I read through the hard copy edition of the City Pages recently, especially paying attention to the Mac Hammond story.
The City Pages piece is a hard hitting indictment of what is really happening at the Living Word Christian Center led by Mac Hammond.
"God says the only way to get out from under financial pressure is to give, to tithe," he explains. "You may feel like you do not have enough to support your family, but it's just the opposite. Adversity, trials, tests, the crown of life—you must keep tithing through these tests of faith."
"Some people stop when it appears tithing hasn't paid off," he clucks. "But if you keep believing unto death, the crown will be yours. Financial adversity is a test of Satan to abandon the practice of giving and tithing. Do it anyway and you will get the crown."
Financial adversity is a test of Satan? So when a family goes into debt because of a catastrophic health event, or a job loss, its a test of Satan and one should continue to give the full tithe?
More than $24 million in contributions in 2004, earning more than $450,000 a week!
We all know Hammond is the pastor that endorsed Bachmann from the pulpit earlier this year.
The City Pages piece goes into further detail. While Hammond and the church are staunchly conservative, the church is a "gospel of prosperity, the perfect marriage of God and the almighty dollar."
"Next Pastor Lynne asks if the person present with the metal plate in their skull would step forward. A teenage girl approaches the stage. Lynne puts a hand on her forehead and shouts, "No, no more, no more surgeries. Be healed." She broadens the call to anyone with metal in their bodies. "No," she commands each, "no more."
"Some remain standing, but when she takes her hands off others, they crumple to the floor. A small squad of male ushers in blue blazers trails her, catching anyone who collapses. Some get up within a minute or two; when they don't, women ushers come around with blankets to cover them up."
Benny Hinn anyone?
"It's time to talk about obedience," she says, "and that means the offering."
According to Living Word's annual report, last year it spent $14 million on salaries for 263 full-time and 118 part-time staffers. Among them are the Hammonds and their sons, John Hammond, who is in charge of the church's multimedia programs, and Jim Hammond, who heads the family ministries. Both Hammond daughters-in-law are fixtures in Living Word's various publications and missionary activities. Unlike other nonprofits, the church does not have to disclose what it pays its top earners.
Yet, many conservatives, including Representative Seifert (House minority leader) were outraged that MPR and other non-profits did not have to disclose what they pay their employee's. As a matter of fact, they sought legislation to do so.
Hammond is pretty clear on the point in a pamphlet titled, "Winning in Your Finances: How to Walk God's Pathway of Prosperity": "Do we use our excess money to purchase a bag of groceries for someone that can't afford any food?" he asks. "Do you fill up someone's car with gas? Do we slip him a $20 bill when you shake his hand? Though these are all charitable things to do, they will not, however, meet the greatest need in a person's life. No amount of money can purchase a man's salvation. No amount of money can purchase a healing. The only thing that meets human need on every level consistently and permanently is the Word of God. So consequently, the seed that you have left over is best used to get the Word of God into the hearts of others."
In other words, disregard the poor and needy. Give your money to Mac Hammond and you will be saved!
I am a spiritual man. I was deeply distrubed by what I read in the City Pages. Surely some will call it a liberal rag, and that is fine with me. Similiar to Krakauer's account of Fundamentalist Mormon's in "Under the Banner of Heaven".
I still wonder what the IRS is going to do about Hammond's endorsement of Bachmann...