Discussing
The prosperity gospel and prosperity politics

Stephen Woodworth

Stephen Woodworth
February 18, 2016

Some presidential candidates have adopted prosperity gospel language to mark their campaigns as ones through which abundant life will come.

HR Hamada
February 19, 2016

Thank You.
We cannot take scripture out of it's context to make it mean what we want it to say, instead of what it's authors and the HS intended. It isn't "Biblical" to quote scripture out of context. Rather it is decidedly Unbiblical.
While it certainly IS OK to wish for a comfortable life, we must understand that prosperity has nothing to do with holiness. There are plenty of evil people that are wealthy and plenty of Godly people that live in poverty. And if worldly material wealth was a sign of God's love, that would mean Christian martyrs, the MOST faithful, would be devoid of God's love.
No matter how many times you say "Jeezus", "Aaaaamen" and "Gawd", doesn't make what is really no more than white majick, into Christianity

Johnny Walker
February 19, 2016

I agree. The word "blessed" in the New Testament has nothing to do with earthly gain; in fact, it's just the opposite.

Americanized Christianity has embraced a worldly model of success. I seems as if it's more focused on how big the buildings are or how large the crowds are. Success has nothing to do with "being" the church; we've replaced it with "having" stuff and "going" to church.

We can't serve two masters; we can't love both God and money. Unfortunately, the Americanized church is giving it their best efforts to prove that Bible verse wrong.

They won't succeed.

Bill Wald
February 19, 2016

Happiness and freedom are mental states not generally dependent upon external circumstances. Jesus' fiscal/social promises were hard time and the world would never run out of poor people.

Doug Vande Griend
February 21, 2016

I'm apparrently on the other side of this.

We want to able to provide for the poor and we want others to do that as well. We want to be able to provide treatment for the sick. We want to feed the hungry. We want to educate children to stop cycles of poverty. We want to do these thing in our country and around the world. OK, but how do we do those things? We do them by "prospering," by creating good and services in enough abundance so that we have food, so that we can build and create health care resources, so that individuals can produce more than enough for themselves in order that they can share with others who can't. For that matter, we need to produce enough so that the government itself can collect tax revenue to do what it needs to do without accumulating massive amounts of debt.

Sure, we can point to the 1 percenters and say they have wwaaaayyyy more than they need, but there's no point in that, and with the exception perhaps of Trump, I don't think one Republican candidate is concerned for the 1 percenters. What they want is public policies (laws) enacted (and removed) that will allow the American population to create the prosperity needed to take care of the poor, educate children, provide health care, and provide the necessities of food, clothing, and warmth for themselves, their families, and their neighbors -- and the world.

When we want to describe this concept as a good thing, we use today's stylish words "flourish" or "shalom." When we want to describe this concept as a bad thing, or maybe to just disparage political conservatives, we use words like "wealth" or "prosperity."

Consider this: God blessed Abraham and Jacob, for examples, in part by giving them wealth. Wealth is a tool we can use, just like all the other "Kuyperian square inch" elements of life, to do good. We do better, much better, when we talk about how to biblically use whatever wealth God has blessed us with than to do what this article seems to me to be doing.

And why are no Democratic candidates mentioned. Both blatantly promise to give lots of money and things costing money to millions and millions of Americans who have learned to demand that the government give them money and things that cost money. Where is the criticism of those demands for, and promises to give, money, money and money? Shouldn't we be telling those candidates and their supporters that Scripture and Jesus himself blesses us by giving us an "uncomfortable life," or the "opposite" of "earthly gain," or a "hard time." They don't need the government to give them all that money. And certainly we don't need public policies implemented that allow our population to produce the wealth needed to pay the taxes that Bernie and Hillary want to use to give away all that money.

S.L. Woodworth
February 25, 2016

Thanks to each one of you for the fantastic conversation happening here. There is nothing more satisfying as a writer (and even more so as a teacher) than to watch people wrestle critically with ideas. I want to take a moment to respond to Doug whose insights are valuable to the discourse. I agree with much of what you shared here, and sympathize with the "either/or" attitude of the church about money and stewardship. The article was intended to demonstrate the way in which the prosperity gospel has spilled into political language and not necessarily an evaluation of policies, economic systems or government run programs, per-se. The GOP was highlighted simply because they are being supported by the majority of Evangelicals. You are correct that the Democrats have their own brand of "prosperity" but it does not appear to be as attractive to those who identify as Christians. Again, my primary point here was to simply explore the trend and recognize the potential pitfalls for Christ followers who, at times, are dangerously close to looking to an earthly king for salvation.

Bill Wald
March 4, 2016

'You are correct that the Democrats have their own brand of "prosperity" but it does not appear to be as attractive to those who identify as Christians."

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church members are generally not Christians or are generally not Democrats?

Add your comment to join the discussion!