Monday, April 6, 2009

Have Christians Lost Their Ability to be Cunning?

16"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove. Matthew chapter 10 "The Message"

The Webster Dictionary gives several related meanings for “cunning.” The two main ones include:

1: dexterous or crafty in the use of special resources (as skill or knowledge) or in attaining an end (a cunning plotter with usually a deceitful end).

2: displaying keen insight (a cunning observation)

From the text of the passage, and other translations from the original Greek, The Message’s use of the word “cunning” clearly relates to the second definition. However, once you finish reading this blog, you may see that some Christians practice the “cunning” of the first definition rather well.

I’m ashamed to admit that it is TV programs (okay sometimes books) that prompt many of my postings (like Oprah and the Yearning for Emotional Honesty posting). This time it was a Dateline segment on Friday night, where Chris Hansen investigates Dennis Lee. Dennis is a long time fraud king . . . and sadly, a type of minster. At least he preys on Churches for his schemes. Before I continue, I will give describe my premise regarding my observations.

I do not come at this issue of cunning, or lack of, from any type of theological or Biblical exogenesis perspective, but from more of a simple foundation. If God is there, and if he is a good God, then he is a God of truth . . . and honesty. I could share a lot of scripture at this point but you know most of them. If not, go to Bible Gateway (or your own electronic Bible) and do a word search for truth.

With that said, I must add the caveat that truth (due to the falleness of this world) isn’t always easy to find. The rationalists, including Aristotle, were wrong on the point that reason can always lead you to truth. In a perfect world . . . maybe.

But in this world, as we find it, truth is obscure. Satan is the god of lies and is pretty good at deceit. There are many passages (and I won’t share those here either) about this idea of psychological dishonesty. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 17:9 (New International Version)

9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

So in conclusion, we can’t trust anyone or anything completely. How many pastors have been trusted completely . . . only to find out that they were stealing money from the church, sleeping with the church women (or girls) and only God knows what else. None of us are totally trustworthy and "being a strong Christian" or even pastor, doesn't change things.

But, in this cult of niceness that we (those) Evangelicals find ourselves in, being cunning or skeptical is no longer in the vocabulary.

The Dateline story was about a master con artist, Dennis Lee. To make a long story short, he has a MLM type of business plan where he promotes a variety of “energy” products. The one they highlighted on the show would make cars get 60 to over 100 MPG. The product cost $1500-$3000. You can even buy a dealership. This is the product they tested (with real scientist) and was worthless.

Dennis Lee also has perpetual motion machines, and all kind of energy from nothing (all violating Newtonian laws of physics). But the sad thing . . . the really sad thing, is that this con man is cunning enough (think if the first definition of the word above) to wrap his enterprises in Jesus. This kind of stuff is what would make the real Jesus want to drive them out of the temple (along with the TV evangelist) with a whip.

But my question is, have we Christians lost our sense of being cunning (the second definition)? As Christians, we shouldn’t focus on being nice . . . but KNOWING THE TURTH! If someone comes up and tells me any type of incredible story at Church, I have the responsibility to question and doubt them. This not only includes get rich schemes, but also miracles. God is simply a god of truth. We need to be taught the art of doubting.

I want to do a posting next time on a very personal story where this same type of thing was being pulled with a group of Christian friends.


pennyyak said...

Ah, well, Mr. Jones, some people do read your blog. Followed you through your link at IMONK, actually. Is nothing sacred?

Anyway, enjoyed looking at some of your blogs, links, comments, etc.

Multi-level marketing. Also called, by those not caught in the trap, a pyramid scheme. Often sued, often shut down, but always and always multiplying like rabbits. Statistically, I think, about 5% of participants (at best) make money. The rest give their money to that 5%. But to those involved, such thoughts are negative and defeating, and stand as proof that if only THEIR thoughts are pure and if they NEVER give up, they, too, will be wealthy. I think it takes a tremendous disconnect with reality to buy into MLM, because it is not about selling products, but about getting other people to get other people to get other people to...get other people...your "down line" to support you. It is bizarre, smacks of some kind of magic, and it is dishonest. It is greed.

How many of these Christians had access to the internet, do you think? Before I got my "lowest speed possible" internet, I went to the public library to use theirs. So, everyone can potentially look into what people say about that type of business. I suppose many people are uninterested in doing that. The same people who don't want you to read books whose contents are a complete mystery to them? Or who forward utterly fictional e-mails about Hollywood making satanic gay movies?

Often I have been saddened by knowledge, or surprised, or challenged, but knowledge hasn't destroyed me yet. God has put together a tremendous puzzle, the whole of the smallest and largest of the universe, and given us good enough minds to wonder and wander about it, and not I think to our ultimate detriment. When I know something about His creation, I then know something about Him. It would seem to be a better thing just to see God and be with Him, and we'll all die. But until that time, has God not left us an awful lot to ponder?

Oh, almost forgot. Your choice in books. You wish to rebel against early admonitions against wide learning, and you choose one of the most difficult authors in the English language? You are a brave man. Let us know how it turns out.

MJ said...

I guess nothing is.

I had to take a sanity break from Ulysess . . . hope to return soon.

Every church I've been in, and I've been in a lot, has a group tying to get other members into some MLM scheme. That's okay . . . until they seem to always start to mix their business with Jesus. Shaklee, Amyway, Mannatech . . .

Anonymous said...

MLM groups are ALWAYS associated with Real True Christians. And function as a Revivalist religion in and of themselves, using Evangelical Revival tactics, Evangelical Accountability (to your upline), aggressive "Witnessing", and all the Always Victorious Christian motivational tricks you experienced in the Navs.

All I can figure is there's something in Evangelical Christians that sets them up as easy marks for MLM schemes.

Ever heard the Campus Crusade sales pitch of "Multiplying Ministry"? Sheep saving more sheep who save more sheep who save still more sheep? And who (like the Navs who messed you up) have no other purpose than to save more sheep who have no other purpose than to save still more sheep... Sounds like an MLM setup to me. Amway without the soap and with Christ as your Upline.

-- Headless Unicorn Guy