27 March 2007

Theologian Daniel Maguire Reprimanded by U.S. Bishops

Catholic News Service reports that Marquette University Catholic theologian Daniel C. Maguire has been "publicly corrected" on his "erroneous" position on gay marriage and reproductive issues.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The "mistaken views" on contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and other church teachings expressed in two 2006 pamphlets by Marquette University theology professor Daniel C. Maguire "should not be confused with the faith and moral teaching of the Catholic Church," the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine said.


Maguire, a theology professor at the Jesuit-run university in Milwaukee since the early 1970s, said the bishops "stuck to their obsession with sexual and reproductive matters" in the committee statement and ignored his call in a letter accompanying the pamphlets for greater episcopal attention to issues such as the war in Iraq, the environment, poverty, racism and sexism.


In a response to Maguire, Archbishop Dolan [of Milwaukee] said his views "are totally at odds with clear church teaching ... in opposition to abortion and so-called same-sex marriage."

"You speak of your duty to dissent. Well, at least call it such," the archbishop added. "To claim that support for abortion and same-sex 'marriage' is consonant with Catholic moral teaching is preposterous and disingenuous."

This following the recent "notification" sent to liberation theologian Fr. Jon Sobrino concerning his christology.

Dolan's comments may seem harsher than the USCCB's reprimand, but at least the archbishop takes Maguire's position seriously. The USCCB phrased their objection in terms of Maguire's apparent "mistaken views," implying that he doesn't really know what he's saying.

The two pamphlets circulated by Maguire are A Catholic Defense of Same Sex Marriage and The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion.

Interview with Rowan Williams

The BBC has a fairly good interview with Archbishop Rowan Williams of the Anglican Communion. John Humphrys, the interviewer, addresses questions such as: "How is faith possible in a world of suffering, much of it arguably caused by religion or religious extremism and to which God seems to turn a blind eye? Is there a place for religion in an age dominated by science?"

23 March 2007

Heaven's Gate

The L.A. Times has a series of video clips of Marshall Applegate in honor of the recent anniversary of the Heaven's Gate suicides.

In my search for full versions of the HG tapes, I found a trailer for a documentary called "Heaven's Gate Cult Speaks: Mass Suicide." It looks more even-handed than expected, but (unfortunately) Sergio Myers, the documentary maker, own all the rights to hours and hours of pre-suicide film—the most valuable records of all.

One of the ex-members interviewed for the film said something to the effect of, "I wish people would focus on the 20+ years before the suicides." If you want to understand something like Heaven's Gate or People's Temple, you need to know what happened before the event that seems to defy understanding. It's too bad that Myers won't release the tapes to the public so that others can try to understand what happened.

The Weekly also has a decent story about HG, and you can always examine the HG website itself which is still in the condition it was in immediately after the suicides.

21 March 2007

Gervais on Genesis

Ricky Gervais Genesis exegesis.

Protein Drink Shaking Up Problems for Robertson

From the Virginian-Pilot:

NORFOLK - A lawsuit nearing trial has opened a rare window into the inner workings of Pat Robertson‘ s Virginia Beach-based media empire.

At the heart of the case is an issue that has bedeviled Robertson repeatedly over the years: the fuzzy line between his tax-exempt operations and his profit-making ventures.

The lawsuit accuses Robertson of abusing his tax-exempt status by using the resources of his nonprofit TV ministry to promote a commercial product - a high-protein diet shake.

Nonsense, the televangelist has responded: The shake was a totally separate venture, not related in any way to his Christian Broadcasting Network.

Now a trail of e-mails and other internal correspondence, dating back more than a year before the lawsuit, indicates that Robertson and other CBN executives were closely involved in the development of the shake venture.

In one letter addressed to nutrition-store managers, the broadcaster referred to the “built-in demand” he had generated for the shake and pledged to keep hawking it on his daily TV show, “The 700 Club.”

Other documents show that CBN produced a TV commercial for the shake. There was even talk of taking the product into the China market.

John Colombo, an expert on tax-exempt organizations at the University of Illinois College of Law, said the case raises questions about tax-law compliance.

