As one who has kids who are college-aged, I was shocked by the news last week of the cheating scandal—that wealthy families paid huge sums of money to assure that their kids were admitted to top universities around the country. This was done by paying people to falsify student profiles, change test results, and even present as disabled when they were not in order to get preferential treatment.
The bottom line is that these extremely wealthy people kept out others who were playing by the rules. They bought their kids the school enrollment that they wanted.
As upsetting as this is, it struck me that it is not so unusual. Throughout history there have always been those who have felt entitled; those who felt that the rules don’t apply to them. There have always been those who have tried to buy their way to whatever they wanted.
That’s actually true in the realm of religion too. Like those parents who were willing to pay whatever it took to get their kids into the best universities, there were also those who, at one time, were willing to pay whatever it took to get themselves and their families into heaven. It was called “indulgences” and it was a linchpin of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.
At that time, the Catholic church had set up a system whereby one could curry divine favor through financial payments. One could have one’s sins forgiven, assure a place in heaven, and even post bail for someone in hell (essentially) by means of financial contribution to the church.
It certainly did a lot to line the pockets of the church at that time (and probably some chosen members of the hierarchy too). It was a workable system for the rich. It did not work so well, however, for the poor. You see, they believed the same thing that everyone else did: that you could pay your way into heaven as it were. Only they couldn’t afford it. So they were stuck. What the poor didn’t realize is that they were in better shape spiritually by not paying indulgences than the rich who were.
The bottom line is that tricking your way into the life you want is no life at all. The foundation is dishonesty. Thankfully, this college fraud was exposed not only to help end it and allow everyone the fair shake they deserve, but also to prevent the children of these wealthy families from starting their adult lives based on lies.
Likewise, we are thankful that the Protestant reformers had the courage to expose an unjust system some 500 years ago and thereby prevent more people from adhering to a twisted theology based on divine bribery.
See you in church,