Sunday, March 05, 2006

America’s Christian Star Power

A few years back, the world of the American evangelical elites was rocked when one of their ‘brighter’ lights Bishop Carlton Pearson stunned the Christian community with his embracing of a doctrine of the ‘gospel of inclusion’ which essentially advocates that everyone will go to heaven, regardless of his or her actions on earth. Needless to say Bishop Pearson lost his lofty standing among the evangelical faithful given that this radical concept flies in the face of the written Word of God summed up by Romans 3:23 - This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe... (NIV) The last section of that scripture appears quite conditional: only to all who believe – a clear implication that this imbued righteousness is excluded from those who don’t believe.

Recently, a Dallas Morning News article called attention to the rise back to prominence of Bishop Pearson:

Carlton Pearson has still got it. The dapper clothes. The voluminous vocabulary. The toothy smile. And, perhaps most important, Mr. Pearson still has an unshakable conviction in his controversial "gospel of inclusion"… - The Dallas Morning News
I am bemused by the “it” that Mr. Pearson supposedly still has. Could it be the same “it” that Jesus exalted throughout his earthly ministry? Well let’s continue with the article:

Mr. Pearson maintains that he's on the leading edge of what will eventually become mainstream theology. "Within the next five years, everyone will be preaching inclusion," he said after a recent service in borrowed space at an Episcopal church in Tulsa…A decade ago, Mr. Pearson was atop the evangelical heap…
Now I am certainly not one to cozy up behind the rhetorical subjectivity of the mainstream media (represented here by the Dallas Morning News), as they have a well-earned reputation of hostility to most things Christian. However, I am inclined to suggest here that their choice of words within this article is a fairly representative description of Bishop Pearson’s admitted standing within the evangelical universe prior to his fall. Mr. Pearson's renewed position casts him on the “leading edge”; he is quoted as saying “everyone” will embrace his position. Perhaps he will regain his standing atop the “evangelical heap”. I wonder where Jesus’ words “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:12 NIV) would fit in today’s evangelical universe. I fail to sense any of the humility that Christ exalts within Mr. Pearson’s sentiment. Even if Mr. Pearson is in fact correct in his new found philosophical position, it would have more power if he casts it’s credibility behind the person of Christ rather than the authenticity of Mr. Pearson’s potentially trail blazing position.

It is this ‘star power’ Hollywood mentality that is so unfortunate among some evangelical circles. This celebrity atmosphere is replete with Religious ‘stars’ whose classically posed headshots can be seen adorning the Madison Ave. type commercials on Christian television, heralding their appearances at some upcoming convention or “special appearance” in your area. The latent effect of this marketing environment, is a Christian community who responds not unlike their secular counterparts with such in-Church water cooler talks as “I‘ve got to get my tickets for T.D. Jakes at the convention-center next month…” In the same church, the local pastor bemoans the fact that hardly anyone will turn out for his early morning prayer meetings.

I pray that Christian leaders will begin to recognize the danger in how their marketing creates an exaltation of themselves as the “star attraction” among many churchgoers. I pray that such recognition will bring about a collective refocusing on the reality of Jesus as the only person worth exalting at all times, with all utterances and in all circumstances.


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Rich Tatum said...

I thought your take on the "Star Power" aspect of Carlton Pearson was interesting. I linked to you from my recent blog post:

Carlton D. Pearson: The Charismatic Bishop of Heresy

You might also be interested in Charisma editor J. Lee Grady's identification of five unhealthy trends that lead to heresy, and it dovetails with your ideas nicely:

» Egotism
» Authoritarianism
» Elitism
» Legalism
» Mysticism

(J. Lee Grady, “Learn to Discern,” Charisma, February, 2003)



Anonymous said...

So well stated. Bless you for not attacking Bishop Pearson but rather turning our focus towards JESUS.

A God who sends people to Hell?