Monday, May 3, 2010

Riches for the asking

Prosperity churches teach that wealth comes to the faithful.  But this isn't the Protestant work ethic.  This is windfalls of money that higher powers bestow on the deserving.  Like a religious version of The Secret, asking is the only necessary step.  Working too hard could actually be bad, since it shows lack of faith.  And you don't have to understand why it works for it to work.
An interesting article suggests that this type of thinking may have contributed to the unrealistic run-up in housing prices (and subsequent fall when those mortgages went bust).   The prosperity-based churches overlap heavily with areas of high foreclosure rates.  They may have contributed to the sense that sudden wealth just happens, and there were often real estate agents and mortgage brokers working with the church to facilitate the process.  It may not make much sense for someone with my assets and income to take a loan of this size, but I was faithful and this must be the reward.

A preacher in action: is “really important,” and besides, “we love the money in Jesus Christ’s name! Jesus loved money too!” That Sunday, Garay was preaching a variation on his usual theme, about how prosperity and abundance unerringly find true believers. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what degree you have, or what money you have in the bank,” Garay said. “You don’t have to say, ‘God, bless my business. Bless my bank account.’ The blessings will come! The blessings are looking for you! God will take care of you. God will not let you be without a house!”
Unfortunately, the preachers get the wealth and the flock waste their time and resources.  And they walk away with some strange ideas:
He told me he feels pity for his employer. He assumes the man must have been close to God at one point, or at least his family must have been, “because the rich are closer to God.” But now the man has lost his way. He laughs when Gonzales talks to him about Jesus, and he wastes his money, buying $500 birdhouses and hiring Gonzales to clean them.

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