The Atlantic—a magazine clearly of the left, though a much more thoughtful variety than the knee-jerk Kool-Aid drinkers you see these days in most of the MSM—has a story in its December edition that asks a rather provocative question:
My short answer: Being a secular publication, it asked the wrong question. It should have been:
“Did Heresy Cause the Crash?”
The story in a nutshell: The so-called prosperity gospel is alive, well, and infecting the Body of Christ in this country at an alarming rate, and while it may not have directly caused the crash, it certainly contributed. Some items of interest in the piece:
An expert on the prosperity gospel identified three of the 12 largest churches in the country, and 50 of the 260 largest, as prosperity. While the prosperity gospel is popular among professing Christians in almost all racial and ethnic groups, the story stated that it had “spread exponentially among African American and Latino congregations.” As an example of how it’s spread in those communities, a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey found that 73% of religious Latinos in the U.S. agreed with the statement “God will grant financial success to all believers who have enough faith.” This is where the connection to the crisis comes in.
According to the piece, “Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots.” It has spread the most in the types of far-distant suburbs and poor urban neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by foreclosures, and the bulk of new prosperity-gospel churches have been built in the Sun Belt, especially in hard-hit California, Florida, and Arizona.
“Financial empowerment” and “wealth building” seminars are apparently rampant in prosperity churches, generally paying lip service to sound practices while playing up big houses and luxury cars to the hilt. We’re definitely NOT talking Dave Ramsey here! Along these lines, a common theme in the recent rash of predatory lending lawsuits is that banks have been in cahoots with prosperity-preaching pastors, going so far as to offer pastors donations to their churches or favorite charities for each person in the church who took out a new mortgage.
The story also features a Hispanic prosperity preacher in Virginia—who, while building his church, was also a loan officer with two different mortgage companies, one of them Countrywide—who has to be seen to be believed.
The story also had a memorable quote from Rick Warren:
This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?
Actually, I’d use “heresy” instead of “baloney”, but otherwise he nailed it on the prosperity gospel. I certainly don’t agree with everything he preaches, but I’ll give him all the credit on this one.
To sum it all up: When you have, as Amir so aptly put it, “scam artists cross-dressed as Christian ministers” who preach to the basest wants and needs of people and not to our life after we’re gone from this earth, you get a complete Charlie Foxtrot.