Religious scholar Reza Aslan absolutely destroyed the so-called “prosperity gospel,” and televangelist Joel Osteen in a scathing speech, according to The Raw Story. The prosperity gospel preaches that God blesses those he favors with material wealth.
This stands in stark opposition to what’s actually in the Bible, including that Jesus himself was poor, and that (according to the gospel of Matthew) pulling camels through the eyes of needles is easier than entering the kingdom of God if you’re rich.
Reza Aslan didn’t just call out Osteen and others who preach the prosperity gospel. He called them charlatans, and had other choice words for them. He also said:
“[The prosperity gospel] is the gospel preached by people like Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes — and when I say people, I mean charlatans. The argument of the prosperity gospel, if I can put it flippantly, is that Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. That is basically what the argument is. That what Jesus wants for you is material prosperity, and that if you literally give, you will literally be given tenfold. That’s not a metaphor, as it is in most churches. It is literal. You give me $10 and Jesus will give you $100. This is as profoundly an unscriptural interpretation of Jesus that exists. I mean, if there is one thing that is just so clear cut and just not open to interpretation at all of any kind when it comes to Jesus’s message, it is his condemnation of wealth.“
Aslan went on to call it an “unscriptural interpretation” and expressed outrage that there’s no room for interpretation is Jesus’ condemnation of wealth. Sadly, the prosperity gospel is, according to Aslan, the fastest growing doctrine of Protestant Christianity in the nation right now.
It makes sense, then, that the Teapublican-Evangelical movement here champions big business and wants to protect the wealthy, and punish everyone else. One way to interpret the prosperity gospel is that the wealthy in this country are the favored of Jesus and God. God wants us to have wealth, and those that already do must have done something right. If you’re poor, you’re obviously doing something wrong, and God is punishing you for your sins.
The Washington Post published a piece from Cathleen Falsani about the prosperity gospel that was just as critical of the movement as Aslan, albeit a little less vehement. She asked these very pertinent questions:
“But if you’re not rich, then what? Are the poor cursed by God because of their unfaithfulness? And if God were so concerned about 401(k)s and Mercedes, why would God’s son have been born into poverty?”
Then she put out this damning paragraph:
“Nowhere has the prosperity gospel flourished more than among the poor and the working class. Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor, followers strive for trappings of luxury they can little afford in an effort to prove that they are blessed spiritually. Some critics have gone so far as to place part of the blame for the past decade’s spending binge and foreclosure crisis at the foot of the prosperity gospel’s altar.”
Aslan and Falsani are both preaching what the entire religious right needs to relearn. Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and those televangelists that cry out, “Send me your money, and God will bless you as he has blessed me,” ought to be raked through the coals for spreading what amounts to a false gospel, and ripping people off in the process.
Jesus was poor. He helped the poor. He helped the sick. He helped the suffering. He didn’t tell people who were suffering to give him what few material possessions they may have had, he would see to it that they were blessed for it. He didn’t condemn them to hell, or call them out for the moral failings that made them poor. The prosperity gospel comes from greed, and is likely one of the roots of the religious right’s ridiculous favoring of the wealthy, and condemnation of the poor.
Watch Aslan eviscerate Osteen and the prosperity gospel here:
h/t The Raw Story