The following program from CBC Ideas explores the American Prosperity Gospel, something that started as overt religion and insinuated itself so far into American culture that even pro-wrestlers performed the passion play of its theology. It has become the de facto American faith, a faith in wealth, commerce, and entitlement. A subconscious, implicit bias that transforms the Dream into a nightmare.
The dogma has become, "Prosperity through growth at all costs." If you aren't "prosperous", God hates you.
Prayer is supposed to be a form of communication with a God, a request for help or forgiveness, and statement of thanks. Working out ritual and formulas deigned to make God give you what you demand is "witchcraft" and it often uses snake-oil.
Prosperity Theology plays on the belief that you are better than everyone else and entitled to better. God owns everything so only the rich are righteous and good. The rest of us are pack-camels, too smelly to pass into the house.
Evil, dehumanization, always turns the truth on its head or around to face the wrong way. That's how hierarchy declares its divine right. They say, "God only made me in his image, not you. I am Adam and everyone else is a rib, taken from me."God is rich so wealth must equal divinity. You buy your way into Heaven like a Start Trek Ferengi. Not an idea original to America. The Caste-system is based on the idea that you deserve it. In the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church sold indulgences, passes to Heaven, a "get-out-of-Hell" card. Indulgences were a glaring sign that Roman Catholicism had gotten turned around. That sign has been flashing in America for quite a while.
No one deserves wealth or is entitled to privilege. You earn them. Compassion is all that we truly deserve from one another. Nature doesn't give a damn. Compassion is the only thing that enables real spiritual prosperity, real personal prosperity, from which come social and economic. Economic comes last. It's a tool not the goal. God is supposed to be a father, not an accountant. Mental, physical, spiritual, and social healthcare aided by economic, but don't depend on it. Most life prospers just fine without it, and we did long before we invented money.
Jesus wasn't born rich, didn't live rich, and certainly didn't die rich and comfortable. He wasn't a businessperson, financial genius, inventor, entrepreneur, lawyer, politician, or royalty. He was an adult with compassion for us all.
That's why he became divine.
The Prosperity Gospel is antichrist by definition. It comes from the story of the Satanic Bible. Its profits and disciplines are antichrists not Christians.
According to the story.
Listen to Full Episode 54:00
Why do millions of Christians in the United States believe that their faith, financial status and health are all intertwined? That's the question that Paul Kennedy explores with Kate Bowler, author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. They turn to the early 20th century beginnings of this uniquely made-in-America brand of theology, where it was first preached in pentecostal tent revivals. Now it's being preached from mega-churches across the country. For many, it is a key to a richer and fuller life. For its critics, it's hucksterism at its worst.
IdeasIt's a made-in-America theology, combining faith, health and wealth. And it's everywhere: from mega-churces to presidential politics. It's the prosperity gospel. But what exactly is it?
Jesus claimed that if you have faith without doubt, you can move mountains. Preachers like Creflo Dollars, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, and Joyce Meyers would like you to know that if you have faith without doubt you can move wads of cash into your bank account. This "good news" is called the prosperity gospel, which promotes the belief that one's financial status and health are blessings from God. It is the subject of author Kate Bowler's compelling book Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel.
The prosperity gospel is an American Christian movement that stretches back to the early 20th century. Kate Bowler writes, "The roots of the modern prosperity gospel are long and tangled. To understand the size, success, and diversity of today's movement, we first need to understand certain ways of thinking about spiritual power that emerged and competed for attention early in the twentieth century. The thinking took many forms and went by different names, including the mind-cure, success literature, positive thinking, self-help, and prosperity theology ... This was the core: adherents, acting in accordance with divine principles, relied on their minds to transform thought and speech into heaven-sent blessings."
From the pentecostal tent revivals of the early 1900's to present day mega-churches the success of the prosperity gospel has been phenomenal. The marketplace is flooded with books, magazines, audio tapes, workshops, DVDs, and workshops touting the wealth and health that God bestows upon those who embrace this gospel. With its roots firmly in America, is there something that makes it a uniquely American phenomenon? Ms. Bower replies, "The message certainly resonated with a set of national characteristics deeply embedded in the American social imaginary." Those "national characteristics", according to her, are reflected in the qualities that make achieving the American Dream possible: hard work, moral fiber, and an entrepreneurial spirit. For many Americans the man who embodies these qualities at the moment is Donald Trump, whose pastor, Mark Burns, just so happens to be a preacher of the prosperity gospel.
Though there are many critics within and without religious circles of this "uniquely American phenomenon" its success shows no signs of faltering. Not that surprising given what it offers to believers. Ms. Bowler writes, "One level, the appeal of the prosperity theology is obvious ... The faith movement sells a compelling bill of goods: God, wealth, and a healthy body to enjoy it. But it is the enjoyment, the feelings that lift believers' chins and square their shoulders. That is its fundamental achievement. The first step in accessing this good news is the belief that things can get better. The prosperity gospel's chief allure is simple optimism."
Kate Bowler is Assistant Professor of American Religion at Duke Divinity School in Durham North Carolina. She is presently working on her memoirs, which will be published by Random House.
- Kate Bowler's blog
- "Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me" Kate Bowler's essay that appeared in New York Times, February 13, 2016
- Book TV at Duke University interview with Kate Bowler
**This episode was produced by Frank Faulk