Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why does David Brooks like prosperity gospel cult churches best?

New York Post, which seems to think on Brooksian lines, says the sexiest congregation in New York is the 7 PM Mass at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral. Photo by Stephen Yang.

Because they have the cutest congregations! I'm not even kidding:
the polls now suggest Millennials are becoming disaffected from religion, and I get that. But as I go around, especially to cities, I see just an exploding religion that, believe me, is deeply religious but the opposite of Trumpism.
Say, pick New York City. There is a burgeoning supply of these churches, these Trinity Grace churches that are all around the city. There’s C3 churches, which I went to one in Williamsburg in Brooklyn a few months ago, and every beautiful hipster in New York seemed to be at that church. If you wanted to be where the cool crowd was, that church was it. And the Redeemer plants that are spreading.
The beautiful hipsters at C3 are by design; that's how they started advertising themselves, when they got to New York. But they've got a good more in common with Trumpism than you might imagine, since they're an outlet of C3 Global Church, a network of more than 300 churches in 64 countries preaching the Prosperity Gospel; as Trump promises if you vote for him you'll start winning, so much you'll get bored with winning, so churches of the C3 type, founded in Sydney by New Zealander Phil Pringle (like the Hillsong movement on which it's more or less modeled, strangely enough also started in Australia by a Kiwi immigrant, Brian Houston), promises if you spend enough on the church (calculate your tithe on your before-tax income, please), you'll be rewarded with financial success, as Pringle writes in his Keys to Financial Excellence (what a title, huh, for a book by the leader of a Christian denomination):

How Trumpian can you get, with that breakthrough in the heavens that will bring us such blessings in our lives we "won't be able to contain them!" (Lots more on Hillsong and C3 at this link.)

Brooks probably isn't aware of this, because he's literally not interested in what a given religious movement believes, he's interested in its looks: specifically how it "radiates" its goodness and joy, the feeling good about yourself that Brooks longs to experience. That's why he's so fixated on radical figures like Dorothy Day or Pope Francis whose political views are complete anathema to him, as we've noted before.

He did it again, maybe more openly and thoroughly than I've seen him do in that same theological radio show we were looking at last week:
DR. BROOKS: I was once writing in a newspaper column. I was griping about how hard it was to get people to be good by my lectures to them in my classroom, and I got an email from a guy named Dave Jolly who is a veterinarian in Oregon. He said, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives. What gets communicated is the small gestures and the whole totality of their being, that is to say the small gestures of kindness, of grace, of honesty, of hard truth-telling.” And then he says, “Never forget the message is the person.” And those words rang in — because we deal in the words all the time, but those sentences, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives,” and, “The message is the person,” struck me as profoundly true.
E.J. knows intra-Catholic Church politics better than I do, but with Pope Francis, to me, “The message is the person.” We know a guy. I think you know Monsignor Ray East in D.C., just a joyous person who looks for the Good News in people and just treats each day and each problem with a sense of graciousness and joy. I know a rabbi named Meir Soloveichik on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the same spirit, and it seems to me what religion guides us towards is not necessarily policies but certain ways of being just by valuing them. 
So you can ignore everything Francis says about the redistribution of income to the poor and focus on his sweet smile. Religion isn't about ideas of love and justice, goodness and truth, it's about making David Brooks happy.

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