There's something about the holiday season that makes me particularly intolerant of religious fraud. With all the good will and good works going on, I hate to see scoundrels and shysters hijacking the season for their own self-serving purposes.
So it was with considerable disgust that I watched a clip from the inimitable Jack Van Impe's TV broadcast last night.
For those who don't know him, Van Impe (and his wife, the impossibly named Rexella) host a TV ministry that masquerades as a news show but in reality uses the daily headlines as a pretext for predicting the Second Coming of Christ. Every week it's the same thing: whether it's crashing stock markets or raging wildfires, everything is interpreted as evidence of Christ's imminent return.
So what's so bad about that, you ask? Let's put it in context. I'm an English professor; one of my principal responsibilities is to help my students improve their writing. If I were to promise that their writing would improve, then sit back and do absolutely nothing to help them, then--when their writing did not improve--promise yet more fervently that it would, I'd be out of work. My wife is a social worker; if she promised that her clients would get better, then did nothing to achieve that end, then promised despite all the evidence to the contrary that they'd get better, she too would be out of work. That's the way it is in the real world: whether you're a doctor, a lawyer, a garbage collector, or a plumber, you promise your clients that you'll use your expertise to achieve certain ends, and you're judged a success or a failure based on how well you help them achieve those ends.
And then there's Jack Van Impe. His livelihood consists of making promises he's in no way qualified, prepared, or even inclined to fulfill--and then, when his promises amount to nothing, he makes more promises of the exact same kind. Unlike most ministers, whose job is to minister--to comfort the afflicted, to officiate at religious services, to make the world a somewhat better place--he sits there raking in the bucks by making promises that are in their very nature dedicated not to improving the world but to wishing the world away. And the more those promises go sour, the more he promises they'll come true.
The Bible has a lot to say about false prophets. In the Old Testament, we read: "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." And in the New, there's this piece of wisdom: "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping."
If and when Christ does return, I hope that's one promise he'll keep.