Praying the psalms in America is transforming me. I am praying the psalms because after 10 years in America, I find the gospel of Jesus Christ as marketed from the pulpit of some churches, to be alien to the one I read and experience in the Bible and in life. We miss God in the marketing is perhaps what I want to say. I cannot in good conscience buy this particular American God, He is Mammon.
The warning signals ought to have become clear when the American Jesus was referred to as a good product but as a good and faithful convert, I decided to just sit it out first and listen. But even as a joke, from the mouth of teachers of the gospel, this is is not funny and fails to bring a smile to my darker skinned Malaysian-American face.
As a Hindu, at the University of Missouri-Columbia, I took a sociology class, called ‘Organizations and Institutions.” I also took a class on World Religions. I was not converted then but now as a convert, I have come to understand how some of America has begun to define Jesus as a product and expand their aggressive marketing campaign and ‘outreach’ to other countries and cultures.
My concern is that they are missing God and in all their dangerous faith, the newness of what He is doing without fanfare, here and abroad, and among the ‘pagans’ lending much truth, when we become aware of it, to Henri Nouwen’s teaching that pagans can be Christians and Christians can be pagan. In my country of origin for example, people praying the psalms, are transforming their nations, as are individuals here, those outside the traditional church building and inside.
“Some of you look like you have been baptized in pickle juice,” said an American Pastor at a megachurch I attended for several months as I sat in a room with video equipment and all kind of hi-tech paraphernalia. I know Americans like to supersize their food platters , so I had come to expect large screen television magnifying the Pastor, huge public baptismal font (all baptisms are recorded and played real time on lifesize screens) , the loud, loud sermons, plush auditoriums and airconditioning but I did not expect not to think or reflect on the words of a teacher of the gospel. In fact in these sort of churches, thinking is discouraged, and to my surprise, especially from a woman. And a darker skinned woman from Malaysia, forget it! So, we do have a ways yet to go it seems like even in America with regard to women and minority rights.
For the record, however, I was baptized in St.Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York and yes, Pastor Amandus Derr who baptized my family and I on February 7th 1999, will verify, if you ask him, that he used water, not pickle juice. True, Pastor Derr sprinkled it on us and did not have a huge baptismal font, nor do I recall that the event was ever recorded. Afterwards, we were treated to lunch at a Vietnamese restaurants by an American Muslim and a American Hindu -Christian (not exactly fond of religious talk) family who sought to honor the occasion of our baptism.
The day remains holy to me, just as the days following since when I attended RCIA and became a Catholic and the days following when I left and peopled various churches where I listened carefully to all kinds of American men preach the gospel, and all the days following to the present day.
God, the true God, I have learned makes all days holy, He even makes us holy. It is we who make a day unholy by blaspheming it or by profoundly blacking it with our profane words, thoughts and actions. The psalms have affected me in a profound way because the psalmists are honest. They confess their sins honestly to God and it follows that there is an inevitable outpouring of God’s Grace that causes those who need to turn away from sin, to be able to by God’s true, divine supernatural power to actually do that.
The psalms are beautiful, sincere prayers that were written for no commercial purpose. The psalms are poetic and the words, perhaps due to the searing honesty of the human spirit of the psalmists, and the genuine desire and love to transform the self and nation(s) remain light in a world corrupted by human desire and ambition.
Sometimes, it takes someone outside the traditional church, a woman like Maureen Dowd, to catch on. Thank God, for Ms.Dowd ,I say! Proverbs 24:26. I am confused by American Christian men and women who attend the kind of churches I have dusted my feet from who claim persecution and faith falsely. Some of these ‘men and women of faith’ are powerful public figures who must attend what I call the American prosperity gospel church because their speech shows evidence of a blindness to the real persecution and poverty of spirit of the oppressed, the alien, the poor and the needy right here in America.
The Christian God, as I read Him in the Bible is the God of all people and all nations. The Christian faith has no room for false patriotism, it is a truly (small letter ‘c’) Catholic church.
But many churches and ministries in America have become about the outer man, and the larger external building. So now our American farmers have become not lenders to the nations but borrowers, the tail and not the head, and the American poor, the alien and the oppressed are crying in the silence of their hearts (Psalm 121) to the true God (Psalm 24) and buying and eating the true gospel for no money (Isaiah 55) while the rich and powerful are claiming that indeed they can be ‘richer than God.’.
Having listened to the sermons at this church where really, the pastor was so charismatic, church-goers were interrupting the service to lay money down all along the ‘altar’ and ‘aisles,’ because he said ‘God told him three hundred people were going to give $300 each to his ministry and be blessed in return by God rebuking the devourer on their behalf’,’ I am now better able to discern.
This is pure marketing. Not the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. But, as they say in America, there is a fool born everyday!’. I plead guilty to this sin, of having myself, believed that God can be bought for money. While it is true how some men and women of God comforted me in my mistake/sin saying that God knows my heart when I gave, I do believe He wishes me to make public record of my foolishness so others are not led astray and are wise with their widow’s mite.
Never in the Bible have I ever seen a true prophet or man of God take money in this way in the name of the God He serves. In fact read what happens in 2 Kings 5 and how the true prophets of God , like Elisha, conducted themselves in old testament ministry. But this is all besides the point, false prophets and their false God, is not what I am concerned with. I am in America because God brought me here, I will remain in America as long as He sustains my family and I here, my purpose here is to merely exhort Christians/Catholics to pray the psalms, receive Holy Communion and request God transform us from day to day.
All else will follow. God bless you all for taking the time to read my blog. I also ask you for your prayers for my family and I, that God would continue to lead us and that we would line up with God’s Word, allowing His words to be a lamp unto our feet.
One last note, my Hindu mother-in-law in Malaysia having encountered certain wealthy American Christian ministries in Malaysia, asked me a very pertinent and astute question, causing me to ponder my faith and inspiring me to write these blogs. She asked of these ‘new’ churches that gather in hotel conference rooms, “No Mary, No Joseph, No Jesus,” what Christianity is that?”. What indeed.