The Prosperity Gospel: Bad, but Not Bad Enough to Collapse the Global Economy

Via Instapundit, The Atlantic asks the provocative but stupid question “Did Christianity Cause the Crash?” The author’s premise is that people bought beyond their means and took financial risks because prosperity gospel pastors told them that God would always have an easy money policy.

I’m no fan of the whole prosperity gospel hoo-ha and don’t want to look like I’m defending it, but come on.  To blame Christianity or even this distorted branch of Christianity for the housing market collapse and world financial crisis takes a degree of willful ignorance that is hard to believe.  It’s almost as if someone wants to make a tenuous connection in order to turn Christians into scapegoats.  Hmmm…

The article would be fine as an anecdotal overview of the prosperity gospel in America during a down economy.  But when it tries to make a cause-and-effect connection of one to the other, it slips into utter buffoonery.  My favorite part is this:

It is not all that surprising that the prosperity gospel persists despite its obvious failure to pay off. Much of popular religion these days is characterized by a vast gap between aspirations and reality. Few of Sarah Palin’s religious compatriots were shocked by her messy family life, because they’ve grown used to the paradoxes; some of the most socially conservative evangelical churches also have extremely high rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce. As [prosperity preacher Fernando] Garay likes to say, “What you have is nothing compared to what you will have.” The unpleasant reality—an inadequate paycheck, a pregnant daughter, a recession—is invisible. It’s your ability to see beyond such things, your willing blindness to even the most hopeless-seeming circumstances, that makes you a certain kind of modern Christian, and a 21st-century American.

There is the kind of hope that President Obama talks about, and that Clinton did before him—steady, uplifting, assured. And there is Garay’s kind of hope, which perhaps for many people better reflects the reality of their lives. Garay’s is a faith that, for all its seeming confidence, hints at desperation, at circumstances gone so far wrong that they can only be made right by a sudden, unexpected jackpot.

So, these prosperity gospel preachers offer absurd, pie-in-the-sky promises to their gullible flock, while sensible Democrat leaders like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama offer a better kind of hope, one that’s “steady, uplifting, assured.”  Is that a fact?

It’s comments like this–tossed-of asides inserted into stories for apparently no other reason than typing “President Obama” gives the journalist an excited, tingly feeling–that makes you wonder how far out of touch a person can be without requiring round-the-clock medical care. What in the world was the election of Barack Obama about other than the hope (and change!) of his supporters, against all evidence, for a sudden, unexpected jackpot?

Much was made in the article of Garay’s past as a drug dealer before he got into the preaching racket.  Well, there’s another former drug dealer in the White House, and his whole career is build on wild, pie-in-the-sky promises.  He ascended to the presidency promising that his election would push back the oceans, heal the earth, and make everyone everywhere love us like little girls love ponies. Because of him, we can suspend the laws of economics so that everyone can get health insurance, and it’ll cost less!  Because of him, a bloated, inefficiant government can take control of vast swaths of the economy, and they’ll be run more efficiently, without waste or fraud!

I could go on, but you see what I mean.  It’s fine with me to criticize Joel Osteen types.  But when you run down people who gain wealth and prestige by offering false hope, and then hold up Democratic hacks as a superior alternative, you just look like an idiot.

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