WINDHOEK, Namibia, 13 May 2017 - “The idolatry of mammon has hijacked the world and this is only a part of the wider blasphemy by which our society has sacrificed virtually all its principles at the altar of consumerism” is the critique of Rev. Dr Monica Jyotsana Melanchthon, Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, who presented a keynote address on the sub-theme “Salvation - not for sale” at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Twelfth Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia, on May 12.
“Because the philosophy of the market is given quasi-religious commitment,” for the theologian “moral and social values are all subject to the rigor of market competition,” Melanchthon said.
In her keynote speech the Indian theologian warned of “televangelists selling salvation, healing and prosperity”. She accused this of being “tantamount to twisting authentic Christian theology for financial gain,” criticizing churches that use “big business strategies to market their brand of faith.”
“The trend is for Christianity to be sold to audiences by the same methods that proved so successful for cold-water detergents and deodorant.”
Exploiting the vulnerabilities of people
Melanchthon, who works as a professor in Australia, points out that “much of the violence and bloodshed in this world springs from the bigoted belief of each religion that only they are capable of providing the ultimate salvation to humankind”. For her, “greed for wealth and for power work hand in hand to exploit the vulnerability of people caught in a web of poverty, systematic oppression, conflict and violence”.
In opposition to that, for Melanchthon “a theology of salvation emerges from the painful reality of the injustices and wounds – but also it reflects a desperate longing for God, the One who can deliver us from our brokenness”. In this understanding “it is a gift bestowed on all humanity irrespective of gender, class, race, sexual orientation or religion because we do not have the capacity to save ourselves”.
Rev. Danielle Dokman, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname, and Rev. Eva Hadem, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Central Germany, offered responses to the keynote address.