Saturday, November 14, 2009

It is no secret that the Atlantic Monthly is no friend to Christians. In the December issue, Hanna Rosin opines in "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?" that prosperity-"gospel" Christians were one of the causes of our current economic crisis. She gives a number of anecdotal stories as evidence, and even points to the coincidence that the prosperity-"gospel" is popular among African-Americans and Latinos, and those groups were hit especially hard by the mortgage crisis.

Never mind the fact that Democrat supported legislation forced banks to give loans to low-income families who otherwise would be a horrible credit risk. Never mind that predatory lenders were allowed to create exotic loan programs (like interest-only for n years) that allowed ignorant and greedy consumers to purchase more house than they could really afford. Never mind that greedy investors tried to take advantage of those loans to try to buy and flip houses they couldn't really afford, and then got caught with their pants down when the over-inflated market started to collapse.

But then again, I suppose some of those people were probably prosperity-gospel types, so Christ really is to blame for our greed, corruption and over-regulation...

On the other hand, I have to agree with Ms. Rosin's assessment that there is something horribly wrong with the prosperity-"gospel." From the outside looking in, she sees wealthy con-man televangelists encouraging people to engage in a self-help style risk taking based on "faith" which is in reality little more than gambling. She correctly points out that quacks like Joel Osteen sound just like New Age thought:
The advice is exactly like the message of The Secret, or any number of American self-help blockbusters that edge toward magical thinking, except that the religious context adds another dimension.
The prosperity-"gospel" is American Christianity's syncretism. Just like Mexican Catholicism has been merged with Aztec and Mayan pagan religious thought, branches of Evangelical Christianity have been mixed (to varying degrees) with the dark side of Capitalism, namely greed and materialism. It incorporates New Age thinking, that we have God's creative power and can create new realities with our words. To put it bluntly, it is heresy. While salvation comes from Christ, for the prosperity preacher, salvation is more about filling your wallet and living in a nice house than about forgiveness of sins, a new life in Christ, and storing up treasures in heaven. Our treasures on earth are subject to moth and rust, shifting markets and government interference. It's all going to burn one day, and only what's stored in heaven will last!

At the end of her article, Ms. Rosin points people to "the kind of hope that President Obama talks about, and that Clinton did before him—steady, uplifting, assured." She has merely replaced one false gospel for another. Obama's hope is for a godless socialism where the wealthy are taxed to death and the money given to the poor so they will continue to vote for the Democrats.

Real hope is found in Jesus Christ, the real Jesus found in the Bible, not the Rolex-wearing Jesus of the prosperity preachers and not the Marxist Jesus of the social-"gospel" types. Following Christ means trusting Him when the world around us is going crazy, loving the poor by giving them a hand-up, standing for truth and righteousness, and waiting for the day when we take the treasures we have stored up in heaven and laying them at His feet in worship, acknowledging that He is the source of all we have and all we will be.

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