“It seems to me that arguably, CBN was inappropriately conferring benefits on Pat Robertson as a result of giving him free advertising and free exposure for his product,” Colombo said. “If they’re giving away stuff to Pat Robertson that they shouldn’t be giving away, then that’s a problem.”

If the Internal Revenue Service found that to be the case, he said, it could levy an excise tax on Robertson for receiving excess benefits from CBN.

Robertson’s far-flung ventures have posed tax issues for years.

In 1990, CBN spun off its family-friendly TV channel after it became so large and lucrative that it risked the wrath of the IRS, which prohibits businesses from becoming bigger than their non profit parents.

In 1997, pilots for Robertson’s tax-exempt humanitarian organization said its planes were used almost exclusively for the evangelist’s African diamond mining operation, sparking an investigation by state charity regulators.

Robertson began promoting his “age-defying” diet shake on “The 700 Club” in 2001, offering to send the recipe free to any viewer who asked for it. He says more than 1.5 million people have requested the long list of ingredients, which includes such items as safflower oil, protein powder and vinegar.

One of those people was Phillip Busch, a Texas bodybuilder. Busch contacted CBN in the spring of 2005 with astounding news: He had lost nearly 200 pounds drinking the shake.

Robertson showed Busch’s dramatic before-and-after photos on “The 700 Club,” and they were incorporated into a TV spot that was aired on the show 20 times over the next few weeks. In July, CBN flew Busch to Virginia Beach for a live “700 Club” interview with Robertson.

Meanwhile, Busch says, he discovered that Robertson’s shake had been turned into a commercial product - a ready-to-mix powder in a can - and was being sold by General Nutrition Corp., a Pittsburgh-based health-food chain.

Busch sued Robertson, CBN, GNC and several related entities, claiming the broadcaster used his image for a commercial purpose without compensating him.

A central allegation in the case is that Robertson and CBN conspired to promote the commercial shake using CBN’s tax-exempt resources in violation of federal tax law - in other words, that they built a market for the product on airtime paid for by CBN donors and then cashed in on it.

In a variety of forums since then, Robertson and other CBN executives have insisted that the shake promoted on the nonprofit network and the ready-to-mix product sold in GNC stores are separate.

They are “two very discrete ventures,” Louis Isakoff, a CBN attorney, told The Virginian-Pilot just after the lawsuit was filed.

In a sworn affidavit a month later, John Turver, CBN’s vice president of marketing, said the pre-packaged mix “is not involved in any way with CBN or ‘The 700 Club.’ ”

Robertson himself, in a sworn deposition last month, addressed the issue squarely: “I want to say, categorically, that CBN had no relation with GNC whatsoever.”

He was asked: “So if I am understanding this correctly… the shake on CBN… and Pat’s Diet Shake are two different shakes?”

“Correct. Correct,” Robertson replied. Elaborating later, he characterized the GNC product as “a shake that was put together, high protein, available in commercial stores, that we did not have anything to do with.”

But e-mails and other correspondence that have become part of the court record suggest an intertwining of the two dating to March 2004.

That’s when Dave Hawk, a Pittsburgh bodybuilder who identified himself as new projects director for GNC and soy producer The Solae Co., e-mailed CBN asking to speak with a Robertson associate.

Robertson’s assistant, G.G. Conklin, forwarded the e-mail to attorney Isakoff with the comment: “I’m wondering if he’s interested in packaging Pat’s Age-Defying Shake? That would be interesting.”

Isakoff responded: “I think we should follow up on this. GNC is big.”

Days later, after talking to Hawk, Isakoff reported back to Conklin: “He thinks there is a market for Pat’s recipes.”

Soon Philippe Ballet, an account manager at St. Louis-based Solae, submitted a proposal on “how Solae could help CBN to launch a nutritional product line.”

As Hawk explained in a June e-mail: “This concept would expand to other products that… could be sold similar to ‘Newman’s Own’ products.”

By December, a contract had been drafted.

“I think we are very close on the contract and I just need Pat’s approval,” Isakoff wrote Hawk. “He is exceptionally excited about this, and ready to move forward. Let’s Go!”

