As Ninglun might put it, do read Bruce’s column on Michael Guglielmucci, pastor of Edge Church (which is part of the Assemblies of God group of churches).
But let’s take a walk back in time. Not far, mind you: only about a month or so. That’s when Bryan Patterson, author of the Christian proselytising Faithworks column in the Herald Sun, wrote a piece in praise of people who maintain their religious faith in the teeth of immense suffering (“Suffering,” Patterson disquietingly remarks, “can be a gift”).
There is an amazing moment on the latest Hillsong DVD, This Is Our God, when Michael Guglielmucci, stricken with cancer, walks on stage with an oxygen tent to boldly sing his song Healer [which he would perform with an oygen tube in his nose].
He doesn’t know how long he has to live, but still proclaims the goodness of his God.
It is certainly the case that Guglielmucci doesn’t know how long he has to live. None of us do. What Patterson didn’t know when he wrote that column was that Guglielmucci was a faker. He didn’t have cancer. He was lying all the time: to his family, to the sheep who attended his services, and to the many more sheep who bought the Hillsong DVD featuring his song.
According to the AdelaideNow article linked to in Bruce’s post, there is a Facebook group supporting Guglielmucci. Actually, there are two. The first is a closed group, with 357 members. The second group has only about half that number, but it is open, and the Wall is there for all to see. Bryan Patterson has also posted about the deception. We know how the pastor’s shenanigans appear to those in the reality-based community, and their representatives appear on the Facebook discussion boards as well as in the replies to the more recent Faithworks post on this issue. I was curious to learn how well it was playing among the sheep. Here is a sample of their bleatings, gathered from Facebook:
“I want to say lets not judge him he is oviouslly not well but for a different reason we all have parayed for so why stop praying? i tonight will pray for him to get help and i pray he will be forgiven”
“Praying for Mike and the people who are affected by this…his friends, family, and countless others who trusted Mike. Just remember that the Word says in Psalm 118:8 to trust in GOD and NOT man!! Why? Because we’re ALL fallible!! No one is perfect! I’m not making excuses for Mike…I don’t know the man…even if I did, I don’t truly know his heart the way God does…none of us do! But I do believe that we can exercise the same grace and mercy God shows us all the time…despite our actions!”
“Trust in God and not man” is a common refrain in these comment threads, but as a commenter at Friendly Atheist wisely observes, these people were very happy to put their trust in this man when the wool was still pulled over their eyes. I would add: and as we speak they are searching for another man (or woman) in which to put their trust. Authoritarian follower thinking par fucking excellence.
“So to me its a no brainer… I would not be who I am today without Mike and his family so even though I do not understand why or how this is possible. And I may never get my answers. I still pray for his family and him because I cannot imagine the pain, confusion, stress and humilitation they must all be suffering. Forgiveness is not about understanding why he has done this its much more. if anyone knows this family and Mike himself they will have no trouble forgiving and supporting because we all know what they would if it was reversed and we were in the wrong.”
I keep hearing about how atheists have no basis for morality, because if there is no God, there is no-one to whom we are accountable for our actions. If there is no God, who will be there to send Mother Teresa to Heaven and Adolf Hitler to Hell? But according to the Christian worldview as it is represented by Guglielmucci’s apologists, all Hitler needed to do was beg forgiveness for his transgressions and accept Jesus as his personal saviour, and everything would have been fine and dandy. In short, do whatever you feel like, to whomever you feel like, as long as you repent and accept Jesus into your heart before you die. That’s morality?
“Gianni you’re a flipping legend! All day I’ve told people to stop bagging him out and have finally found a forum online that supports him. God bless you for this! :)”
[Gianni says] “i was under his teachings closely in the time he announced his sickness. He talked alot about forgiveness. Not taking offence. Pride. And giving everything to god and not battling in the flesh. And things in the secret place being shouted from the roof. I’m not a preacher or very good at putting my thoughts into words so i hope this comes out right. But i think he was a man of god who was human like us and had one thing he struggled to deal with and battled it with his own strength. But new what would be happening so prepared us by teaching us how to forgive and not be hurt.”
In other words, not only did this man deceive you into believing he was seriously ill when he wasn’t, but at the same time he was grooming you to forgive him and apologise for him in the event that his deception ever came to light. To those of us in the reality-based community, that’s positively Machiavellian. To the indoctrinated, that’s the hallmark of a “man of god.” The pastor is receiving professional help, according to news reports. I think his followers could use a good dose of that as well.
I’m going to give Bruce the last word on this one:
To the gulled I ask, given that being blinded by entirely selfish reasons (motivation, nice feelings etc) you have helped Guglielmucci trivialise my own father’s suffering (amongst that of the throngs of others) why on Earth should I empathise and show pity for you? Your suffering is miniscule by comparison to the legions of people with terminal illness and your suffering is largely self-imposed as a result of your culture of non-thinking.
In the aftermath, I’m sure that the congregations of fans will be able to distinguish “the message” from the scam and that how Guglielmucci hasn’t detracted from, degraded or belittled the unbesmirchable message of their lord, Jesus Christ.
It is a pity that they probably won’t consider how their cultural effluent, made up of whine, discarded brain-cells, self-absorption and un-digested twee, is degrading to humanity. It wouldn’t be so bad (and I wouldn’t be complaining) if they didn’t externalise this crap onto the rest of us.