How not to love your neighbor

While exercising the other day, I caught about 20 minutes of Mike Murdock on TV. Good thing I was at the gym, because I definitely needed a shower after that.

mikemurdock1.jpgIn case you haven’t heard of him, imagine the most stereotypical televangelist you can think of: oily, wavy hair, 80’s beard, loud suit, neon shirt, gaudy jewelery. But really, the most noticeable characteristic of this guy is the absolutely nauseating way he attempts to prey on those who have the least–by pulling out the stops to get them to give absolutely crazy amounts of money to his so-called “Wisdom Center.”

The day I saw him, he was asking for 120 viewers to send him “seeds” of $1,000 apiece. (You can see him asking for “seeds” of $777 here.) Here’s how the bargain works: you pay $1,000 as “seed money.” God “doubles your wisdom,” you get an autographed copy of the “Wisdom Bible,” Murdock personally prays for you, and God will probably end up using your money to make you lots more money anyway. The two testimonials that flashed across the screen each talked of giving the $1,000, then coming into ridiculous wealth. (One of them “paid off [his] credit card debt” with the money he got back from the “seed money.” In other words, this individual was already in debt, but chose to spend $1,000 at the request of Murdock anyway.

Those who are less financially stable appear to be the target demographic for Murdock. The most insidious part of the show was towards the end: Murdock instructed those who had already donated (or who were thinking about it) to write a prayer in the back cover of thir Bibles, asking God to “use that $1,000 seed to eliminate your credit card debt.” Sick.

I used to think, “these people are harmless. Sure, they’re goofy, but who really cares?” Well, here’s the thing: this guy is using his power as one with a direct line to God, to prey upon those who (a) are in financial need, and (b) may be more susceptible to ‘get rich quick’ scams, as evidenced by an apparent history of credit card debt.

Jesus commands us to love our God and our neighbor as ourselves. Are Murdock’s actions truly based in love for his neighbors, when he specifically targets folks in financial need and extorts them to give up enormous sums of money?

As for me, I will serve the Lord. I pray that Murdock ends his predatory practices. People in financial need are unduly targeted enough as it is, without errant false prophets preying on people’s trust, hopes and financial stability as well.

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11 Responses to “How not to love your neighbor”

  1. Cindi Knox Says:

    If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear Him, and keep His Commandments, and obey His Voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee. – Deuteronomy 13:1-5

    I fear these prophets are turning people to the god of money, or worse, to the god of themselves.

    My God does not need a bribe to take care of me, in fact: Jesus tells us that the birds neither sow nor reap, yet God cares for them.

  2. Tom Hoberg Says:

    My God does not need a bribe to take care of me, in fact: Jesus tells us that the birds neither sow nor reap, yet God cares for them.

    Cindi, this is brilliantly stated. You know, you should write for Christian Voices! 😉

  3. ayates Says:

    If you send me $1,000 dollars, I can take away your outrage at this practice….

  4. Mark Says:

    Heck, I’d settle for $777!

  5. Tom Hoberg Says:

    Maybe $666 would be appropriate…

  6. george croly Says:

    MIKE MURDOCK IS THE SLEAZIEST TV PREACHER AND THAT IS SAYING A LOT SINCE THERE IS A NEVER ENDING LIST OF THESE PREDATORY CREATURES WHO ONLY WANT YOUR MONEY. I WISH TV PREACHERS COULD BE BANNED.
    NO ONE GOES INTO TV MINISTRY FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN MAKING BIG BUCKS. TRULY DISGUSTING, ROTTEN INDIVIDUALS WHO BELONG BEHIND BARS.

  7. Tom Hoberg Says:

    Amen, George! Welcome to the blog.

  8. Eric Says:

    I ran into this blog by accident. I Googled “loud suit” and ran into this.

    I am familiar with Mike Murdoch. He was asking New Mexicans to sow their seeds on Channel 11 in Santa Fe.

    As an agnostic, I used to watch him and grow so angry that he was targeting the poor and sick. I wanted to drive to the station and wait for him to walk out so I could beat him senseless.

    Then I became a Christian. And I watched him again. I grew even angrier. It makes me so angry and upset that in the United States, the Christian religion is celebrated with gold watches, big hair, ridiculous costumes, loud preachers, tacky music, cavernous churches that look like shopping malls. How did this happen? I watch a few minutes of Christian television and I cannot believe that Jesus Christ is worshipped in this way. People asking for money. People asking the poor and old to rack up their credit cards to “sow a seed.”

    The Benny Hinns, the Paul and Jans, the Michael Murdochs…. how did it happen that they are the leaders in American Christianity?

  9. Tom Says:

    I ran into this blog by accident. I Googled “loud suit” and ran into this.

    Heh. Indeed.

    You ask a good question: how did this happen to American Christianity? I think it comes down to idolatry of the Almighty Dollar (if not of the Almighty Ego the Televangelist), like Cindi mentioned above. Fitting that this week’s Lectionary text is the question about whether we should give our money to God or to Caesar (answer: do what you must with your money, but come and follow the Lord). It’s part of Jesus’ broader theme: get rid of your material attachments so that you may truly live in the Kin-dom of God.

    Prosperity Theology gets it exactly backwards, and preys on those who are in the most need. It is closer to the tenets of Satanism (glorifying one’s own ego, manipulating others to fulfill one’s personal purposes) than Christianity (self-sacrifice, living communally, faith in God first).

    Peace,
    Tom

  10. kemi Says:

    if you don’t have anything good to say about a person – DON’T SAY, more than anything there is a lot you can learn from Mike Murdock insted of critisizing a man of GOD like him.
    God is in each one of us.. we all have our expressions of the Divine within us./. choose to see the light in people and you’ll have more grace in your life..
    kemi

  11. Tom Ryberg Says:

    kemi,

    There is indeed much to learn from Mike Murdock. By observing Murdock’s tactics, one can learn:

    – how to target people with massive amounts of credit card debt
    – how to convince enough people to give donations beyond their means so that you can build a multi-million dollar golden calf ministry
    – how to turn the almighty dollar into an idol, while skillfully dodging the biblical ramifications of what you’re preaching

    So yes, there are things to learn from everybody, kemi. And you are correct that God is in each one of us. But we humans are all too capable of hiding our God-light under a bushel to suit our own ungodly purposes of selfishness, greed, abuse and oppression of others. When this is happening, we need to support one another – even to the point of calling out and condemning those ungodly actions, especially when those actions are harming others.

    Mike Murdock has built a ministry out of targeting and victimizing those most in need, abusing the Bible in the process. It is right to call on Murdock to stop. And as a Christian it is not only right but a responsibility to condemn Murdock’s misuse of the Bible to victimize others.

    Peace,
    Tom


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