Robertson has described the deal in court papers as an agreement in which he licensed the use of his name and shake recipe to the manufacturer. Details of his compensation have not been spelled out.

In an undated letter addressed to GNC store managers and franchise owners, Robertson wrote that 750,000 CBN viewers had requested information about his diet and exercise program:

“In addition to our already built-in demand, I will continue to talk about my ‘Weight Loss Challenge’ and Pat’s Diet Shake on regular weekly national television broadcasts.”

In April 2005, the same month Busch’s before-and-after photos were first displayed on “The 700 Club,” CBN produced a TV spot for the new product featuring a “spokesmodel” narrator.

The script made no attempt to differentiate between the nonprofit and for-profit products: “Thousands of people are already losing weight with Pat’s Diet Shake, and now all the wholesome ingredients that went into Pat’s original recipe have been concentrated into one easy-to-make shake.”

That spring, while one spot featuring Busch’s photos was aired on “The 700 Club” to promote Robertson’s nonprofit weight-loss program, the “spokesmodel” spot for the commercial shake was airing immediately before the program on many stations.

In May, Ballet e-mailed Turver with a bold idea: “Now, thinking ahead of the curve here, I remember you saying that Dr. Pat Robertson is very famous in China as well. Are you interested in the Chinese market for these products?”

Turver forwarded the message to Isakoff, who replied: “Why not China? If we are doing so, we will need to file for patent and trademark protection.”

Robertson’s patent application was filed a week later.

Busch’s lawsuit was filed in September 2005. In February 2006, three of the defendants - GNC, Hawk and Basic Organics Inc., the Columbus, Ohio-based manufacturer of the ready-to-mix shake - settled out of court for $42,000.

That spring, GNC dropped the product from its shelves without explanation. It has since been picked up by another health-food chain, The Vitamin Shoppe, based in North Bergen, N.J.

The lawsuit is set for trial in April.

Sin, Morality, Moral Nihilism

On the plane back to California from Chicago, I sat next to two women in their thirties or forties. We eventually struck up a conversation and I learned that they were Evangelical Protestants coming back from a conference on kids' religious education in Chicago. At any rate, we began discussing various religious topics and I began to question them about their beliefs.

We got on the subject of sin and they maintained that all sin was the same in the eyes of God. Protestants are split on the issue, but the Catholic, orthodox position is that there is definitely some sins are more serious and damaging than others. The Catechism states: "Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience" (CCC, no. 1854).

To those two women, however, stealing a box of Milk Duds was equivalent to triple homicide. My immediate reaction was similar to the last sentence in the portion of the Catechism quoted above—"This conception of sin makes zero sense! It doesn't jibe with human experience."

I think that Protestants who equivocate sin in this way are trying to stress the gravity and seriousness of all sin. What they end up accomplishing, ironically enough, is the introduction of a strange sort of moral nihilism as a bulwark against perceived relativism. Moral nihilism denies the basis of moral truth-assertions and concludes that all moral statements are equivalent. It is precisely in equivalency where nihilism and evangelical Christianity become eerily similar in one respect: just how much it does not matter what moral choices one makes.

The result of both positions is almost the same—in the case of evangelical Christianity, if sin is inevitable, and all sin is equally evil, then it doesn't matter which sin we choose; in the case of moral nihilism, all moral positions are equally groundless and therefore equally meaningless, so (morally speaking) our choice doesn't really matter.

05 March 2007

Gays to have Their Own Mass in Westminster

The Telegraph reports that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster has agreed to provide a fortnightly Mass for practicing homosexuals.

However, traditionalists fear that by endorsing these services the Cardinal has implicitly sanctioned "sacrilegious" Masses and that it may make it far easier for practising homosexuals to take communion in church. It is also thought that the move could act as a blueprint for other dioceses to follow.


They will hold their first official service at Our Lady of the Assumption in Soho, London, next month after having met for the past eight years in an Anglican church in west London.

Anything to get even the most degenerate of Catholics away from Anglicanism ;).

Over at The Tablet, there are two articles about this semi-controversy: in favor and against.

