Friday, May 14, 2010

Does the Prosperity Gospel Still Preach?

Last December Atlantic Magazine ran a story entitled "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?" The article linked the popularity of the prosperity gospel preached by Joel Osteen and others to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

No, Christianity did not cause the crash. Yes, the prosperity gospel did something to contribute to the crash.

For the marginalized, it is hard to find a more attractive distortion of the gospel than the prosperity gospel. Who wants a homeless Savior with no place of his own to lay his head? (Luke 9:58) Who wants to listen to an impoverished itinerant preacher who proudly says "silver and gold have I none?" (Acts 3:6) The gospel they shared doesn't sell well with people who are desperate to climb the ladder of material wealth and success.

If you are picking yourself up by your bootstraps, avoiding "ungodly negative thinking", and "programming your mind for success" you need a checklist of things to do to be worthy to receive the "gift" of "victorious living." Join the Republican Party, send a check to the NRA, enlist in both the culture war and the clash of civilizations, endorse torture and berate the advocates for human rights, vote against fair and moral taxes, take a stand against equal rights for women and homosexuals, homeschool your children, advocate for teaching creation science and intelligent design in public schools, oppose all abortion and stem cell research, denounce universal healthcare as socialism. The implication is that if you can check off on all these issues you'll find yourself at the top of the ladder to prosperity. God will be bound to demonstrate his faithfulness by rewarding you with everything that your heart desires.

Now that the stock market has crashed, jobs are scarce, millions of homes are in foreclosure and thousands others have homes worth less than their mortgages, does the properity gospel still preach?

If the people listening to the prosperity gospel were reasonable it wouldn't, but they are not being rational, they are being faithful. They are full of faith in a gospel that has nothing to do with the gospel that Jesus preached. They are people who need to hear the "good news," but the news they need is not the news that they want to hear.

For those who have ears to hear, Atlantic Magazine found some who have a better grasp of the gospel of Christ:
Theologically, the prosperity gospel has always infuriated many mainstream evangelical pastors. Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life outsold Osteen's, told Time, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?" In 2005, a group of African American pastors met to denounce prosperity megapreachers for promoting a Jesus who is more like a "cosmic bellhop," as one pastor put it, than the engaged Jesus of the civil-rights era who looked after the poor.
Unfortunately, Warren and others seem to keep a checklist similar to that of the prosperity gospelers as their measure for spiritual maturity.

2 comments:

Don in Texas said...

Dr. Prescott: Do you have a pillow upon which to lay your head? If so, then you are not being Christ-like. I suggest that you sell all you have and follow Him. Or, perhaps you can clear the log from your own eye...

Don in Texas said...

Dr. Prescott: Do you have a pillow upon which to lay your head? If so, then you are not being Christ-like. I suggest that you sell all you have and follow Him. Or, perhaps you can clear the log from your own eye...