I would be remiss as a seminarian student with a blog dedicated to all topics to not at least point you all to Jonathan Walton and his piece that he dropped onto Religion Dispatches entitled “Prosperity Preachers: Where Are They Now?”
It goes without saying that the economic boom 90s and financial overextensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the prosperity gospel message. Preached within sprawling megachurches that reflect the excessive ethos of corporate greed and “super-sized” America, too many of the otherwise devout in America have been led to believe that luxury goods and material possessions are the marks of Christian fidelity. Narratives of how “God blessed me with my first house despite my credit” were common. Swank hotel conferences and “gospel cruises” replaced traditional revivals on the church calendar. And sermons declaring “its your season of overflow” supplanted messages of economic sobriety and disinterested sacrifice. Yet as folks were testifying about “what God can do,” little attention was paid to a predatory sub-prime mortgage industry, relaxed credit standards, or the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM to subsidize cars, clothes and vacations.
But at a time of rampant home foreclosures, soaring jobless rate and crumbling Wall Street firms, I have begun to wonder: Where are the prosperity preachers? What do they have to say as the American economy tumbles and their parishioners watch their net worth evaporate like the mid-morning dew? I mean they have taught us for the past few decades that by faith we can transcend the economy of the natural realm. If you walk with God and live the higher life in Christ, you don’t have to worry about the “world’s order.” And they have encouraged churchgoers to believe that poverty and economic lack is a mindset to be overcome, not a structural reality to be fought against. Wasn’t it the bastardized theology and perverted biblical hermeneutics of these jingoistic American patriots that reinforced the notion that difficult economic times signify a lack of faith at best, and a sinful spirit at worst?
Clearly you see where’s he’s going with the article.
I mean, I’ve heard more than once from preachers be it on TV or in person, even from preachers and pastors that don’t even remotely fall in the prosperity gospel category [although I think that the particular pastor I have in mind definitely dabbles in that area making many mentions about materialism] say that “God fixed it so that your credit score didn’t matter” when in fact, it was really just bad banking policy.
My friend [actually, most times when I say “My friend” I’m really talking about my colleague here at school Soul Jonz who’s over on the blogroll] and I have eagerly been waiting Walton’s book release Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Religious Broadcasting* which is due out soon and I’m sure he’ll go on about an actual solution, but in that article he really didn’t pose an answer to the problem at hand. Now initially that seemed like a problem in and of itself, but honestly, he’s right, you can find these same preachers in the same churches in the same pulpits spouting the same bad theology.
*For those of you who don’t know Bishop Eddie “I wear Muscle Shirts” Long has somewhat coined the phrase “Watch this, watch this, watch this” to his homiletical advantage during his sermons–it’s a play on words and probably a dig by Walton.
Just want to hear what you guys think about the prosperity gospel. Is it something that you ascribe to, or is it something that you condemn? Do you think other preachers who don’t agree with it are within their rights to openly speak against it?