1/28/2010                                                                                       View Comments

Sad About Haiti? Give to Our MegaChurch

By Valerie Tarico

Mars Hill ChurchImage by speakingoffaith via Flickr

Last week I wrote an article about solar powered Bibles that are being sent to Haiti as aid. As a former Evangelical, I was trying to explain the psychology that turns a tragedy into a marketing opportunity for religions that need recruits. On a whim, I pulled up the website for Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Ok, it wasn’t a whim, it was a hunch based on past experience. At the time of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, I was researching local mega churches and ran across Mars Hill for the first time. I was appalled to see their home page recommendations for members: pray for the people in the disaster zone, give to Mars Hill church, give to our church building efforts in India. (Why wasn’t it “Pray for Mars Hill Church, give to the people in the disaster zone . . . ?)

There is little more sacred to me than compassion – the part of us that feels someone else’s pain as our own and seeks to alleviate it. My deepest spiritual values were violated by what Mars Hill was doing; I would say that the moral heart of humanity was violated.

The solar Bibles project struck a similar note, which is why it occurred to me to see what Mars Hill is up to now. To my dismay, they were once again channeling the compassionate impulse into what is best described as self-promotion : promotion of the church, it’s pastor, Mark Driscoll, and the viral fundamentalist ideology that both serve.

God never meant for Christians to take care of poor, suffering people but rather poor suffering Christian people. The Mars Hill website directs people to one of Driscoll’s side projects – a website (ChurchesHelpingChurches.org) seeking to direct aid money into church reconstruction. By filtering and selecting Bible verses, Driscoll makes the case that God never meant for Christians to take care of poor, suffering people but rather poor suffering Christian people (and potential converts.) “ I challenge all thoughtful, biblically-minded Christians to find a single instance of the New Testament church filling the plates of the ‘general population’ poor.” Cofounder of the site, James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel penned these words: “Children are crouching in shivering fear as people stand stunned and staring in disbelief at the remains of what they once called their home. The world is racing to help these people in unimaginable crisis, but who will help the church?”

This explicit co-opting of the charitable impulse may be characteristic of successful mega-churches. In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren hops among 15(!) Bible translations to back up his points, one of which is right in line with Driscoll. Warren chooses the New Revised Standard Version to ensure that readers don’t think God is talking about “general population poor” when Jesus says “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these . . . you did it to me.” (In place of the elipses, the NRSV says “who are members of my family”, which Warren has already defined as the tribe of born again believers. p. 126.) Later in the book, Warren comments, “Notice that God says the needs of your church family are to be given preference . . .. ” (p.259). To top it off,for Warren becoming a “World Class Citizen” means this:

If you ask me, I will give you the nations; all the people on earth will be yours.(Psalm 2:8 NCV) Prayer is the most important tool for your mission in the world. People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers. Like an intercontinental missile, you can aim a prayer at a person’s heart whether you are ten feet away or 10,000 miles away. What should you pray for? The Bible tells us to pray for opportunities to witness, for courage to speak up, for those who will believe, for the rapid spread of the message, and for more workers. Prayer makes you a partner with others around the world. You should also pray for missionaries and everyone involved in the global harvest.

(Note: If you didn’t fully appreciate the name of “Harvest Bible Chapel” you have the context now.)

After I wrote about solar Bibles and Churches Helping Churches, one Huffington Post reader (and, I presume, Mars Hill Member) pushed back: “While it is true that Mars Hill Church is encouraging efforts to rebuild churches in Haiti, it shouldn't be overlooked that the congregation donated over $429,000 to general relief efforts (not including the church rebuilding project).” As evidence, he or she provided a link to the church blog, so I went there. Perhaps their ratio of aid to recruiting was higher than I thought. But were the Mars Hill members donating to general relief efforts or the church general fund? The blog seemed to suggest the latter. (And wasn’t Driscoll explicitly teaching against the former?)
Here was Pastor Jamie Munson’s advice to people who want to actually do something in response to Haiti.

• Start giving to the church.
• Quit living on your own and join a community group.
• Pursue church membership and align formally with your church family.
• Confess to your community group about lack of giving or participation in Jesus’ mission.
• Consider financial coaching: get help building a budget so that you can align your finances with right priorities.


In my experience visiting Mars Hill, this is in keeping with the church’s general philosophy. At my last visit, the church newspaper Pop Vox made the case that God (not Mark Driscoll, but God) wants Christians to give first and foremost to their home church—and to do it regularly and to do it till it hurts. Perhaps one of the secrets to mega-growth is making sure to capture community resources and channel them in the service of that growth.

