Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Prosperity Gospel and Subprime Mortgages

My theology professor Dr. Horner used to incessantly remind us that ideas have consequences. What we believe determines how we behave, and ultimately who we become. I was recently reminded of his dictum while reading an article in Time by David Van Biema entitled, "Should We Blame God for the Subprime Mess?" Van Biema notes the research of Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California Riverside.

While researching a book on black televangelism...he realized that Prosperity's central promise — that God will "make a way" for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe "God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house." The results, he says, "were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers."


I'm no expert on the prosperity gospel, but a few late-night viewings of TBN incline me to concur with Walton's analysis. Every manifestation of the church has cultural blind spots, and materialism is one of the biggest in America. The greed, individualism, and opportunism so rampant here have begotten a theology that is biblically bankrupt and personally disastrous. Perhaps such an aberrant theology could only develop in a country like ours. It grieves my heart that this garbage is being exported all over the world, even to the poorest of the poor. O God, deliver people from the prosperity gospel. May we be known not for the stuff we possess, but for our faith; that faith so evident in our spiritual forbears...

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
(Heb 10:32-39; ESV)

5 comments:

Stan McCullars said...

Sad but true.

Bill Faris said...

My suspicion is that there is a very, very nice place in hell for the prosperity gospel.

Stan McCullars said...

...a very, very nice place in hell with a broken down Cadillac and millions of dollars in Confederate money.

geoff said...

Great post, thanks. I agree, sad but all to true.

Jake Belder said...

Great analysis. This is why, when talking to people about this economic situation we're in right now, I've been saying that there is definitely a place for criticizing the role of the government and Wall Street in this whole mess, but this is first and foremost a moral and ethical issue. The solutions are not found in how we deal with government and economics. The solution begins with what's in our hearts.