I don’t care if he’s a Christian and a pastor, I feel like smacking Bill Cornelius upside the head with Mama’s cast-iron skillet. It’s clear that the man needs some sense knocked into him, or at the very least some stupidity knocked outta him.

Cornelius is the Chief Mucky-Muck at Bay Area Fellowship, a megachurch in Corpus Christi, Texas. He’s come up with a lame-brained idea to help celebrate Easter – he’s giving away stuff. Lots of stuff.

According to a report in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the church has gathered 15,000 gift bags, valued at $300 apiece, and they are going to give it all away, along with some cars. Yes. Used cars. Fifteen of them, including an Audi A4, Jeep, Chevy Aveo, Mazda RX8, Volkswagen Jetta, two BMWs, Chevy Avalanche, Jaguar and two Mitsubishi Eclipses.

“We’re going to give some stuff away and say, ‘Imagine how great heaven is going to be if you feel that excited about a car,'” Pastor Cornelius said. “It’s completely free – all you have to do is receive him.”

It’s the latest gimmick of the God Gimme Generation.

Cornelius says his hope is that people who don’t normally come to church will come out for the Easter goods. An estimated 20,000 are expected to turn out. Cornelius maintains that a slew of people don’t come to church because they don’t feel worthy enough.

“A lot of people won’t come to Easter services because they think, ‘Well, I haven’t been good,'” Cornelius said.

Maybe Cornelius ought to consider that there are other reasons people might be dissuaded from attending church. Good reasons. When surveyed, 72 percent of adults who don’t attend church said they believed in God or some supreme being, but those same folks said the reason they don’t go to church is because the church is “full of hypocrites.”

And 44 percent agreed with the statement “Christians get on my nerves.” The survey was conducted in 2008 by LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

One of the church members, who contributed the Audi, said, “Can you imagine? Everything always works out for a reason. When God is behind something, all you have to do is believe.”

(Lord, I believe, but you’d better hold my unbelief in check before I hurt somebody.)

Cornelius and his folks can try and rationalize it all they want, but what they are doing is downright undignified. It cheapens Christ, his death and his resurrection.

By commodifying Jesus, Cornelius and his followers have missed the whole point of the Gospel. They are in essence teaching people that the resurrection isn’t reason enough to find meaning in Easter. What they are doing is exploiting people and prostituting Jesus.

Christians who seek the stuff of life, over the blood of Christ, get on my very last nerve. Somebody hand me my mama’s skillet.

Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV.”

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