The danger of the prosperity doctrine

Great column from a high school teacher in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dana Goldman takes aim at the “prosperity church” movement — where preachers effectively tell their constituents that God wants them to be rich. Her column starts with a quote from The Rev. Creflo Dollar, the leader of Atlanta’s World Changers church: “Without a doubt, my life is not average. But I’d like to say, just because it is excessive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.”

Goldman points out:

Eating too much and having a nice car are neither secular sins nor spiritual crimes. But what if people around us have nothing to eat and no mobility beyond their two legs? A 2006 census of the homeless in Atlanta showed almost 5,400 people with no place to lay their heads (a situation the Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus struggled with) — and that’s just within the city limits.

Even if Jesus was speaking metaphorically about his own homelessness, as Dollar has said, we still look to his teachings — and those of Muhammad, Moses, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama and countless other religious leaders — for a guide to a moral life. As we begin to learn before kindergarten, morality isn’t just about avoiding ‘wrongs’ like stealing or lying, but choosing what’s most right in complex situations. Do I help a friend in need even if she got herself into this mess? Do I speak out if my boss says something racist, thinking I won’t mind since I’m white? Do I choose self-proclaimed excess even when many around me have little or nothing at all?

Religion isn’t necessary for ethical behavior, but it sure does help. When we look to biblical and living elders for advice on how to fill our lives with meaning, community and joy, very rarely do their answers involve big houses or big bank accounts. And while Dollar suggests that his wealth shows good standing with God, that insults those who have intentionally chosen middle-income helping professions — like nurses, social workers and teachers — because of their relationships with God.

Well said.

I fear that many in our culture have supplanted traditional spiritual pursuits — helping others, practicing kindness, being selfless — with the pursuit of money and wealth. And now they have churches that reinforce this view. That’s too bad.

By | November 14th, 2007|AJC, virtue|0 Comments

Interesting read on rethinking the newspaper at the San Jose Mercury News. While I’m at it, I’ve been meaning to link to this American Journalism Review piece on the changes already underway at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Good inside baseball stuff, if you’re interested.

By | November 8th, 2007|AJC, new media|0 Comments

Rather shoddy journalism from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today:

Amid allegations that the White House censored CDC Director Julie Gerberding’s written testimony on climate change, a U.S. senator Wednesday called for the release of documents detailing how and why changes were made.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, sent a letter to President Bush seeking all drafts of the written testimony for comparison with what Gerberding presented at a committee hearing Tuesday.

Boxer also asked the White House to disclose which officials were involved in reviewing her statement and what led to the deletion of nearly seven pages about the health consequences of climate change.

“I am deeply concerned that important scientific and health information was removed from the CDC Director’s testimony at the last minute,” Boxer said in the letter.

Ten paragraphs into the article, we hear from the CDC Director herself:

Gerberding said Wednesday she was happy with her testimony and that the review process was normal. In a lunch-hour speech before the Atlanta Press Club, Gerberding said she made all the points to Congress that she wanted to make.

“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Gerberding said of the furor. “I don’t let people put words in my mouth. I spoke the truth to Congress.”

The testimony went through many versions, perhaps as many as 40, Gerberding said. “This was not an issue of someone trying to cover up a connection between climate change and health,” she said.

Many White House administrations have reviewed Congressional testimony of government agency chiefs in the past — it’s just part of the process.

So, who other than a constant critic of the administration, also had a problem with the White House editing of the CDC director’s comments?

The Union of Concerned Scientists:

To the Union of Concerned Scientists, it appears Gerberding was censored. “At first blush this is consistent with what we’ve seen throughout the Bush administration on climate change,” said Michael Halpern, outreach coordinator of the group’s Scientific Integrity Program.

The reporter doesn’t attempt to identify “The Union of Concerned Scientists.” Despite its egalitarian name, the group is actually a liberal advocacy organization, according to the policy proposals on its Web site.

With all these facts, this issue looks like a typical partisan attack of dubious news value. Too bad the editors chose to make it the top story on page one.

By | October 25th, 2007|AJC|0 Comments

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose to put the obit for Richard Jewell, the maligned Olympic Park bombing hero, on the front page — of the metro section. Questionable stories that were deemed more important than Jewell included an article about British attitudes toward royals following Princess Diana’s death.

Apparently, the AJC’s long libel battle with Jewel affected their news judgment. In the end, Jewell was a hero. As a security guard at Olympic Park, he first spotted Eric Rudolph’s suspicious bag. His alertness saved countless lives, a fact that Gov. Perdue noted last year:

“The bottom line is this: His actions saved lives that day,” said Perdue. “Mr. Jewell, on behalf of Georgia, we want to thank you for keeping Georgians safe and doing your job during the course of those Games.”

It’s a shame that the AJC couldn’t overlook the libel lawsuit and put Jewell’s death in its proper place — on the front page.

By | August 30th, 2007|AJC|0 Comments

Richard Jewell, the security guard hero-turned-suspect in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing case, is dead. He was 44:

Richard Jewell, the Centennial Olympic Park security guard once suspected — but later cleared — in the bombing of the park during the 1996 Summer Games, was found dead Wednesday in his home in Meriwether County.

… Jewell was initially lauded as a hero after a bomb went off at the July 27, 1996, Olympic celebration. He called attention to the suspicious knapsack that held a bomb and helped evacuate the area.

But days later he became the FBI’s chief suspect, as The [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] and other media outlets reported.

The FBI later cleared Jewell of any wrongdoing. He was never charged with a crime.

Eric Robert Rudolph pleaded guilty to the bombing in 2005 and is serving life in prison for it and other attacks.

After he was cleared, Jewell sued the Journal-Constitution and other media outlets for libel, arguing that their reports defamed him. Several news organizations settled, including NBC and CNN.

The Journal-Constitution did not settle. The newspaper has contended that at the time it published its reports, Jewell was a suspect, so the articles were accurate. The newspaper also has asserted that it was not reckless or malicious in its reports regarding Jewell. Much of Jewell’s case was dismissed last year. One claim, based on reports about a 911 call, is pending trial.

I guess that makes the AJC the winner. Congratulations.

By | August 29th, 2007|AJC|0 Comments