Link between “Prosperity Gospel” & subprime loans?

JP: Good read from Time Magazine.

Foreclosures: Did God Want You to Get That Mortgage?

Excerpts:

Has the so-called Prosperity Gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God would “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, toxic expression during sub-prime boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

….

Prosperity theology adds a distinctive layer of supernatural positive thinking. Adherents will reap rewards if they prove their faith to God by contributing heavily to their churches, remaining mentally and verbally upbeat, and concentrating on divine promises of worldly bounty supposedly strewn throughout the bible.

Walton suggests that a decade’s worth of ever-easier credit acted like drug in Prosperity’s bloodstream. “The economic boom 90’s and financial over-extensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the prosperity message,” he wrote recently. And not positively. “Narratives of how ‘God blessed me with my first house despite my credit’ were common. Sermons declaring ‘it’s your season to overflow’ supplanted messages of economic sobriety,” and “little attention was paid to.. the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM to subsidize cars, clothes and vacations.”

JP: Albert Mohler Jr comments:

Are We Promised Prosperity?

It is easy to see how prosperity theology could lead to these unwarranted assumptions. Prosperity theology is a lie, and a false Gospel. We are not promised economic or financial prosperity in the Gospel. We are promised what money cannot buy and poverty cannot take away.

It is also easy for non-Charismatic critics of prosperity theology to look down on those who were so susceptible to its false promises. Many devotees of prosperity theology are desperate in ways the more privileged cannot understand, and they are prey to both lenders and preachers promising prosperity.

I must wonder how many other Christians — far removed theologically from Charismatic prosperity theology — might have bought into a very different prosperity theology. Have we all been seduced by the idea that prosperity is a given? Do we now think that prosperity is our right? Do we associate prosperity with the blessings we receive in the Gospel?

Perhaps we all need a refresher course in Christian economics and Christian theology. Niall Ferguson argues from the record of history in looking to the current crisis. Perhaps we should remember our own history lesson — that far more believers in Christ have been and are now among the poor, rather than among the wealthy. We should hear Jesus warn against materialism and Paul remind us that we are to be content when we have plenty and when we have little. We should know that the Christian virtue of thrift is incompatible with the lies of those who push consumer credit.

We are not promised prosperity. When we do enjoy prosperity, we should be thankful stewards — not peddlers of our own prosperity theology.

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