Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Morris the fraud

Dear Hannah,

Now, I wouldn't consider myself an enemy of Robert Morris, but I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the things that come out of his face.  A short while ago I heard his sermon about speaking in tongues, when he said something I've never heard before in my entire life: that people who begin speaking in tongues aren't immediately fluent in them.

I strongly doubt that anyone has ever spoken in tongues, but even if they really did, there's no account of anyone in the Bible doing it, and then their friends wondering about an accent.  And certainly we can agree that if someone is speaking the language of heaven by divine power, that God Himself is capable of making him speak it fluently the first time.  Accents are a sign of human ignorance; they only exist because humans haven't quite learned how to say something correctly -- and in order to learn a language, we have to hear it first.  On the contrary, speaking in tongues has nothing to do with either hearing or learning: if we spoke tongues by learning, then speaking in tongues wouldn't be magical: it would simply be speaking in another language, and every serious Christian would speak the language not by divine intervention, but by habit (it should also seem slightly suspicious that everyone can speak in tongues, and nobody can write in them).  This should make us wonder where Morris is getting his information.  Christians have been heard frequently saying that the Holy Spirit moves them like the wind blows the leaves; it should be fairly obvious that Morris's sermons are supplied by his own breeze.  The only way Morris's wind could be any more offensive, is if it was coming from his rear-end instead of his mouth.

Had this been Morris's only mistake, I could have overlooked it: we all say stupid things one time or another.  But he felt it was a good idea to go further -- if anything further than proving yourself to be a fraudulent magician is possible.  And I say this because, shortly after hearing him talk about divine accents, I turned my television on to catch a bit of Sunday preaching, and heard him say that an actual spirit lies on every single bit of money -- and not even physical money, but even on electronic bank accounts.  He went further to say that this spirit was mammon itself -- mammon, which by a simple dictionary search can be proven an Aramaic word for riches --, a spirit which causes our funds to be depleted unless we reserve a ten percent deduction for churches exactly like his.  Generous magical blessings were promised for those who fund their local parish, naturally.  It should be remembered that Robert Morris preaches at one of the most prominent churches in America, and that he publicly defended another swindler named Mark Driscoll.

This is the interesting thing about religion: in a mystical religion like Christianity -- and never let anyone convince you that Christianity is supposed to be anything other than mystical, if taken seriously -- it should seem extremely suspicious that everyone is claiming to be inspired, and so few Christians are actually inspiring.  A religion in which everyone is getting great ideas first-hand from God Himself should at the very least be populated by people with extremely good taste, if not people with extremely great talents.  But we more often find the opposite to be true. Not only are Christians giving stupid messages, like that the US Constitution was based on the Bible or that God only saves poor people, but a lot of their best minds are spent repeating them.  I fully expect errors from men; whether we're atheists or fundies has nothing to do with whether we make mistakes.  What I don't expect is that people supposedly indwelt by God Himself should pay so many bad preachers to speak for Him.

If the Holy Spirit gave us half the preachers in the United States -- and I'm being generous -- then who's inspiring men like Samuel Johnson or Montaigne or Benjamin Franklin, who actually have a great message, and aren't officially speaking in God's place?  I suppose that Christians have already ceded mastery of the arts to the Dark Prince; but it's a mystery to me why this is the way anything has to be.  Satan has the best music, and Satan has the best movies.  You'd think God would have the upper hand in artistry, considering He created springtime and women.  The way things have turned out, maybe He thinks there's nothing left to prove, and left it up to us to prove ourselves, and everyone on Satan's team is cheating by getting a helping hand. 

I don't mean to be too hard on preachers and churches: the truth is that even if we have to put up with some idiotic preachers, the church is really one of the only institutions in the Western world, other than a good home, where people are likely to get solid and frequent moral instruction.  It's one of the only places in the world where, once a week, you can show up and hear a message about keeping your word, being kind to your wife, and not being a judgmental prick; and one of the few communities where people are likely to hold you to it.  Politicians force people to feed the poor; churches guide them to do it voluntarily, and in great numbers.  People who get caught up in the abortion or gay marriage issues, whether they are right or wrong, miss this aspect entirely.  In more sensible times, we used to say that while government policed men's bodies, churches policed their consciences, something which I believe is true today as it was yesterday.  In our age, when moral accountability can't come from schools in any serious degree, and moral instruction comes from Hollywood far more frequently and much more wrongly, and talk radio has far more to do with slandering people than building them, church is more vital an institution than ever. 