A Response to "Five reasons why I think Christians should baptise their children"

Andy puts forth five reasons why he thinks that infant baptism is the way to go:

1. The starting point is to say that baptism itself is important. On its own, the mere splashing or pouring or immersing in water may not necessarily mean much, but what that water points to are things of profound and amazing wonder - the washing away of sin, our burial and resurrection with Christ, and the pouring of God's Spirit into our hearts.

This is all well and good for the parents, but how is an infant to understand the meaning behind baptism?

3. It is often said that there is no precedent in the New Testament of children or infants being baptised. Putting aside the various "households" being baptised that are referred to in the book of Acts, this argument misses the whole point of Acts. The book of Acts is all about new converts, the first generation of believers.

Yes, but in the martyrdom narratives (e.g. Felicitas and Polycarp, etc.), and in the early Church in general, baptism was a big deal. In some instances, catechumens would prepare for a year or more before baptism. Although the shift to infant baptism, or at least its relative prevalence, was pretty early,1 adult baptism was the norm (at least for a while) for a reason.

4. One difficulty with so-called believers baptism is our definition of "belief" or "faith". We seem to require a faith that is sufficiently mature before qualifying for baptism. Why is not the faith of a three year old who knows that Jesus is God not sufficient faith?

Oh, a sticky wicket! This is me being nice: faith is mature when the implications of belief and intellectual assent are reasonably understood. Faith is "sufficiently mature" when one understands the implications of what they adhere to; when they are able to inquire and analyze.

This is me being mean: does any Christian really understand what they are assenting to on a doctrinal level? I don't think so. Case in point: "Why is not the faith of a three year old who knows that Jesus is God not sufficient faith?" Well, 1) because three year olds do not have the mental capacity to grapple with the metaphysical messiness of statements like "Jesus is God" (such a formulation, I may point out, completely fucks up the Trinity). 2) Because faith is not verbal assent. A three year old repeats the words without knowing what faith even is.

5. But in any event, ultimately baptism is not about my choice, my decision, my faith. What I love about infant baptism is that it shifts the emphasis to God's choice, God's decision and God's faithfulness.

But if it's God's choice, then why bother with baptism at all? If it is the agency of God which does all the work, why bother?

As the rite of passage into the community of believers, baptism should have as a pre-condition the full conscious assent of the baptized. Baptism is bundled up with an agreement of sorts, an agreement to even be a Christian, an agreement to believe certain things (implicitly at least), and an agreement to be a part of a community. This being the case, adult baptism is the way to go.

1. First solid evidence of infant baptism is in the early third century (The Story of Christianity, Gonzalez, p. 97).

Refuting the Impeccable Logic of Calvinism

In many ways, the Calvinist theology of Grace is the result of a logical rigor which, despite feeling so very wrong, is (almost) entirely internally consistent. I understand this theology to be thus:

1. As a result of the Fall, Man is totally depraved.
2. Double predestination is in full effect: God actively decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.
3. If you are numbered in the Elect, it is through no merit of your own (see #1), but due to God's gratuitous Grace.
4. If you are condemned to Hell, you deserve it (see #1).
5. Christ's Atonement was only partial (see #2).

a) God can do no wrong, as he is by definition the Good.
b) God is omnipotent.
c) God is omnibenevolent.

If you admit a, b, and c, points 1-5 seem to be internally consistent. But internal consistency does not mean the system is correct. Calvin's theology of Grace, like so many others, is very much the product of a priori axioms. Even given the axioms a, b, and c, one can easily arrive at a very different theology of Grace.

For me, Calvinism poses two main problems: 1) God is unable to do wrong and, in effect, is not held to any ethical standard and, 2) Christ's sacrifice and suffering was only partially effective.

The tautology of God's righteousness defies the conception of God as "Good" in any sense that we can relate to. One asks Calvin, "Why is God's predestination of some to Hell just?" He answers, "Because he is God." This is not a real reason. God's standard of behavior may be different than ours, but if the meaning of "Good" is to retain any stability, the standards must be commensurate to our different roles and persons.

Regarding Christ's sacrifice, if it was only partial, does that mean that it was a mistake? Does it mean that God could not perform a truly efficacious sacrifice? If God had the choice (see #2 and b) between a sacrifice of full atonement and limited atonement, why (if c) would he choose the latter?

