Time magazine just put out an article about how a certain type of Pentecostal Evangelism likely put a large number of consumers more or less in harm’s way by preaching that “God will give you a house, if you first give to God (as in… make an offering to the church).”
The religious movement, spearheaded by Godatorium super-star Joel Osteen (who may also be the devil), is called Propserity Gospel – and teaches that, dammit, God wants you to be rich in this lifetime as well as the next!
And quite a few folks are apparently coming around to this idea…
In three of the Gospels, Jesus warns that each of his disciples may have to “deny himself” and even “take up his Cross.” In support of this alarming prediction, he forcefully contrasts the fleeting pleasures of today with the promise of eternity: “For what profit is it to a man,” he asks, “if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” It is one of the New Testament’s hardest teachings, yet generations of churchgoers have understood that being Christian, on some level, means being ready to sacrifice–money, autonomy or even their lives.
But for a growing number of Christians like George Adams, the question is better restated, “Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?“
After the movement gained significant ground, and was later followed by the massive economic woes associated with the failed housing market, some people began looking into any possible correlation.
That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise â€” that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life â€” had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom.
Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”
Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in Pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York: “The pastor’s not gonna say, ‘Go down to Wachovia and get a loan,’ but I have heard, ‘Even if you have a poor credit rating, God can still bless you â€” if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you’ll get that house or that car or that apartment.‘ ”
Adds J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma: “It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, ‘If you give this offering, God will give you a house.’ And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy.”
A recent publicly posted testimony by a congregant at the Brownsville Assembly of God, near Pensacola, Fla., seems to confirm his intuition. Brownsville is not even a classic Prosperity congregation â€” it relies more on the anointing of its pastors than on Scriptural promises of God. But the believer’s note to his minister illustrates how magical thinking can prevail even after the mortgage blade has dropped.
“Last Sunday,” it read, “You said if anyone needed a miracle to come up. So I did. I was receiving foreclosure papers, so I asked you to anoint a picture of my home and you did and your wife joined with you in prayer as I cried. I went home feeling something good was going to happen. On Friday the 5th of September I got a phone call from my mortgage company and they came up with a new payment for the next 3 months of only $200. My mortgage is usually $1,020. Praise God for his Mercy & Grace.”
I’m not making this stuff up folks. Those are religious people who are crying foul on this topic.
So, I have some advice for all of those parishioners out there…
Remember that Jesus was poor as dirt. He forsake Earthly possessions. So the minute your preacher starts focusing on financial issues you best believe that he is no longer focused on your eternal salvation… but has turned his attention to your worldly monetization.