Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Langston Hughes and televangelists

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

---Langston Hughes

Listen, Christ,
You did alright in your day, I reckon—
But that day's gone now.
They ghosted you up a swell story, too,
Called it Bible--
But it's dead now.
The popes and the preachers’ve
Made too much money from it.
They've sold you to too many.

---Langston Hughes

Somehow my research into televangelists reminded me of these two poems. The first is a mother's recounting to her son of the pain and suffering of a common black woman's life. This is the realist talking -- a person who knows the trials and travails of poverty and discrimination. These seem to be the people that televangelists appeal to.

The second echoes my feeling this afternoon after watching a few hours of TBN and others. Is this the same Jesus that I proclaim? I almost don't recognize Him. I didn't see an aesthetic Jewish rabbi. I didn't see Gibson's suffering Christ. I saw the "Jesus as my friend and buddy" and a lot of prosperity theology. I saw a lot of Montanism. I didn't see much realy exegesis. I didn't hear any "pick up your cross." No costly discipleship, no sanctification. Cheap grace offered for only $19.95. It was more disturbing than I thought it would be. The cheapening of salvation. Glitz and glitter instead of the refiner's fire and pure gold. Maybe I am being harsh -- I feel bemused.

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