Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Banality of the "Prosperity Gospel"

In today’s New York Times we read, sadly, that the “prosperity gospel” is establishing “a foothold in New York City.” It’s sad because it is a false and misleading so-called “gospel.” And, it is a non-empowering, banal and trivial gospel.
The word “gospel” means, literally, “good news.” The real “good news” of the actual 4 Gospels is NOT about getting rich. It has never been about this. The prosperity “gospel” makes the mistake of selectively quoting certain Old Testament texts and ignoring the teachings of Jesus. Jesus speaks a lot about money and possessions, and his words are not favorably disposed towards them. In fact, money is viewed by Jesus as a “god” (“Mammon”) that will compete with him for ultimate allegiance.
Since September I have been reading, for my own devotional times, the 4 Gospels. I challenge anyone to read these essential Jesus documents and come up with a prosperity gospel. It is not only not there, it is spoken against.
"Prosperity gospel" teachers have acquiesced to American materialism. This is precisely the sort of thing that will cause us, for example, to lose opportunities to win Muslims for Christ. Muslim leaders who equate Christianity with Western materialistic values will only be more convinced that Christianity is really about this. This should cause all followers of the Real Jesus to be outraged as our Lord is misrepresented to the world.
I am currently working with a black scholar who is writing a book I consider to be prophetic. Her thesis is that the Black Church has lost its prophetic voice and sunk into the banality of prosperity teaching. In the 50’s and 60’s the Black Church was a true prophetic voice to a racist culture. Now, a lot of Black Churches have simply become that culture in the sense of being conformed to the standards of this world (Romans 12:1-2). By this I don’t mean that they are necessarily racist, but that the same spirit of world conformity that caused a lot of Christians to be passively racist now causes some Christians to passively conform to the money god.
Read the 4 Gospels for yourself. Discover the truth about the Real Jesus, who was radical and revolutionary and truly world-changing. Jesus is the Son of Man who said “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Why would one of his followers want to be rich if Jesus himself didn’t even have a place to lay his head?