Saturday, August 10, 2019

God wants you to be rich (in material wealth)

Christ of the Breadlines 2Jesusteaching on poverty and wealth was anchored in the Scriptures, in particular, it shared with Psalms and the Prophets the key idea that God was somehow on the side of the poor. At the same time, however, Jesusmessage about the dangers of wealth was radical and provocative at the time (and of course remains so two millennia later). — Ann Wierzbicka, What Did Jesus Mean? (Oxford University Press, 2001): 385 

From Meagan Day’s article, “A Grift From God,” Jacobin (10 August 2019):  

“The prosperity gospel is a movement within American Christianity, also known as the Word of Faith, that says God wants you to be rich, but you have to will his financial blessing into being. Forty percent of Evangelicals are taught the prosperity gospel, according to which the root cause of poverty is faithlessness. [….] 

Prosperity gospel ministers don’t usually stop at urging positive thinking. To manifest financial success, believers can’t simply have faith. They must demonstrate that faith — preferably in the form of a tithe to the person doing the preaching. As rapper Ice-T put it, ‘The preacher says, “I know God a little bit better than you. If you pay me, I’ll hook you up.”’ Like payday lenders, prosperity gospel ministers see the broke and struggling as a consumer market. Their target demographic is those who suffer from lack, and their product is the promise of abundance, or at least relief. Financially, the prosperity gospel is nothing but a swindle, prying money from people who by definition have very little and desperately wish they had more.

Ideologically, the prosperity gospel dovetails perfectly with right-wing ideology, which views poverty as a consequence of individual failure rather than rigged economic and political structures. As [Barbara] Ehrenreich writes [in Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America (2009)], ‘Always, in a hissed undertone, there is the darker message that if you don’t have all that you want, if you feel sick, discouraged, or defeated, you have only yourself to blame.’ When times are hard, it’s because you didn’t think positively enough, pray hard enough, or tithe enough. It’s a spiritual spin on meritocracy, the ideological handmaiden to neoliberal capitalism. The prosperity gospel is one of America’s greatest grifts. Little wonder, then, that it’s made its way to the White House, currently occupied by a master con artist himself.” 

The full article is here. 

Image: Fritz Eichenberg, The Christ of the Breadlines (wood engraving, 1955)


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