notion that God only does for you when you do for God. Last time I checked, that is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Giving to God does not mean that one will receive back from God. Giving in all of its many forms is about one’s response to God. God has gifted humanity with many different things, and our understanding of God and our relationship with God dictates our type of giving. We use the rule of giving 10 percent of income or goods, but study after study show that this is not the case for much of the Christian populace.

Is this the reason so many people have joined the Christian faith over the centuries? Is a relationship with God and with Christ merely about a new car and a financial stability? If this is the case then I believe we have missed the point of the Gospel. The Gospel compels followers of Christ to be selfless and to give up our possessions that can rust and break down. The Gospel is centered on the notion of the other, the lonely, the downtrodden, the outcast; they are the ones we are called to serve. Our faith should not be dictated on giving just because we want something. Our giving should be an expression of our faith in thanksgiving for what God has done for us. God does not care how big or how small it might be.

Bishop Hilliard did release a statement in response to the uproar. He mentions a few scriptures here and there but the one that he discarded was the one where Christ said one cannot serve God and money.

I’m not a minister of a megachurch but I hope that if I were, I would not have a helicopter but rather use the money to feed the homeless or dig wells in Africa or something else more useful. This type of theology is appealing to some but some see the plight of the world — the hungry, the struggling, the hurting — and believe a helicopter for a minister is a waste of money. If the minister has nicer suits and transportation that most of his/her congregation, then is there disconnect between the printed words of Christ and the real world.

If Christianity is about giving to get … then it is doomed to fail.

Rev. Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He is married to his high school sweetheart and has two children ages 3 and 1. He currently serves in Houston, Texas. He also blogs for Houston BeliefGood Men Project, and Radical Parents. For more information about Evan visit www.evandolive.com or find him onTwitter or Facebook.

Image: Tuileries Garden in Paris, SidBradypus / Shutterstock.com

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