Polarized by the Prosperity Gospel: Part 1
>The Prosperity Gospel … at least for me … has been like the Hegelian dialectic thesis that’s produced an antithesis of sorts in me. It’s been like Sarah Palin has been for the Republican party … a polarizing figure. When you have an outlier (Palin) who claims to represent the center, it makes those who might be more “moderate republican” leery, causing them to question whether or not they’re still a part of the camp.
Cause when the center shifts, everything shifts.
But, enough with politics, I want to talk about something less controversial … God.
I’m going to be honest here. I have trouble believing in God’s goodness. Maybe it’s being around death 24/7, or maybe it’s my tendency to be skeptical. But, I’m pretty sure much of my difficulty in believing in God’s goodness has to do with the abuse I see.
The Prosperity Gospel is like Sarah Palin for some of us. It makes people who see it and don’t like it, go in the opposite direction. As another blogger has mentioned, it’s like Christian Porn. It’s all the fantasy Santa God without any honesty or qualification. “Brother, just pray this prayer and God will give you your heart’s desire” and those of us who have been burnt by that prayer grind our teeth and scoff.
The problem with polarizing ideas is that they can make you overlook the truth they contain (I know that’s what it’s done for me) … and they make you go to the other extreme. Take Lady GaGa as a “for instance.” I have a friend who does her limo work in Philly, and – being the conversationalist that he is – asked her if she likes negative attention. Her reply? “I love it … the more negative publicity, the more money.”
I think, though, with Lady Gaga, it’s more than controversy that drives her success. Her fan base is made up of those people in high school and college who loved making everybody around them feel weird. Do you remember those people? They felt like such misfits that their only comfort was having you realize their oddness. Lady Gaga represents those outcasts. Yet, with all her meat dresses and twitter butts, it’s easy to overlook the fact that she’s a good musician … unless, of course, you weren’t able to see that through all her extremely odd antics.
Like Lady Gaga, the Prosperity Gospel can almost blind you to the truths it contains.
The prosperity Gospel promises great things. So does God. Where the Prosperity Gospel gets it wrong is the great things are rarely material. I heard a quote once that said “the Prosperity Gospel is 99% true.” But, in my opinion, it’s not the quantitative want that makes P.G. wrong, it’s the qualitative part of it.
Is God concerned about your finances? Yes. But, he’d rather give you social capital. Is He concerned about your job? Your health? Your dying cat? Yes … all of those things and more (I don’t hold to dualism), especially if you find yourself living in the Third World, but I tend to think He’s more concerned about you becoming like Him. And as far as we know, Jesus lived poor, jobless and despised and yet …
Yet, look at his social capital … I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who’s richer … today … right now than Jesus. And it’s Jesus we’re following, right? It’s Jesus who is working himself in us.
Has anybody else been burnt by the Prosperity Gospel? Has it made it hard for you to believe in God’s generosity? Honestly, part of me is jealous. Even though I’m not convinced that God gives in the way the PG proponents think He gives, I sort of wish I had their faith … I sort of wish I thought that well of God.