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Sunday morning

God spoke to me this morning, and He said, “Michael, you better not say anything snarky or dismissive about that article in today’s New York Times Magazine about American evangelicals who are establishing Christian businesses, performing faith healings in banks, conducting Bible study in the Centers for Disease Control, praying with real estate clients that they get a good price for their home, and so on.” God also said, “you know, it’s not at all weird that so many people think that I speak directly to them.  In fact, if you read the article carefully, you’ll find that ‘some workplace Bible-study groups . . . feature training in how to distinguish between God’s voice and random thoughts.’ So it’s not as if people are just making stuff up and attributing it to Me.”

I said, “But God, if You’re really God and not some random thoughts in my head, don’t You already know if I’m going to say anything snarky or dismissive about these people?”

He smote me then, and let me tell you, that “smiting” is some serious shit.  It’s way worse than “smacking around” or “walloping,” that’s for sure.

So I’m not going to say anything about these people or their businesses or their beliefs.  I just have an innocent question about the inspirational painting on the office wall of Riverview Community Bank president Duane Kropuenske, which is reproduced on the Magazine‘s front cover.  The painting is titled “Unending Riches” (you can check it out here for a better view) and it’s a portrait of Jesus standing with two businessmen in what is clearly an executive office.  In the background is a generic cityscape, framed in a large window.  The businessman on the right seems to be introducing the businessman on the left to Christ, who’s shaking hands and wearing white robes.

OK, so check out what’s on the wall behind the shoulder of the guy on the left.  It’s another inspirational painting of some kind!  Have you ever seen anything like this before?  A piece of inspirational workplace art that includes, in a mise en abyme, another piece of inspirational workplace art?  It’s too weird. And more important, why would this particular office need an inspirational painting in the first place?  I mean, Jesus Christ Himself works for them!! They’ve already got the power of the Almighty right there, standing behind the desk with the laptop-- what more do they need?? Are you trying to tell me that even the firm that employs the Son of God has to festoon its office walls with “motivational” posters?

I just think that’s blasphemous.

Posted by on 10/31 at 09:50 AM
  1. My condolences on your smiting.  I’ve been smitten once or twice, and it is always a bittersweet experience.  Or was that something else…

    You have to admit, the painting within the painting does fit in with the protestant/capitalist themes of the painting proper.  Who knows, perhaps the two men are having some kind of consecration ceremony for the painting, and Jesus is the guest of honor.  After the hand shaking is done, I imagine he’ll mutter something along the lines of “My name is Jesus H. Christ, and I approved this painting”, he’ll turn some water into wine, and they’ll all drink and be merry.  Of course, since being a businessman and being merry is a combination that is generally frowned upon in corporate America, the whole occasion must have been conveniently arranged to coincide with Christmas, the merriest of all holidays, all the more convenient since Christ himself is present.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think there is a beautiful synergy at work here.

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  01:59 PM
  2. Chris’s comment got me curious, so I took a look at the painting as well.  What I’ve learned is that the riches that come from Christianity are not some abstract sense of doing right, it’s actual cash money.  Jesus is going to introduce you to the right people, and their last name just might be Mellon-Scaife.

    This is a lot more concrete than the snake oil that Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King were selling.

    Posted by alt hippo  on  10/31  at  02:16 PM
  3. Hmmm. Judging by the picture, Jesus must’ve settled that moneychagers bruhaha out of court.

    Ba dump bump. And this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “praying to the porcelain gods.”

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  02:32 PM
  4. People all over the web lately have been writing “You can’t make this shit up” so much, that I’m robbed of the only response that makes sense.  Over at The Poor Man, he’s got a photo of a sign some ostensible Christian is carrying that has “Jesus”, Bush”, and pix of war weapons all cobbled together.  And this is not meant to be sarcastic.
    A truly American version of Christianity...Christo-Capitalist Calvinism.  From the snake-handling tent revivalists of the late 1880’s to the radio miracle workers to the Oral Robertses of today, these people have been using religion as a cash cow for centuries now, with a healthy dollop of militarism thrown in to scare the pagans. How convenient to espouse a theology that not only winks at greed and aggression, but encourages it as blessed.  And anyone who crosses you can be consigned to hell for eternity.
    What a deal!

