I’m going to put my response to Dr. Boa aside for a while, as I have had a few other things come across that require my attention and I don’t want it to be rushed or incomplete. I also wanted to take time to respond to another issue, one that I have had on my mind frequently due to it being a common one in my area. It has weighed heavily on my heart and I felt like it was appropriate to spend time writing about it.
A friend of mine on Facebook pointed me to this article at Gawker by Hamilton Nolan, about whom I know literally nothing except what’s written here, wherein he goes to a revival featuring a variety of names from the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith movement, such as Kenneth Copeland, and the man who is apparently over the organization running this particular revival conference, Morris Cerullo. Naturally, the author goes for vivid descriptions of every grandiose and bizarre experience, from the very excited attendees there seeking the “double portion” of God’s favor, to the lady spending half the conference waving a flag in the back of the room. But there is a certain starkness to the most detailed moments: the hope and dreams of so many who, multiple times over the course of the revival, make their way up front upon the call of the speakers to give money–large amounts of it. I can only imagine how much money changed hands there.
My friend wanted me to tear the article apart, and produce what would no doubt be an entertaining screed. I began a blog post, but got sidetracked and it ended up being put by the wayside. Yesterday*, however, I encountered another article posted in a few places around the web: Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me, written by Kate Bowler and published in the New York Times, certainly no bastion of conservative theological discussion. But her article was heartfelt and hit right at the heart of the same issue I saw on display in the first article (albeit in a more satirical style): no matter its claims, the prosperity gospel has at its core idolatry and a human desire to hope that our own works will get us what we want.
Both articles resonated with me not because I stood on similar theological grounds with the authors (as far as I can tell, neither is explicitly a Christian), but because of a recognition of the damage this teaching was doing to their view of the true purpose of the church and the cynicism it breeds among those who come to realize that they will not find what they desire this way.