I am a strong proponent of the separation of church and state. I don’t want any politician to tell me what to do in church. Unfortunately, today too many politicians are fundamentalists who are trying to do just that. That’s why I’m a member of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, whose job is to nip in the bud any activity that tries to circumvent that constitutional ban. AUSCS has a monthly magazine called Church & State, whose March 2017 issue included an article with this headline: “Pennies [and Lots of Dollars] from Heaven.” The subtitle was “Meet Paula White, Prosperity Gospel Preacher and President Donald Trump’s Spiritual Adviser.” Interesting!
I know that there are plenty of “prosperity gospel” preachers around today. It’s a moneymaker. Their main, but often well disguised, message is that if you are not rich, it is because you don’t have enough faith. How wealthy you are depends on how deep your faith is. But not to worry, these prosperity preachers will teach you how to deepen your faith—if you send a check and another and another.
I saw a picture of Paula. She’s a very attractive woman who was reportedly valued at about $5 million in 2011, which included a mansion in Tampa Bay and a luxury condo in New York City’s Trump Tower. She met “the Donald” fifteen years ago. She is considered Trump’s “spiritual adviser” and prayed at his inauguration.
Paula claims that she grew up poor because her father died when she was five years old. Then when she was a young adult she was “blessed,” so much so that she started her own ministry centered on the prosperity gospel.
I suspect that poor people around the world, some starving to death or barely existing, hate the prosperity god because they are helpless to do anything about the government corruption, genocide, $1-a-day wages, politics, and weather patterns that keep them at a bare subsistence level.
A prosperity gospel has no place in Christianity. I think it is diametrically opposed to Jesus’s teachings. You remember the story of the rich man who came to Jesus asking, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reviewed the commandments, to which the man replied, “I have observed all these.” Then Jesus comes up with this: “You are missing one thing. Sell whatever you have, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” The man, because he had a fortune, went away dejected and sad (Mark 10:17–22).
I can now envision what a prosperity preacher might say to the rich man: “Not to worry! Buy my books and CDs, and I’ll teach you how to deepen your faith—so deep that you will become a multimillionaire and have ‘treasure’ in heaven.”
Here are some interesting numbers: About 5 percent of the population identify as members of a prosperity movement. You might say, “That’s not that many,” but with some 324 million folks in the USA, that amounts to 16 million people. That’s a lot of folks buying “snake oil.” Worse, 66 percent of American Christians agree with some component of the prosperity gospel. I suspect that a very large majority are fundamentalists who seem to be drawn to such shenanigans.
Jesus was rather adamant about his feelings toward the wealthy: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24). Now conjure up that image: a great big camel trying to get into the eye of a needle. It’s not going to happen! Neither is the prosperity gospel.
How do you feel about the prosperity gospel? Think it works?
Image courtesy of Jeremy Weate, CC by 2.0