Even if internally consistent, Calvinist Grace corresponds poorly to both Scripture and to any well-adjusted person's common sense. It seems to be more of a product of a masochistic mind than a well-rounded construct.

02 March 2007

LINK: Twelve propositions on same-sex relationships and the church

Interesting analysis of same-sex relationships w/r/t Christianity.


Genesis is really great until Jacob and Esau come along. Then it's all about land and donkeys and wives and shit. Snooooore.

BUT, after all the flooding I started to skim. Apparently I missed some pretty sweet stuff:

The founding fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel lie, breach a contract, encourage pagans to convert to Judaism only in order to incapacitate them for slaughter, murder some innocents and enslave others, pillage and profiteer, and then justify it all with an appeal to their sister's defiled honor.

Sounds good! If only there were less donkeys (e.g. "Issachar is a strong donkey..." (Gen. 49:8)).

Stepping back in Genesis for a moment, I would like to call attention to Genesis, chapter 6. I have never been convinced on a common sense level by the Calvinist double standard which affords God constant moral superiority and impunity.

In Genesis 6:5-7, Wotan laments:
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."

Never have I read or heard the possibility voiced that God is, frankly, endevouring on a course of genocide, of mass murder. What's more, Almighty God is filled with regret. If we are but pieces of Clay unfit to question the sculptor, why is it that God feels regret? His sorrow only confirms our similarity in image. If God and Man are so similar in this respect, why should there be such an enormous gulf between the ethical standards of human beings and the the Almighty?

01 March 2007

Thoughts on F&T's "A PR disaster for the Christian music industry"

"A PR disaster for the Christian music industry" over at Faith & Theology.

So it begs the question: does it matter that the band plays along as Christians? In the comments, "Jim" says, "Christian rock is to music what hemorrhoids are to relaxation." I have to agree. I imagine that fans listen because of the message, not the music. So yes, it seems to violate some sort of expectation/assumption, but as Steven Segal says, "Assumption is the mother of all fuckups"...or was it the villain. Irrelevant.

"Tim" comments: "Or maybe, pop music is like the eucharist - ex opere operato? It works regardless of the state of the soul of the person 'performing' the rite...." Simple Donatism but in pop music form. I'm reminded of the time when I was a young lad and my sister remarked that she didn't like Plato because he was a misogynist. I didn't understand the objection because it seemed like she liked other things Plato had to say (i don't know why!), but discounted it out of hand because he didn't care for the girlies. She did the same thing with Nietzsche.

It seems like there are at least two categories of lying: outright fibbing and the lie of omission. Seen from the P.O.V. of strategy or game theory, there are good reasons why explicit lying is undesirable, but lies of omission often do less (or no) harm. In the case of the non-Christian "Christian" rock bands, it seems to come down to semantics: is the "Christian" in "Christian Rock" the predicate of the "Rock" or the "Christians"? If "Rock," then no big deal...if "Christians" then I suppose it's deceitful. But if that's not the case, then why the "Rock"? Unless it's some form of group worship mediated by distance and sound. I find the latter case more convincing as no one listens to Christian Rock for the Rock...but then why not Christian Folk and so on?

The whole thing also presupposes such a thing as authenticity. Who believes in such fairytales these days?

UPDATE: U.S. Episcopal Church Given Ultimatum

An article over at The Tablet:

"[A] statement from the 36 archbishops who lead the world's 70 million Anglicans gave the American Church until the end of September to stop blessing gay partnerships and to promise it would not consecrate more gay bishops.


Fears of a schism were temporarily abated, although the official group photograph of the archbishops had to be cancelled because the two camps, broadly divided into Western liberals and conservatives from the Global South, would not pose together.

Seven archbishops also refused to take Communion with the American Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, because of her unswerving support for Gene Robinson, a practising gay who was consecrated bishop in 2003.

Oh that's not childish!