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  03:00 PM
  5. Hang in there, baby, Friday’s coming!

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/31  at  04:18 PM
  6. That would be Good Friday, right?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/31  at  04:35 PM
  7. "In the event of Rapture, the staff meeting will be moved to Thursday.”

    “You don’t have to be the Incarnate Logos of God to work here, but it helps.”

    “What part of ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani’ don’t you understand?”

    Posted by Delicious Pundit  on  10/31  at  07:15 PM
  8. Maybe the inspirational poster on the wall within the inspirational poster consists of that exact same scene—Jesus kickin’ it with the dudes in Accounting—and within THAT poster is another inspirational poster of the exact same scene, and so on and so on.

    That just blew my mind.

    Now excuse me while I pray to the Lord Almightly that Miami covers the spread tomorrow night.

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  07:29 PM
  9. Shades of Father Purdon! That article made me go reread Joyce’s story “Grace.” Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

    Posted by The Eradicator!  on  10/31  at  07:48 PM
  10. Yeah, I read the NYT story, too. And what a piece of crap it was - just incredibly irresponsible. It’s a typical example of the Times bending over backwards so as not to offend the (Christian) right. In the process, the reporter put the best possible spin on the “Christian workplace” issue, and refused to ask *any* of the hard questions that such a movement raises.

    There are four main issues the reporter completely ignored:

    1. The article mentions a dramatic increase in the number of lawsuits by people alleging workplace discrimination because of their religious beliefs. Yet it does not give details about even one such case! The banker who is profiled in the piece claims he doesn’t discriminate, and none of the employees the writer spoke to alleged discrimination, so the writer acts like discrimination is not an issue. That’s very flattering and convenient for the evangelicals, but it certainly does not seem like a very accurate or balanced portrayal of reality.

    2. What do Christian businesspeople do when their Christian faith demands one thing, but profit-maximizing business practices require another? This is one of the first questions that came to my mind while reading the article, but, to my astonishment, it wasn’t even asked! I have the feeling that the guy profiled in the article would deny that there ever is such a conflict - he really seems that deluded. But still, the question needed to be asked, not just of the business owner, but of employees and customers as well.

    3. Another question is, what about politics? I’m assuming these evangelical business types are far-right conservatives in the tank with Bush. And I wondered if these “Christian workplaces” not only proselytized religion, but proselytized politics as well. But again, the subject of politics was nowhere in the article - probably because the writer wanted to paint a “positive,” oh-so-tolerant portrait of these folks, and didn’t want to bring up a subject that might make the Times’largely secular, politically moderate readership uncomfortable. Because if readers were reminded of what kind of fanatical right-to-lifers and homo-hating freaks these evangelicals (probably) are, they might not feel that the “Christian” workplace is such a benign institution.

    4. Finally, what about discrimination against women? This is a very real issue, since many evangelicals discourage women from working outside the home. (And they tend to fetishize stay-at-home moms, especially the ones that homeschool their kids). Patriarchal ideology is an explicit part of many evangelical sects, such as the Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God. So how do “Christian workplaces” treat their female employees? Do they obey laws banning sex discrimination? I am really very curious about this, but you won’t find the answer in the article - again, the question is not ever addressed. Interestingly, the writer did point out that a meeting of the owners of Christian businesses was made up entirely of men. But he didn’t go the next step, and ask the obvious questions about sex discrimination. And as for possible discrimination against gay people - well, he never even came close to going there. Though unfortunately, antigay employment discrimination is perfectly legal in much of the U.S.

    Overall, yet another disgraceful performance by the Times. Who the hell edits that shit? The story was a sanitized and disturbingly uncritical take on an unsettling new movement. Michael, thanks for your wonderful blog and for the opportunity to rant at such length. Because of the understandable focus on the election, a lot of people will probably ignore this article. But what it suggests about evangelical Christianity as a social phenomenon, and the Times as a journalistic institution, is troubling.