Even a man like Morris has his merits.  One time I saw him give a sermon about how the image of God wasn't in man, but in man and woman together -- in other words, in marriage.  Saying this may be only partially untrue, even if you only mean image of God in a metaphorical sense; as in, the thing that makes us divine.  After all, humanity isn't defined by the way we look: we're defined by how we relate; and how we relate is proved, in great part, by how we marry and treat our spouses.  If God is a multipersonal being, like the Trinitarians suggest, then certainly a marriage could be the closest thing available to His image.

Morris may be reading too much into the book of Genesis.  He may be doing something as ridiculous as saying that the intended message of the movie Brave is that little girls turn beautiful women into fat angry bears -- which may be an accidentally true message, statistically, but unfair to impute to a Pixar director.  If he's wrong about the image of God, maybe he's right about the image of man -- maybe more right than most modern philosophers.  Hitler called men subhumans because of the way they behave, which is exactly the same reason we called Hitler a monster.  Nearly everything about us is defined by how we treat one another.  If each of us was left alone on a desert island, we might call ourselves industrious; but we would have lost our tenderness or our treachery.  I have a feeling that if the dolphins were to suddenly grow feet and begin talking about kindness and justice like us, we'd begin to call them human; just like so many of us -- whatever we pretend -- begin to question the humanity of people who are too severely retarded or too comatose to act.  And if we begin to say this opinion out loud, some people begin to question whether or not we're humane, which doesn't have much to do with our intelligence or our appearance, but with our kindness, our foresight, our conscience; with our protection of the weak.

Morris is an idiot when it comes to speaking in tongues, perhaps only slightly worse than the many of the Charismatics we consider normal.  But he's a genius when it comes to the nature of man.  Perhaps this is the nature of genius: an inventive energy, jumping all over the line between idiocy and brilliance, but always carving a path for itself.  Either way, he proves we need to watch our pastors, like we're critical of our politicians.  We should be changing them like we change our president; but instead, we like to keep them like petty tyrants, never reminding them of the insecurity of their jobs.  The question is, whether we would lose our sense of divine authority by questioning him like any other common man.  I have a feeling most of us are afraid to challenge pastors, not really because we think he speaks for God, but because we're worried about ruining the illusion that when he speaks correctly, he might very well be. 

Morris frustrates me because he's a swindler, but he's a swindler with just enough genius to trick the superstitious -- and people love it.  They love it so much that they give him their money, instead of paying for other Christians' medical bills.  He's intelligent and obviously creative, but then again so was Charles Ponzi, responsible for the cultish and obnoxious business archetype known as multi-level marketing.   Morris's ingenuity ruins the great purpose behind the conscience police, and he disgraces the greatest religion in charge of it.  And worse than all of these, he disgraces a wonderful Person. The institution is good, alongside the Founder who made it; it is our pastors and our parishioners who must be held accountable, the former for their irreverence, the latter for their willful ignorance and reckless complacency.  Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest theologians Protestantism ever produced, lost his church because of a question over Holy Communion.  Morris should have lost his when it was found he was faking the language of God.

This brings to mind another liar I've known for a few years, who'd convinced me that an old grumpy Norwegian man -- whom we'll call Rolf -- was married to a gigantic black woman.  Imagine my surprise when I expected her to be one, but then looked up to see an old, small, white lady in front of me.  It was at this moment that I knew I'd been conned -- although I didn't know it was by The Great Untrustworthy.

But Rolf knew; he guessed as soon as I guessed wrong about the liar's identity.  He knew The Great Untrustworthy tricked me, and he knew it because the man who convinced me that Rolf was married to a giant black woman was the same man who convinced a horde of Frenchman that Rolf was a Native American, and the same man who convinced an old lady that Rolf was an axe murderer.  I found this out because as soon as I was laughing about Rolf''s wife, another person stepped forward and told me about how he'd been convinced Rolf was a DJ.  A witness coming forward, this snowball became an avalanche, and I came to the profound realization, first, that being conned isn't necessarily a bad thing, and second, that there are very different kinds of liars out there, and aside from insincere lovers, I dislike the religious ones the most.

I share no religion with The Great Untrustworthy, but he isn't conning widows out of their money; and he isn't disgracing a noble religion, and he isn't giving me trust issues, because nothing bad ever came out of his lies.  I enjoyed being conned -- truly enjoyed it.  I hope he cons me again.  I know the Bible says Christians are our brothers and sisters, and they're our brothers and sisters even if they're rotten; but how can men have brotherhood in metaphysics, and leave out reason and justice and honesty?  You would think it would be the other way around -- that men would kill each other over conning widows, and be friends with the guy who disagrees about the Trinity.  If Jesus saves, and salvation makes us brothers, then so be it -- it is God's decision.  But sometimes it's better for brothers to live in different parts of the country, and for heathens to share a common roof.

Your father,

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