I am not saying that the Mars Hill effort is ill intended, and I have no doubt that at some level it will involve providing food, shelter and medical care to people in dire need. In a place where people are dying of trauma and hunger, Bibles and church buildings are likely to be much better received if they are paired with goods and services that meet people’s basic needs. Also, it must be remembered that congregation members who are opening their checkbooks are genuinely compassionate people, seeking to do good – or they wouldn’t be susceptible to the appeal.

But at what cost?

Because Bible believing Christians perceive themselves as a light shining in darkness, a moral beacon to the world, they often don’t understand that much of the critique written about their religion, like this article, is prompted by moral distress. For Evangelicals the diversion of energy into recruiting activities seems to be in the service of a higher good. From the outside, it seems opportunistic, just like Scientology’s high-profile relief work. It is morally distressing, with a high opportunity cost and, consequently, a high human cost: Genuinely decent, loving people who seek to serve Goodness are having their precious empathy and compassion channeled into activities that range from exploitative to merely inefficient or insensitive.

A young Christian friend of mine caught sight of the Solar Bibles headline. “Really?” she asked (with that inflection that only teenagers can conjure). “It seems so elitist. You have to be really not hungry and not in pain to think—Hmm. What would comfort me is a Bible. I think that’s what I’ll send.

Note: Interesting comments at: The Daily Kos.

64 comments:

webmdave said...

institutionalized churches have their priorities all screwed up, that's for sure. The extent to which corporate america culture, values, philosophy have infected institutional churches is just mind boggling (thank to Rick Warren among many). The leadership's motives are so transparent that even young teenagers can see right through to them, as your young christan friend did. Ultimately, the responsibility for all this chicanery lies in the laps of the individual church goer, who refused to think for themselves, and question their own motives for giving to their church...are they giving for the sake of giving, or are they trying to get a return on their investment?

webmdave said...

I think that the splicing and dicing of doctrine and scripture to further along church leaders desire for power, prestige, and big purses, will just have to get so absurd and heinous, that people have to start saying..enough is enough...."I'm jumping off this merry go round...go stick it to some other poor gullible sap." I dream of the day, followers of some of these mega multi media minstries will leave in such large numbers that it puts a stop to it all. I can dream can't I?

webmdave said...

Yes, provide buybulls instead of food, clothing and shelter. Grrrrrrrrrr!

What really craps me off is that just the RC Church alone(and 80% of Haitians are RC) could provide all the money that is needed to completely feed, clothe and shelter the whole population. Will they? Of course not. The Pope will say some prayers and send a small cheque.

When you think that without the RC Church, with its anti birth control rules, the families in Haiti would have been totally heaps smaller, the death toll wouldn't have been so high and much less relief would be necessary because the population would have been smaller.

webmdave said...

My deepest spiritual values were violated by what Mars Hill was doing; I would say that the moral heart of humanity was violated.

I know the feeling and it seems like churches, not to mention mosques etc, do this a lot. Not to mention their ideas concerning the poor, victims of whatever, and alike are appalling to me. I never read Rick Warren's book, for I have a feeling it would get me ranting. Instead, I read Robert Price's rebuttal The Reason Driven Life which made a whole lot more sense to me.

IMHO, they need to stop wasting money on high tech Bibles and alike, because that money they waste on such things could give even more food and other basic needs to those who need it desperately. I realize I sound like Judas and the oil story, you know the oil Mary Magdalene was using on Jesus's feet, but IMHO, that money would be better served if spent on more food and other basic needs. Even then I agreed with Judas on that one. You can't eat Bibles. You can't clothe yourself in a church. You maybe able to get temporary shelter in a church, but it serves very little purpose other than that. You might also be able to get some heat out of a Bible, if you burn it, but not much more.

webmdave said...

Was it "the viral fundamentalist ideology" or "the venal fundamentalist ideology"? It only took two letters to increase the statement's truth. Sorry folks, I've got to say it again:

You Bastards!!

webmdave said...

Dr. Val -

This attitude is part of the reason I left the ministry.

I remember one Sunday Night (back in the 1980s) when out of the blue our Church Organization's Superintendent & his wife dropped by for the Worship Service.

I was Associate Pastor and worship leader so I was caught by surprise when told (by the Senior Pastor) that Sister M. would be doing the music and Brother M. would be preaching. After the service and a late night pizza, they zipped away in their big, blue Caddy.

