Why The Prosperity Gospel Should Worry You

HANS SPLITER is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Religious Doctrine That Justifies Greed Is Changing Global Religious Landscape

Many con artists prey upon the greed of their victims. You give me some amount of money and you will receive a larger amount than you could possibly imagine. Everyone reading this has gotten at least one email from a Nigerian prince telling them this. But what happens when this greed becomes mixed with other human needs: tribalism, religion, and desperation?

Well, then you get the prosperity gospel. What is the prosperity gospel? Essentially it is the claim that faith is rewarded with money. The more faith you have the more prosperity you will gain. How do you prove your faith? Some preachers are advocating “seeding.” You send your money to a preacher and that “seed” will grow to epic proportions in the future. How does giving away money lead to more money? Don’t ask.

This particular faith has roots in Pentacolism, a form of Protestantism that focuses on getting immediate results from your faith. This could mean speaking in tongues or gaining the power to heal by laying of hands or getting financial rewards for your faith.

While this may seem outlandish, it is changing the religious landscapes. Even though only 17% of Americans believe in the prosperity gospel, many religious scholars and political analysts trace part of Donald Trump’s political success on this doctrine. A recent story is how the prosperity gospel is changing Brazil from a Catholic dominated country to a religious minority by 2030.

This is the dangerously seductive nature of belief. It can be used against the needy that are looking for some way out of the poverty trap. It also justifies the lifestyles of the wealthy, proving that they are spirituality justified for financial extravagance. From a faith that has Jesus overturning moneylenders shouting “not in my father’s house” this belief seems a bit of a stretch.

But this is no different than other, secular, versions of similar belief. Remember The Secret? The idea was that if you thought about it you would get it. It’s a classic con. If you get a return on your investment than you mistakenly see the cause in the belief. If you don’t get your money back, that is your personal fault, you need to try harder. So please send more money now, our operators are standing by.

Why John Piper Abominates the Prosperity Gospel from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Since we just had the 400-year celebration of the Reformation, let us remember that one of the central problems Martin Luther had with organized religion was the mask for greed it created. When organized religion becomes a venue for exploitation of the very people that it should be protecting, it becomes hypocritical at its core.

The other disturbing aspect is that if wealth is justified by the prosperity gospel, does that mean that poverty is also deserved. Should we cut social services because those that are hungry and downtrodden clearly are being punished for their lack of faith? Given how much social services, in general, come from religious organizations and in some cases are the main form of altruism, this creates a dangerous precedent. Let’s call this what it is, a con game. And we know how religion feels about lying to others.

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