An article concerning the prosperity doctrine preachers was posted on Gawker this week. It's long, but I encourage you to read through it. I know many Christians who would like to distance themselves from this sort of manipulation, however most are unaware that it is already happening in their churches.
Several years ago, I attended a church that was doing a fundraiser for a new building. They had been talking about this night for weeks, with banners proclaiming the "event". There was music, food, shouting and speaking in tongues. Then the pastor came forward and encouraged everyone to give to the cause. He told people that they would be blessed for giving. That is they tested God in this area, they would see blessings. He shared stories about people in the congregation who had given to the last fundraiser, given all of their savings, and saw it increased. These increases included an unexpected Christmas bonus or an inheritance. This was, of course, a sign from God for their obedience in giving. At some point the pastor announced that they would be shutting and locking the doors until the congregation had pledged to give X amount. When someone noticed that I had not gone forward to give any money, I was approached and asked why I lacked faith. "I have rent to pay and already gave my tithe this month," I replied. It was the implied that I should give my rent money because God wouldn't allow me to go homeless. At this point, I grew angry. Where is that money going to come from, huh? I'm not going to get a magical Christmas bonus or an inheritance. I make X amount an hour and work 40 hours a week. My birthday is far away as was Christmas. I make the same amount of money every week and extra money doesn't come from thin air. I was approached twice more that evening. The worst part of this whole thing is that this church preached against prosperity doctrine on a regular basis. They thought that they were better than the televangelists with their empty promises.
I have attended other churches who have done this too. I have attended churches that promised extra grace (whatever that means) to people who did certain things like take communion or get married. I attended churches that believed that the end times were coming. It is why the Christian church is such a huge supporter of Israel. Jesus cannot come back until Israel and Jerusalem are restored. They want that to happen. Badly. I attended a church where they waved banners, banged sticks on the ground, and shouted. I knew people who would hear about revivals in another state and would, just like in the article, attend for days on end in order to get some blessing. They usually returned with "souveneirs" of the experience. Videos, holy whatever, a sacred cheese cloth. I asked aloud why these people had to go all the way to Florida to catch the Holy Spirit? Isn't the Holy Spirit right here? In me? In our church? My parents would always tithe to the church first, even when they couldn't pay their bills. My mom swears that God always provided, but looking back, my parents were always a few days away from having the electricity shut off or the rent being unpaid. I remember a few times the electricity being shut off or the phone. They really could have used that extra $5000 a year and not for frivolous purposes, because they had four kids and bills to pay. But they gave their 10% and sometimes more because they owed God.
To be fair, my parents always told me that tithing was not about getting. We don't give 10% with the expectation that we will somehow get that amount back. We give because everything we own belongs to God and we are thanking him. Eventually, I did quit tithing about a decade ago, because I figured God would understand that I needed to pay my bills.
As for other things in this article, there are so many Christians who are quite literally one crazy thought from being just like these people, even though they like to think they are smarter than that. My mother anoints people with oil...she just doesn't carry the bottle of oil around with her in her pocket. But she does it and she believes in it. Most Christians I know believe that your steps are ordained by God. That if you are close communicae with God, he will tell you where to be and when. Some even think that God tells them what to wear because if they are wearing a green shirt that day it will give them the opportunity to share the gospel with the person who comments on it. I know people who watch pastors on television or the internet and some have even sent money to their causes. It doesn't matter that those pastors have millions of dollars and could easily fund that cause themselves. And the year of Jubilee thing? I remember singing songs about it. It was preached from the pulpit. Every year it seemed to be a year of Jubilee.
As the author of the article stated, "People follow the prosperity gospel for the same reason that they buy lottery tickets: they hope that their investment will be multiplied many times over. And, like the lottery, most of the players here are poor people. The fervent faith required to buy into this promise is a type of faith born only from desperation."
I think it is more than that though. I think these people have been so indoctrinated, so duped, that they are willing to believe things that go against all logic and understanding. They truly believe that giving money will get them money. They truly believe that the $20 bill they found in their pocket was put there magically as a sign from God, not forgotten about from months ago when you last wore it. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can refute this because there is always some anecdotal story to reassure them that they are in fact the chosen ones, blessed beyond measure, and will one day see God's increase in their lives.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.