I asked the senior pastor what was up?? (basically WTF?). He informed me that his wife had accidentally forgotten to send their tithe check from the preceeding Sunday...GASSP! The Super picked up two checks and gave the pastor's wife a stern reprimand before their speedy departure. They never returned to our church (while I was there), I guess the pastor's wife got the message!

For most churches (especially the big ones) it's all about the Money.

What do you think Mars Hill would do if a large group of Atheists showed up in their parking lot and held picket signs that read, "Do away with all non-profit, Religous Tax Breaks!" or "Millionaire preachers are an abomination unto the Lord!" ???

Thanks again for your recent posts......Great as always! We love you!

XPD (Ex-Pastor Dan)

webmdave said...

Driscoll is a Calvinist. As far as he is concerned Haitians got what they deserved. It is easy for a Calvinist to help themselves and ignore others, because the others must have been predestined to fail.

It is all an elaborate excuse to make money selling their books to their flocks. And the megachurch building business is big business, with Christian contractors getting the jobs.

A big circle jerk disguised as religious piety.

webmdave said...

Not to mention, a good deal of the gold in the Vatican was stolen from Haiti.

webmdave said...

Ever heard of the saying that helping people with their material needs will only send people to hell with good health and a full stomach? That's the christian mentality behind these stupidities.

webmdave said...

Ah! I didn't know that. Disgusting. I suppose the Haitians were told that it would buy them a place in heaven.

A pox on religion.

webmdave said...

Maybe "Bible believing Christian" is a misnomer. Maybe it should be "What my preacher tells me the bible says because I haven't actually read it myself-believing christian."

webmdave said...

Webmaster:
FYI
There is NO link to this article on the notification page nor on the notification email I received.
Thx,
swabby

webmdave said...

Bottom line, organised religions are basically parasitic. They have a gross( I use the word deliberately ) national income approaching 100 Billion dollars annually. The vast majority of it goes to maintain itself. Think of the good that could be done with that money each & every year.

webmdave said...

Thnx

webmdave said...

Yes and for a while I was not getting notifications on new blog postings, but that seems to have corrected itself. I think. Have to look at the main page again.

webmdave said...

Valerie,

You mentioned that your "deepest spiritual values were violated by what Mars Hill was doing". Out of curiousity, why do you use the term "spiritual" rather than "human" when describing your values? Do you believe humans have a spirit?

webmdave said...

First of all, whether or not "institutionalized churches have their priorities all screwed up" depends on your perspective. If you were the head of one of those organizations i'm sure you would feel like your priorities were just fine. For the rest of us they appear to be screwed up, but for them they are accomplishing exactly what they intend.

Woah there sid. There are a lot of spiritual ex-Xtians on this site. The word spiritual is a word with many connotations, and not all of them imply that a person has a spirit. I'm not really a spiritual person, but i definitely feel spiritual after a nice long swim. Even the Chinese communists say they are trying to build a "spiritual civilization" in China, and they are certainly no friends of any organized religion, other than Marxism. (When high leaders die, they are said to have "gone to see Marx.)

webmdave said...

Thank you, XPD. :) I figure if we all end our little ripples out into the world maybe together they will make some big waves.

webmdave said...

Ah, so not only do the Catholics like to screw with little boys, but their thieves as well.

All they need is one more and they can be sent home.

webmdave said...

Thank you for your reply. That is very insightful... and deep.

webmdave said...

I want to add that Sweet Reason AKA Molleen Matsumura did a little talk on this subject on Humanist News Network podcast a while back. She said we need to change the meaning of some of these words that are considered "religious" and reclaim them as our own. One of the words was "spiritual". I did a paper on this very thing and she was glad to see someone has taken her advice on this. I think what she said makes a lot of sense too.

webmdave said...

Exactly!!! While organized dogma does engage in charitable giving, I would like to know what % goes to charitable giving and what % goes to salaries and cost/maintenance of plant and equipment!!!

webmdave said...

I was told that 50% of the Vatican's GROSS income comes from USsuckers.

webmdave said...

5%--- 95%

webmdave said...

Thanks. That is appalling!!! If these figures are published, on what basis do they justify to others such a gross imbalance?

webmdave said...

I'm vomiting!!!

webmdave said...

absolutely it is ALL about the money and who has the fattest checkbook. thats the person who decides what goes on at the church and who gets to attend.

webmdave said...

