Monday, December 15, 2008

SDAs in the news again

I noticed another SDA reference in the news this morning. A preacher is finding joy in the suffering of others. A Texas State University study shows that evangelical churches grow when the economy is poor.
“I found it very exciting, and I called up that fellow to tell him so,” said the Rev. Don MacKintosh, a Seventh Day Adventist televangelist in California who contacted Dr. Beckworth a few weeks ago after hearing word of his paper from another preacher. “We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”
Organized religion is ready and waiting to use the misfortune of others to their own ends. I guess I'd have to agree with Rev. MacKintosh. Greed and fear are religion's most effective tools.

18 comments:

Reverted said...

Greed and fear, i.e. reward and punishment, i.e. heaven and hell.

So, yes. You're obviously right.

Lori said...

Why is that so hard for so many people to see????

Tim said...

[dissent from the tenor section]

Oh come on. It's not that simple. If the evangelist is happy because more people will come to his meetings and then give money to him, or out of pure schadenfreude, then that is bad, evil, etc, etc. If he truly believes that they will be better off after they go though this hardship and get religion, then that is different--maybe more like a parent being glad that their wayward son or daughter is finally learning some discipline after joining the army.

Fear and greed are effective tools, I will give you that, but I think plenty of religious people try to avoid relying on them. Also, desiring a reward is not necessarily a demonstration of greed, nor is a reference to that reward necessarily an appeal to greed. I would say that greed comes when the desire overwhelms ethics and prompts actions that are to the detriment of other people. Not that a desire for paradise hasn't turned into greed in many cases, but it doesn't have to. There is also something about the way we use "greed" that implies a limited resource, I think, but I haven't thought about it very much and I'm not sure.

Inasmuch as "religion" means "Adventism" on this blog, then talk of hell is somewhat misplaced.

Aaron said...

[mumbling from the baritones]

Seventh-day Adventistism is a corporation. A non-profit 501 (c) 3 I believe. So if I look at it as a corporation then what ways can be used to keep the "business" going and growing? Anything that points out that the other guys aren't as good.

This happens with the construction company I work with. The owner comments about the way other contractors do a shoddy job. This makes our company more important and valuable in our eyes.

That same idea can be used for the Seventh-day Adventist corporation. So the corporation says that Catholics or any Sunday keeping church is not quite up to par. ("They are good, but they don't have all the truth," an SDA church member might say.)

Now if Adventism is seen as a calling, a devotion, the one true way...then it gets complicated.

I think it is helpful to see the business side of religions.

Herb said...

"Better off" in what way?

Herb said...

Fear may not always be overtly or consciously relied upon as a tool by the religious (although it seems to be often enough that the claim is not patently absurd), yet I'm struggling to think of the last time I debated a religious individual and his argument didn't ultimately boil down to how his religion gave him hope in what he otherwise perceived as a frightening life. In my experiences, his pleas have nearly always sounded like they were motivated by a subconscious need to avoid fear (ie gain hope). If I were forced to claim that there was a single, most basal motivating idea at the heart of my religious friends pleadings with me, I think I would be most comfortable with the idea that it is fear.

The greed issue hasn't particularly stood out as a common thread to me, however. In fact, I don't ever recall a personal experience with a religious friend that I felt was motivated by greed. Televangelists, yes. Friends, no.

That's my two cents, for what it's worth.

Tim said...

Certainly worth two cents, at least (not that I'm going to send you any money).

Fear needn't always be the opposite face of hope. One can have $100 and hope for $200. Contrasting hope and fear makes for a more compelling argument, but one could be pretty satisfied with this life and hope for something even better in the future. On a different level, there is a lot to deplore in this world, and one could have an altruistic sort of hope (based on empathy, I suppose, but I don't think that invalidates it - that's just what we mean by altruistic, perhaps) that those who are suffering now will not have to in the future, etc, even if one's own life is pretty good. This would be something like a desire for justice as a motive. I think this is pretty common, at least among people I admire.

It doesn't really matter in what way these people are thought to be better off by the televangelist because the issue is his motivation. His ideas of "better off" may be widely shared, or they may not be, but so long as he is sincere about them his motives can be judged by them.

Herb said...

All of what you say is true, Tim, as far as I can ascertain. It doesn't seem to sound like it explains any underlying impetus to the numerous arguments I've had presented to me by religious individuals, though. I obviously cannot speak for every person out there, but according to what I've experienced it can almost invariably be distilled down to this:

"Without my religious beliefs I'm filled with dread and terror. I believe them for the comfort and hope they help me feel."