This brings to mind a theory I have about the whole North/South thing. It seems that—at least in the U.S., China, Germany, and Italy—there is a persistent stereotype of the South as backwards, stupid, and/or undesirable in some way. Why is this? Are the same stereotypes applied to Northerners in Australia and other countries in the southern hemisphere? If so, there's something funny going on with the equator. But northern Italy is south of southern Germany, so it seems to be limited to a particular contiguous country (otherwise Hawaiians would be Neanderthal mental-midgets). If my theory as just stated is true, then people living exactly on the equator would be the most advanced human beings. Quito, Ecuador and Libreville, Gabon must be full of GENIUS's! (Isn't it also neat how "Ecuador" and "equator" both rhyme AND are only one letter different from one another?!)

Cardinal: Antichrist tempts Christians to place dialogue above Jesus

An article at CNS says:

Christians tempted to set aside their belief in Christ as the only savior in order to promote dialogue with others are being tempted by the Antichrist, retired Italian Cardinal Giacomo Biffi told Pope Benedict XVI.


If Christians set aside their belief that salvation comes only through Christ, he said, they may find dialogue with others easier, but they will have denied their obligation to share the Gospel and will have placed themselves "on the side of the Antichrist."

Wow. Who's B16 hanging out with? I suppose I know better than to ask that question. From Nostra Aetate:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself. [My bolding].

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life....

So a thin line is tread between Christ being the Way and the Light, and Catholicism being "merely" the "fullness" of Truth.

The Cardinal also reminded those listening that there are "absolute values such as the good, the true and the beautiful. One who perceives them and loves them also loves Christ, even if he does not know it, because Christ is the truth, beauty and justice."

(I can hear Nietzsche somewhere on my floor, yelling at me for not having the Will to Reading.)

How can you believe in a metaphysic like that? "The Good"? Absolutes? Come on!

The Incomprehensible Phenomenon of T.V. Faith Healers

I have long been flabbergasted by the phenomenon of T.V. preachers and "faith healers." In particular, Peter Popoff (official site), "Bishop" Jordan (official site), and Benny Hinn (official site).

It seems, and this is being generous, that such preachers are either, a) Horribly ignorant of their faith and deeply unorthodox or, b) Straight-up frauds. Most people wouldn't even consider the first possibility. But it does seem that there is a disturbingly large amount of people who believe c) That these people are legitimate, sincere, genuine, and holy.

In 2004, Peter Popoff raked in over $16,000,000 (!). According to the L.A. Times Benny Hinn pulled in $89,000,000 (!!) in the 2002-03 period and at one "crusade," 1.2 million people were in attendance.

"Bishop" Jordan is one of the strangest personalities in the late-night preaching circus. He claims to be a "bishop," but is not ordained, and claims apostolic succession from St. Peter. He claims to be a prophet, as do Hinn and Popoff, but perhaps a different spelling would be more appropriate.

Clearly, people are listening and paying. Who in their right minds would do either such thing? One factor may be the growing number of self-professed Christians who desire a form of worship outside of the church "system." But, if I may be so bold, I think that perhaps the deciding factor is followers' stupidity. Even with the benefit of the doubt, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than the patrons of such dubious characters are, at best, naive and, at worst, totally moronic.

So an interesting question stems from this conclusion: is it unethical for the frauds to defraud? Are such idiotic people worthy of protection? Is there such a thing as ethical fraud?

The whole phenomenon—from the preachers to the content of their messages to the faithful followers—defies comprehension. The predominant message of these "ministries" are best categorized under the Prosperity Gospel, or Word of Faith movement (the same rubric under which we find such illustrious characters as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Kenneth Copeland, and Creflo Dollar).

Scriptural support is sketchy at best, and much time is spent hawking things like "Prayer Handkerchiefs" and "Miracle Spring Water." These folks at the pulpit ooze a seedy aura so thick as to cause credulity-asphyxia. Why on earth?

From a business standpoint, the venture into preaching the Prosperity Gospel is mighty tempting: you have millions of suckers, low investment capital, no need for any real theological aptitude, and charisma is only an added benefit—some of the late night characters are as engaging as a small town City Council meeting. Mighty tempting indeed.

(It should also be noted that there seems to be only one Catholic "faith healer," the apparently valid Reverend Father Ralph DiOrio, who is decidedly less crass and tacky than his Protestant counterparts. But still, Ralph, for shame!)

UPDATE: Relevant book.