Robert McElvaine was by far my favorite college professor. I had him for “WOMEN AND MEN IN AMERICA” at Millsaps College my freshman year. I couldn’t stand the conservative students and the frat life at the college and I transferred to Earlham. Millsaps had great profs though—and McElvaine was one of the best.
Anyways, he has a book out that published a few months ago, Grand Theft Jesus: The Highjacking of Religion in America. He calls it as he sees it. And what he sees is truly frigtening and disgusting.
For instance, Joel Osteen. He isn’t full of the political hate speech that defines most of the Christian right, but he might preach a more dangerous message. Anyway here is McElvaine’s take on the mulleted-one:
Osteen presides over the nations’ largest congregation (some 35,000) at the nondenominational Lakewood Church, which occupies the arena formerly known as the Compaq Center in Houston. There he preaches a religion formerly known as Mammonism…. He regularly sells out arenas in other cities as he sells out Jesus… His feel-good Xian book, Your best Life Now: Seven steps To living out your Full Potential reached the top of the best-seller lists. The Reverend Joel saw God favoriting him when was bumped from economy to business class.” His helpmate Victoria relates how her “speaking words of faith and victory” brought the Osteens their dream house.”
The book is great roundup of what has ailed our society these last insane and sad eight years. But, hopefully Rockstar Games or EA Sports or maybe the Wii guys will turn this book into an actual video game. Sort of the emergent or progressive Christian version of Grand Theft Auto.
I haven’t played much Grant Theft Auto but I do remember a coworker of mine at the time was addicted to it. In that video game, you play the character of a low level gangster. The gangster advances in the game by performing increasingly difficult act of thuggery. If you beat the game that means you moved up the ranks to the role of Godfather or whatever. And if you wanted to– just for fun in the video game–you could mercilessly beat up a hooker. Pretty disturbing stuff.
In Grand Theft Jesus, the lead video game character could be a young seminarian or an emergent church leader instead of a gangster. Maybe someone like Tony Jones and the guys from the Church Basement Roadshow.
Instead of committing random acts of thuggery though, you move up in the game by committing random acts of kindness and random acts of beauty. Or writing best selling books like Brian Mclaren. You don’t get to become a criminal kingpin in the process but you also get to move up the ladder.
For instance, on level 1 in the video game you have to read Marcus Borg’s MEETING JESUS AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME. Don’t worry, it is short. By level 5, you are part of a progressive activist urban church. By level 10, you reach Rob Bell status.
All the along the way you learn the way of Jesus; feeding the hungry, caring for wounded, loving the unloved, loving your enemies.
And Instead of beating up (or stoning) hookers like the characters in GTA, you get to beat up (nonviolently of course) those who whore out the church and who whore out the gospels for a few bucks.