It didn't take long to notice the common thread in Sen. Charles Grassley's probe of six of America's most prominent media ministries. Those under investigation were all Pentecostal-charismatic. Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Randy and Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Eddie Long—their names filled the headlines while non-charismatics' names such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels were contrastingly absent.
Accordingly, we must query the nature of the charismatic movement. Is there an element embedded in its narrative that facilitates lifestyles worthy of scrutiny? Do its leaders embrace governance structures necessary for transparency and fiduciary compliance? Does experiential Christianity open the door for excesses in both ministry practice and lifestyle?
The issue may also be a byproduct of government incursion and ministerial provocation. By extrapolating the ministries from the discussion and analyzing a corporate culture of excess, we find both parties may be the children of pride.
Pride is not just an emotion or, as Thomas Aquinas stated in Summa Theologica, the root of every sin. Pride is the great motivator for 21st century success. While humility lies dormant, hidden in the closet of archaic virtues, pride strides down the runway like a model for all to admire. It did not emerge from the idea we call "America," but undoubtedly this anti-virtue is as American as apple pie. Pride appears in the corridors of power; American Pentecostalism embodies power and influence, both culturally and spiritually. However, power without accountability serves as a recipe for disaster.
Pride embraced slavery; humility gave birth to abolition. Pride fills the coffers; humility weeps for the children of injustice. Pride looks inward and says, "Believe in yourself." Humility looks upward and says, "Believe in something greater than self." Pride seeks recognition; humility seeks righteousness.
Grassley says his investigation "has nothing to do with church doctrine [but] everything to do with the tax exemption of an organization. Is that tax exemption being used according to the law, and is the money that's donated under the tax exemption being used for legitimate, nonprofit purposes?" He adds that his inquiry is not an attack on ministries or other tax-exempt groups, but that it would be "irresponsible not to examine allegations of questionable practices at certain tax-exempt groups."
Even as "we the people" have the right and responsibility to provide oversight to our government, so the church has oversight responsibility over all ministries. Accountability does not emerge from the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation of 2002 or the Internal Revenue Service Code's 501 (c)(3) mandate. Due diligence and oversight authority derive from the Word of God.
What provokes corporations, nations and ministries to usurp ethical and legal standards? Pride. Pride stems from the union of success and self-accreditation. However, pride never stands alone. It engages in flirtatious activity with envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth—yet arrogance always seems to draw closest.
Why do not only empires but also corporations and relationships fail? Pride. It walks down the runway of the 21st century human stage; meanwhile, humility stands poised to appear at the precise moment pride collapses, arrogance falls and grace renders a silent introduction.
Award-winning writer Sam Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hispanic NAE, serving 15 million Latino believers and 18,000 churches.
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