What do the letters IMHO mean ?

webmdave said...

IMHO is shorthand, that has been around on the net for quite sometime now, for "In my honest opinion". IMO = In my opinion. FWIW = For what it's worth

There are more, but those are the ones I use most often.

webmdave said...

Manyt thanks. Slowly, but surely I'm learning all this esoteric jargon.

webmdave said...

You're welcome. :) I also struggled with it at first and there are still times I have to ask too.

webmdave said...

I'd be interested to see how you would compare and contrast this Mars Hill church with Rob Bell's Mars Hill near Grand Rapids, Michigan, which I find to be amazing and free of evangelical excesses and conceits, despite a central focus on biblical scripture.

webmdave said...

You're welcome. :) I also struggled with it at first and there are still times I have to ask too.

webmdave said...

Manyt thanks. Slowly, but surely I'm learning all this esoteric jargon.

webmdave said...

IMHO is shorthand, that has been around on the net for quite sometime now, for "In my honest opinion". IMO = In my opinion. FWIW = For what it's worth

There are more, but those are the ones I use most often.

webmdave said...

What do the letters IMHO mean ?

webmdave said...

absolutely it is ALL about the money and who has the fattest checkbook. thats the person who decides what goes on at the church and who gets to attend.

webmdave said...

I'm vomiting!!!

webmdave said...

Thanks. That is appalling!!! If these figures are published, on what basis do they justify to others such a gross imbalance?

webmdave said...

5%--- 95%

webmdave said...

I was told that 50% of the Vatican's GROSS income comes from USsuckers. What do you think are the chances for an American Pope ? Here's a clue : It's lower than one.

webmdave said...

Exactly!!! While organized dogma does engage in charitable giving, I would like to know what % goes to charitable giving and what % goes to salaries and cost/maintenance of plant and equipment!!!

webmdave said...

I want to add that Sweet Reason AKA Molleen Matsumura did a little talk on this subject on Humanist News Network podcast a while back. She said we need to change the meaning of some of these words that are considered "religious" and reclaim them as our own. One of the words was "spiritual". I did a paper on this very thing and she was glad to see someone has taken her advice on this. I think what she said makes a lot of sense too.

webmdave said...

Even within there own paradigm they are failing. Heck with trying to figure out WWJD. Just look at what is to purported to have done with the hungry, he fed them... at least once, with all that fish and bread. Even back then it was understood that nobody is going to have their mind on higher spiritual things with their tummies grumbling.

webmdave said...

Ah, so not only do the Catholics like to screw with little boys, but their thieves as well.

All they need is one more and they can be sent home.

webmdave said...

Thank you, XPD. :) I figure if we all end our little ripples out into the world maybe together they will make some big waves.

webmdave said...

Thank you for your reply. That is very insightful... and deep.

webmdave said...

Valerie,

You mentioned that your "deepest spiritual values were violated by what Mars Hill was doing". Out of curiousity, why do you use the term "spiritual" rather than "human" when describing your values? Do you believe humans have a spirit?

webmdave said...

Yes and for a while I was not getting notifications on new blog postings, but that seems to have corrected itself. I think. Have to look at the main page again.

webmdave said...

Thnx

webmdave said...

First of all, whether or not "institutionalized churches have their priorities all screwed up" depends on your perspective. If you were the head of one of those organizations i'm sure you would feel like your priorities were just fine. For the rest of us they appear to be screwed up, but for them they are accomplishing exactly what they intend.

Woah there sid. There are a lot of spiritual ex-Xtians on this site. The word spiritual is a word with many connotations, and not all of them imply that a person has a spirit. I'm not really a spiritual person, but i definitely feel spiritual after a nice long swim. Even the Chinese communists say they are trying to build a "spiritual civilization" in China, and they are certainly no friends of any organized religion, other than Marxism. (When high leaders die, they are said to have "gone to see Marx.")

webmdave said...

Webmaster:
FYI
There is NO link to this article on the notification page nor on the notification email I received.
Thx,
swabby

webmdave said...

Maybe "Bible believing Christian" is a misnomer. Maybe it should be "What my preacher tells me the bible says because I haven't actually read it myself-believing christian."

webmdave said...

Bottom line, organised religions are basically parasitic. They have a gross( I use the word deliberately ) national income approaching 100 Billion dollars annually. The vast majority of it goes to maintain itself. Think of the good that could be done with that money each & every year.

webmdave said...

