CARLTON FLETCHER: A lesson or two on the price of righteousness

OPINION: Promise of help from minister comes at a cost

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Oh, think twice. It’s just another day for you and me in paradise.

Phil Collins

I figured the email was another one of those mass mail-outs trying to land as many gullible suckers as possible — like the baldness, impotence and diminutive junk cures and the African princes that need a money conduit — and I almost deleted it without a look.

Something caught my eye, though, and I clicked aboard. The contents were interesting, to say the least.

Evidently some pastor of a church far away had gotten wind of something I’d written and took exception to it. So much so, he took it upon himself to try and set me back on the path of righteousness. And while I initially appreciated his concern — goodness knows I can use all the influence in high places that’s available — by the time I finished reading his self-serving diatribe, I felt unclean from having read it.

This was no spiritual guidance. It was a political rant that, essentially, warned me that some of my views indicated I’d drifted away “from the teachings of the one true God.” That those “teachings” tended toward far-right propaganda that I’ve never seen nor heard associated with the word of God was a pretty strong clue that the good reverend had his own agenda at heart.

After I read the email — and, yes, I was thoroughly cheesed off when I finished — I did a little Web search of my would-be benefactor. What I found made me even madder. Seems Brother Righteous was the kind of gentleman not above promising favor from God, at the right price. He was so concerned about the souls of casual Internet surfers (or shut-ins who had no access to his weekly sermons) that he promised a soul-cleansing experience for as little as $20 a week.

There were additional benefits for the truly righteous who felt “led” to give him larger donations, essential, he assured readers, for his continued efforts to enlighten the needy as to “God’s will.”

I was talking with someone I hold in high regard about my brush with divine intervention, and she said something that struck me as quite profound: “There’s no telling how many people there are in this country — and in our community — who need God in their lives but avoid Him because of their experiences with these so-called pastors and reverends and apostles and ministers and preachers who are out for only one thing: themselves.”

A quick look at the declining church rosters across all denominations in our country shows that this lady’s cynicism is shared by many. The once-stunning revelations of good men doing bad things — the Jimmy Swaggarts and Jim Bakkers and Eddie Longs and Ted Haggards and the Catholic priest scandals — have become, sadly, so commonplace, we’re only mildly surprised now when one surfaces. And while it’s probably more laziness and indifference that keep people out of churches than true righteous indignation, such hypocrisy by purported religious leaders certainly doesn’t help.

Charlie Daniels had it figured out a long time ago: “He said Jesus walked on the water, and I know that it’s true. But sometimes I think that preacher man would like to do a little walking, too.”

My brief electronic encounter with the Right Reverend Righteous left a bitter taste in my mouth, but it did not spark a desire to proclaim blanket condemnation. Thankfully, in spite of the truth noted by my acquaintance above, there are some pretty amazingly spiritual preachers right here in Albany and in churches both large and small all over this great land.

If you’re convinced that your spiritual leader’s works show he or she is such a person, you should embrace them and be thankful. Such people are part of an increasingly diminishing species.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.