Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Prosperity Gospel

During the Bush years, I often wondered if there were any misgivings within the evangelical Right about supporting an administration that openly promoted an almost demonic obsession with the material world (Bush: "Go shopping"). Religious issues aren't exactly my bag, but this clears some things up.


Anonymous KAIMU said...


Very good, but I see it the opposite way. I view the various religions around the World as the Levi-Strauss of the Gold Rush. The companies that sold prospectors the picks and shovels and the denim jeans made a fortune off the many prospectors and their belief in a "golden shower" that they would be the one to strike the Motherload. A few did, however the vast majority did not, yet even today Levi-Strauss is still in business.

To prove my point I will recount an episode in my life when I was 17 years old(1970) and my brother and I were in Europe with our parents on a summer vacation. We were in Italy and we visited the Vatican and of course the infamous Sistine Chapel. My brother and I wandered off the tour(on purpose)as teenagers tend to do and we got lost in what looked like a courtyard at a monastery of some sort. We came upon a door that actually had a sign on it written in English that read DO NOT OPEN. Well, in teenage-speak that means you OPEN IT! We both said ... "nah, its probably locked!" But when we jiggled the door handle the door opened to our amazement. When we walked into this room, that was maybe 300 sqft, and then turned on the light, we were awe struck! The room was covered wall to wall with solid gold objects of all sorts, like scepters, crowns, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, boxes, bars, coins and all looked of antiquity. We were blown away and speechless. Back then I was into photography and had saved up my lawn mowing money for a PENTAX SLR and I took some photos which I still have to this day. I knew nobody would believe us if we told them. There we stood not more than 10 feet away from probably a gazillion billion dollars worth of treasure. We spent about one hour in that room taking photos and acting stupid. Then we got the bright idea to leave a clue that we were there. Not a clue that could trace our identity, but one that said ... HEY POPE, LOCK YOUR DOOR NEXT TIME! We left $1 USD on a gold box. When we left we turned off the lights and locked the door. We took nothing!

The point is ... I have never seen such material wealth as that room at the Vatican. I am sure the Catholic Church has many more rooms like that one across the globe, not to mention real estate.

I was at the BIS website a few months ago and there listed under the GLOBAL DEBT INDEX for various countries I saw the Vatican listed owing $60mil USD. So even God is in debt! But hey, I know how God can get some cash to pay that!

11/22/2009 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"counterfeit form" - isn't that the truth. Religious freedom, yes. But should they go unchecked, maybe not.

Larry David has a good line in the movie, "Whatever Works". Paraphrasing: It's not the ideas presented in religion, but the professionals who made it into big business. A lot of money in the god racket.

If you watch the infomercials at night, there are some really strange stuff. Does anyone else think its a cop-out for TV stations to show a disclaimer (it's their view not ours) just before these infomercials. Someone at the station approved it, & I'm sure the ownership has views. Besides the End of Earthers, 700 Club, there are all kinds selling subscriptions to their publications, Jesus water, Jesus vitamins, Jesus cloth. The 700 Club has a telethon, and if you donate all your problems will be solved for you.

Better late than never I suppose: Tom Friedman explains causes of America's suboptimal solutions - "Holding us back, Friedman argues, is a political system too closely connected with money and well-funded interests. Gerrymandering on the part of politicians makes it so that our leaders practically pick us, not the other way around. Friedman also thinks cable news television distorts the truth and that the internet (at its worst) can be a terrible thing for our nation's politics. He also says American businesses have gone AWOL, and hover over America, participating only when it suits their industry's needs."

George Carlin: said, "Religion easily has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man . . . living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of 10 specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money."

This was a good explanation: "Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", By Matt Bai, July 25, 2004 - "...laid out step by step, in a series of diagrams a ninth-grader could understand, how conservatives, over a period of 30 years, had managed to build a ''message machine'' that today spends more than $300 million annually to promote its agenda. ..."

Here's an idea for a reality show, maybe hosted by some Universities. "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", like those in Africa but these would heal the right and left. All sorts of people would describe, their issues & grievances. The goal, to heal, find common ground, so we can move forward. I don't think politicians or these "counterfeit" religions want that though because they benefit from "divide and conquer".

