Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Article: Did Christianity Cause the Crash?

For years I have decried the bad theology and inherent cruelty of the prosperity gospel. I even earned myself some pretty serious reprimands from the leadership I was under at the time for publicly calling out some of the more egregious Ministers of Mammon.

So, I was fascinated when I ran across this article over at The Atlantic that examined the role this teaching may have played in the recent financial crash. I'd heard thoughts on this before, but journalist Hanna Rosin really goes into great detail explaining the prosperity movement, its appeal, and its likely impact on our country's current financial malaise.

It's a pretty long article (3 whole pages - a virtual War and Peace to this 140-character twitter generation!), so here's a quick quote that sort of encapsulates the whole:

. . . critics have begun to argue that the prosperity gospel, echoed in churches across the country, might have played a part in the economic collapse. In 2008, in the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Jonathan Walton, a professor of religious studies at the University of California at Riverside, warned:

"Narratives of how 'God blessed me with my first house despite my credit' were common … Sermons declaring 'It’s your season of overflow' supplanted messages of economic sobriety and disinterested sacrifice. Yet as folks were testifying about 'what God can do,' little attention was paid to a predatory subprime-mortgage industry, relaxed credit standards, or the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM.

In 2004, Walton was researching a book about black televangelists. 'I would hear consistent testimonies about how ‘once I was renting and now God let me own my own home,’ or ‘I was afraid of the loan officer, but God directed him to ignore my bad credit and blessed me with my first home,’' he says. 'This trope was so common in these churches that I just became immune to it. Only later did I connect it to this disaster.'

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Just two quick thoughts:

I think it's sad how people in this time were taught that their loan approval was a blessing from God, when it was only at the behest of a bad government program.

And finally, this is what happens when the church gets away from its true mission and begins dabbling in the flesh.

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