Ah! I didn't know that. Disgusting. I suppose the Haitians were told that it would buy them a place in heaven.

A pox on religion.

webmdave said...

Ever heard of the saying that helping people with their material needs will only send people to hell with good health and a full stomach? That's the christian mentality behind these stupidities.

webmdave said...

Not to mention, a good deal of the gold in the Vatican was stolen from Haiti.

webmdave said...

Driscoll is a Calvinist. As far as he is concerned Haitians got what they deserved. It is easy for a Calvinist to help themselves and ignore others, because the others must have been predestined to fail.

It is all an elaborate excuse to make money selling their books to their flocks. And the megachurch building business is big business, with Christian contractors getting the jobs.

A big circle jerk disguised as religious piety.

webmdave said...

Dr. Val -

This attitude is part of the reason I left the ministry.

I remember one Sunday Night (back in the 1980s) when out of the blue our Church Organization's Superintendent & his wife dropped by for the Worship Service.

I was Associate Pastor and worship leader so I was caught by surprise when told (by the Senior Pastor) that Sister M. would be doing the music and Brother M. would be preaching. After the service and a late night pizza, they zipped away in their big, blue Caddy.

I asked the senior pastor what was up?? (basically WTF?). He informed me that his wife had accidentally forgotten to send their tithe check from the preceeding Sunday...GASSP! The Super picked up two checks and gave the pastor's wife a stern reprimand before their speedy departure. They never returned to our church (while I was there), I guess the pastor's wife got the message!

For most churches (especially the big ones) it's all about the Money.

What do you think Mars Hill would do if a large group of Atheists showed up in their parking lot and held picket signs that read, "Do away with all non-profit, Religous Tax Breaks!" or "Millionaire preachers are an abomination unto the Lord!" ???

Thanks again for your recent posts......Great as always! We love you!

XPD (Ex-Pastor Dan)

webmdave said...

Was it "the viral fundamentalist ideology" or "the venal fundamentalist ideology"? It only took two letters to increase the statement's truth. Sorry folks, I've got to say it again:

You Bastards!!

webmdave said...

My deepest spiritual values were violated by what Mars Hill was doing; I would say that the moral heart of humanity was violated.

I know the feeling and it seems like churches, not to mention mosques etc, do this a lot. Not to mention their ideas concerning the poor, victims of whatever, and alike are appalling to me. I never read Rick Warren's book, for I have a feeling it would get me ranting. Instead, I read Robert Price's rebuttal The Reason Driven Life which made a whole lot more sense to me.

IMHO, they need to stop wasting money on high tech Bibles and alike, because that money they waste on such things could give even more food and other basic needs to those who need it desperately. I realize I sound like Judas and the oil story, you know the oil Mary Magdalene was using on Jesus's feet, but IMHO, that money would be better served if spent on more food and other basic needs. Even then I agreed with Judas on that one. You can't eat Bibles. You can't clothe yourself in a church. You maybe able to get temporary shelter in a church, but it serves very little purpose other than that. You might also be able to get some heat out of a Bible, if you burn it, but not much more.

webmdave said...

Yes, provide buybulls instead of food, clothing and shelter. Grrrrrrrrrr!

What really craps me off is that just the RC Church alone(and 80% of Haitians are RC) could provide all the money that is needed to completely feed, clothe and shelter the whole population. Will they? Of course not. The Pope will say some prayers and send a small cheque.

When you think that without the RC Church, with its anti birth control rules, the families in Haiti would have been totally heaps smaller, the death toll wouldn't have been so high and much less relief would be necessary because the population would have been smaller.

webmdave said...

I think that the splicing and dicing of doctrine and scripture to further along church leaders desire for power, prestige, and big purses, will just have to get so absurd and heinous, that people have to start saying..enough is enough...."I'm jumping off this merry go round...go stick it to some other poor gullible sap." I dream of the day, followers of some of these mega multi media minstries will leave in such large numbers that it puts a stop to it all. I can dream can't I?

webmdave said...

institutionalized churches have their priorities all screwed up, that's for sure. The extent to which corporate america culture, values, philosophy have infected institutional churches is just mind boggling (thank to Rick Warren among many). The leadership's motives are so transparent that even young teenagers can see right through to them, as your young christan friend did. Ultimately, the responsibility for all this chicanery lies in the laps of the individual church goer, who refused to think for themselves, and question their own motives for giving to their church...are they giving for the sake of giving, or are they trying to get a return on their investment?