I don't participate in the business of religion, but I want to learn and understand other people, so we can stop fighting and solve our problems so we'll be around tomorrow. I recently watched PBS's Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler. It made religion and history accessible. He's very open-minded, intelligent, and inquisitive.

The stories in the bible always remind me of this Hopi proverb: "He who tells the stories rules the world", or maybe a Jacqueline Susann or Jackie Collins of their day.

I always wondered how a religion could sell financial products, or even stranger insurance. You'd think they had the ultimate insurance - "With about $27 billion in assets under management, Lutheran Brotherhood and its affiliated companies offer a variety of insurance and investment products. ..."

11/22/2009 2:19 PM  
Anonymous KAIMU said...


Thanks Anon for reminding me of Carlin and the Lutheran assets under management, which jogged my brain regarding the Mormons, another extremely wealthy religion.

One other example of religious wealth can be found right here in Hawaii on Oahu at BYU and the Mormon Temple. many of the missionaries were opportunists and nowhere was that more evident than here in Hawaii.

Essentially the Hawaiians and the Hawaiian culture were looked upon as ignorant Godless heathens that were in dire need of salvation from their wicked ways. Thus the Hawaiians and their culture were "saved through eradication" ... "cleansed" ...

So now the POLYNESIAN CULTURAL EXPOSITION which is a big tourist attraction on the windward side of Oahu(honolulu) where Hawaiians and other Polynesians dance their dances in a lavish luau setting is owned and operated by the Mormon Church which is located about 1/4 mile away. The Mormon Church now profits coming and going. They get the land when they condemn the Hawaiian culture and religion and then they get the tourist money from shows depicting the same culture they destroyed. The Mafia couldn't have thought up a better "heist"!

On the other side there were some very good missionaries who came to Hawaii that truly did "God's Work" not "Lloyd's Work"! I live within walking distance to the PAINTED CHURCH located in Kalapana on the Big Island, which is Father Damien's idea of the Sistine Chapel. While Father Damien was best known for his work on the island of Molokai with the leapers he was also here on the Big Island working with other missionaries who were responsible for and painted the murals at the PAINTED CHURCH. Now THAT is a work of art! Father Damien was a Man of God, true to his Faith ... a God beyond the gold and the hedge funds and the shallowness of materialism.

11/22/2009 2:49 PM  
Blogger Vijay said...

It shouldn't be surprising since almost everyone (regardless of their actual religion) is a member of the sacred Church of Keynes, whose high priests are the establishment economists of Universities (e.g., Paul Krguman) and the Federal Reserve. According to their dogmas prosperity can only come through consumption and increasing burdens of debt.

11/22/2009 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KAIMU -- your Italian vacation story was terrific. Thanks!
-- sglover

11/22/2009 6:11 PM  
Anonymous ChopsB said...

Perhaps the flip-side of the coin of this story has some relevance also. The Protestant hero model no longer works. Hard work and prudent decisions have no longer led to success, but led to the Protestant hero bailing out those who participated in the latest bubble.

11/23/2009 7:42 AM  
Anonymous e. nonee moose said...

The "Crunchy Cons" are a distinct minority in the evangelical movement.

11/23/2009 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "charming" thing about the prosperity movement is that it is based on "faith"... and a donation to show your commitment. If nothing happens its because you lacked faith and/or commitment. Its "heads I win, tails you lose" for the religious elite. The flock is so easily sheared its pathetic.

11/23/2009 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if I would blame the prosperity gospel for the financial crisis but I do think that there is a bit of a symbiotic, what came first the chicken or the egg argument there.

What is interesting is that issue of the Atlantic also had an article titled "Lead Us Not Into Debt" that talked about Finance guru Dave Ramsey. Almost just the complete opposite of the prosperity gospel. It is a financial system that evangelicals love that encourages people to carry no debt, not have credit cards, an tithe to the church (Ramsey is one of those that got really into religion).

I just find the prosperity gospel to be a bastardization of Christianity. For me it it makes wealth/money the false idol that the Bible warns us about.

11/25/2009 2:45 PM  
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