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  08:19 PM
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    Posted by  on  10/31  at  08:23 PM
  12. The other inspirational poster?  That’s for the Jews.  And if you’re running a business always helps to have some fo them around in accounting or maybe as a lawyer.

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  08:38 PM
  13. My condolences to the customers of the Riverview Community Bank in advance for the many lawsuits in which they’ll find themselves engulfed in the coming years (or months.)

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  09:47 PM
  14. I just got the training to distinguish random thoughts from God’s voice. The really interesting thing is how horny God is.

    Posted by  on  11/01  at  03:58 AM
  15. No kidding, Lagarita!  God is hornier than Beavis and Butthead combined-- check out this item, also from the Sunday Times:

    “CRAIG GROSS and Mike Foster, two young pastors from California, were looking for direction when one day in 2001, Mr. Foster said, God came to him in the shower and said one word: ‘Pornography.’ Mr. Foster, 33, said he did not often get such visits, and so he treated it as a divine calling. Since it came with no further instructions, the two reasoned that it was up to them to figure out what to do next.”

    The article does not say whether God was wielding a loofa or a felafel at the time.

    A big thanks to Hayward Gatling for providing me with a quasi-divine sense of direction on this one!

    Posted by Michael  on  11/01  at  04:22 AM
  16. "You’re doing some good work here, Jesus, but I think you’re taking the Casual Friday thing a bit too far.”

    Posted by  on  11/01  at  05:26 AM
  17. Casual Friday toga aside, the office (Halliburton’s?) seems to have also waived their grooming policies for the Son of God.

    Posted by  on  11/01  at  05:45 AM
  18. the mise en abyme exposes the whole pyramid scheme of the evangelical right.  and reinforces how tied to money the whole scheme/scam is in an even more patent way than the executive-office theophany.

    the painting in the painting, and i am sure there’s another painting, and another, and another, all the way back to the original painting by the unpainted painter, is the material trace that explains the wealth that goes into the bank. 

    it’s not just evangelize...it’s you can evangelize even more effectively after taking my 500$ course.  it’s not just learn to discern God’s voice, (click here)it’s take my course on prophecy and learn to discern.

    Posted by  on  11/01  at  06:32 AM
  19. I don’t suppose references to worshipping golden calves and stuff like that make any inroads with these kinds of Christians

    Posted by  on  11/01  at  07:57 AM
  20. Hi,
    What effect could the higher rates at Second National have on the people who want to borrow at Community Bank?Can anyone please tell me?

    Posted by Best Bank Interest Rates  on  09/16  at  04:41 AM
  21. Lovely content! I’m assuming these evangelical business types are far-right conservatives in the tank with Bush. Thanks!

    Posted by Mike Robinson  on  03/20  at  01:36 AM
  22. I mean, Jesus Christ Himself works for them!! They’ve already got 70-515 test the power of the Almighty right there, standing behind the 70-682 test desk with the laptop-- what more do they need?? Are you trying to tell me that 70-542 test even the firm that employs the Son of God has to festoon its office walls with “motivational” posters?

    Posted by  on  07/09  at  03:06 AM
  23. Dean Richardson is a great artist.

    Posted by oil paintings  on  09/09  at  04:54 AM
  24. Let’s not be judgmental. People pray because they know they need help and cannot do it on their own.

    Posted by Shine  on  10/14  at  10:08 AM
  25. I like your concept but i can’t say anything. Everyone believe in god and they know that god not help them but they have a faith in god.

    Posted by corporate bond rates  on  11/18  at  02:37 AM
  26. It’s true...if we just keep still and keep quiet and pray, we can hear God’s voice.

    Posted by Nicole  on  04/24  at  04:08 AM
  27. i used to stick motivational posters on my room’s wall during the exam times , it helped me a lot .

    Posted by best kind of life  on  06/07  at  05:42 AM
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    Posted by business opportunity  on  07/18  at  08:37 AM
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  30. Hey, it is nice conversation in between you and your God. I would like to do conversation with God. Keep sharing !!

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