Note: This article has been republished with the permission
of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
It's strange what you miss about your parents after they're gone. My mother passed only four months ago, yet I miss what had become our most irritating conversation.
Mama was a devout Jehovah's Witness. I was raised in the religion. The organization teaches that God will wipe out the "wicked" during Armageddon. Followers of the religion, Witnesses are taught, will live in a new paradise on Earth forever.
Mama worried I wasn't going to be included among the flock of "New World" pioneers. No matter what we were talking about, she tried to entice me back into the fold. If I complained about a crick in my neck, she'd somehow segue into Bible scripture.
"Well, you know, Junior, Revelations (chapter such and such) describes a world where we won't need doctors. There'll be no more sickness or death. It'll be a life of bliss and happiness," she'd say. "Don't you want that for your family?"
"Yes, Mother, that sounds wonderful," I'd reply before tactfully changing the subject.
It was our routine, but as irritating as it was, I miss how she passionately used Scripture to influence me.
I thought about religion's influence while reading the Post-Dispatch series on evangelist Joyce Meyer. Sometimes after falling asleep on the couch, I wake up with Meyer on TV. If the remote is crammed between the cushions or otherwise unreachable, I'll just lie there and watch. I had grown to like this grandmotherly preacher. I admired how she confidently captivated her audience with homespun wit and passages from Scripture.
I didn't know Meyer was from our area until I read the series. I also didn't know she was making millions with her message. She has a $95 million-a-year TV ministry based in Jefferson County. Like other popular TV evangelists, she also markets books, tapes, CDs, calendars and other items.
Meyer believes God wants her to be rich. And she's doing her darnedest not to disappoint him. She unabashedly asks followers to "give until it hurts."
Post writers Carolyn Tuft and Bill Smith told of a lecture here where Meyer asked for $7 million. She told the audience, "that would really bless me."
I bet it would.
The series soured me a little on Meyer. I'm not against what she does. People are passionate about religion. Some want their ministers driving Mercedes and staying in the best hotels. But I know people who'll spend $300 for a good seat at a concert. Different strokes for different folks, I always say.
The thing that bugs me about evangelists is that they evoke the name of Jesus before asking for the big bucks. If they're going to use the name of the son of God, shouldn't they model themselves after him?
Can you imagine Jesus asking people to "give until it hurts?" Heck, he fed hungry crowds. When they needed more, he patiently performed miracles. Jesus washed the feet of lowly beggars. He walked the desert spreading his message.
Evangelists like Meyer are making jillions in Jesus' name. It would be nice if they washed a few feet during an occasional sermon. How about an honest to goodness miracle every now and then? Turn water into wine, give Stevie Wonder back his sight, bring us a viable Democratic presidential candidate - do something miraculous.
In all fairness to Meyer, Jesus didn't face the challenges of paying for cable time or publishing books. That task was left to the disciples, until the Gideons took over with the hotel distribution method.
I'm the last person to begrudge a native St. Louisan's financial success. As the series pointed out, Meyer gives substantial money to numerous charities. Her ministry funds the St. Louis Dream Center near O'Fallon Park here.
I miss the conversations with Mama about God's reward after Armageddon. I don't think everyone has to wait as long as she thought, however. Apparently, evangelists like Meyer have discovered a blissful, happy paradise in the here and now.
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