Here's a stupid anecdote that proves nothing but is a concise example akin to my experiences. When Dan Barker stopped being a minister and informed his family he was no longer a believer one of his minister friends approached his brother (still a believer) and asked him, "But isn't Dan afraid of hell?" I've gotten the SDA variant on the question numerous times, "But aren't you afraid of missing out on eternal life?" Even if it is not always overtly stated along these lines I get a fairly strong sense that this way of thinking is much more likely to be the rule rather than the exception. Admittedly, there are often other lesser reasons given, too, but this seems to be the major one at the heart of the matter.

When pressed far enough, many of the individuals who have confronted me about my lack of belief in their faith system, though usually stating other reasons for their faith initially, will eventually volunteer that this is at the heart of the matter of their choice to believe as they do. This has been the rule, rather than the exception, in my experience.

With regard to your last paragraph, I am uncertain that sincere motivation is the only issue that matters here. (Bear with me on this since you'll probably think I've lost my mind and completely missed your point.) I liked the idea, but when I paused to consider that people who may be motivated to do good can do devastating damage despite their sincerest intentions to be helpful I balked at fully accepting the idea. A Jehovah's Witness withholding a blood transfusion from a dying child may have the best intentions of doing what's good and right in the view of his god, sincerely believing that the child is better off dying than accepting the sinful transfusion. Judging a scenario like this based solely upon an individual's sincere desire to do what he perceives to be good makes me uncomfortable. Good intentions based upon the sincerest, most well-meaning of motivations can have seriously deleterious consequences. Anyway, that's an aside. The real reason I asked the question as I did was because the preacher's motivation to help people be "better off" could quite easily be related to his idea of helping people overcome fear. Whether it is fear about the economy in general, their own personal finances, their eternal salvation, or whatever else, the point I was trying to get at is that it could all still relate to the concept of fear. This is regardless of whether or not the minister is consciously or unconsciously using fear as "as a tool." Whether it is conscious, unconscious, purposeful or inadvertent, it would still be an issue of fear. That was all I was trying to get at.

Anyway, on an entirely different note, Eunduk and Sofie are on their way to Korea as I type this and I'm already missing them. Sofie is hilarious to watch and play with. I'll be joining them in a couple weeks. Should be fun!

How are the dartos and cremaster exercises going? Or did we decide that only Jeff is doing them now???

Tim said...

I see what you mean about fear and the televangelist, though my original point in bringing up his motivation was to say that it needn't be schadenfreude, per se, but might be a more complicated motivation involving his belief that there would be something better realized via the suffering.

Fear could well be at the base of the televangelist's motivation (even if it is empathetic fear), but, again, doesn't have to be. You may be right in saying that most people have fear at the base of their belief -- I guess I tend to think more of people whose faith I actually admire (a couple WW theology professors, for example) than what I think might be average. Most people probably just believe out of inertia, in my opinion, but it could be fear, like you said. On the other hand, thinking about giving up central beliefs is going to be scary in most cases, even if those beliefs aren't explicitly religious. It could be change that is feared more than being eternally nonexistant.

Herb said...

Tim, what are you doing up at this hour, young man?!

Tim said...

It is test week. Today we have a practical exam in anatomy (and histology) - maybe I'll get to identify a cremaster muscle. I'll think of Jeff when I do that. The sphincter herbi may also be on this exam. I hope so.

Tim said...

Damn. No cremasters or sphincters.

Here is an interesting article, though, about historical manifestations of hysteria starting with the Salem witch trials and ending with the Multiple-Personality-Disorder craze more recently.

Tim said...

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/hysteria-in-four-acts-13663

It appears I forgot how to make links.

Iron Soul said...

I missed out on a lot of discussion by spending a few hours on a plane it would seem.
Aaron, I liked your point about the corporate nature of organized churches. I think there is a lot more money involved in things than will ever be admitted too.

Tim, I liked the way you phrased one of your comments near the end. About people believing out of inertia. I was like that for a long time. I know many people like that now. But I think it is most often feat that prevents any force from changing that inertia.

Iron Soul said...

Herb, I hope you surviving without the family. I'm sure happy to be back with mine.

Herb said...

Ok, Jeff, Tim and I think that since you have a day off from work you should get crackin' and post some more material on your blog for us to vandalize. Tim would like to remind you that the subject does not matter (as you well know!) and that we will talk about whatever we like, but that we're totally bored with the current post and need fresh meat.

Tim said...

That's right. We need a new post every two days or so. In lieu of text, more pictures of you in your underwear would be acceptable, though we'd also like to see what sort of progress you are making on your dartos and cremaster exercises, so not every picture need be in underwear. Oh, Herb wanted to add that if your exercises are working, he'd like to try and bulk up some down there himself so he'll need to know exactly how you did it. He thinks it may count towards his fitness requirements for the military.

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