This past weekend, my husband and I delved into a few religious philosophical conversations regarding my last post concerning Jesus and relationships and also about praising God when good things happen and not mentioning him at all when bad things happen. Both conversations were framed through the light of this article concerning the prosperity doctrine. (no he did not read the post, I was just talking to him about the subject. This is still a secret blog)
As the article points out, the prosperity doctrine is a fairly new concept that I believe has come about due to the excesses we have in this world and people's desire to want their share. It tells those who have a lot that they have been blessed by God and those who have little that with enough prayer they too can be blessed. I don't know of a single church or pastor who would ever own up to preaching the prosperity doctrine and yet it exists in many churches across America. Sometimes it is subtle, like when someone buys a house and they believe that God helped them get the house. I'm sure it makes them feel good to think that God wants them to have something this awesome and that maybe if he has given you a house, there is a reason for it, either because you deserve it or because he will use your home to further his kingdom. As a former post mentioned, there is also the not-so-subtle, like when a church announces that God wants them to build a couple million dollar facility and all you have to do is give "above and beyond" and you will not only sees God's kingdom furthered in the church, but in your life as well. That God will miraculously pay your bills and provide for you if you "test him in this".
My husband is always quick to remind me that this is a teaching in only a certain number of churches. He is right in that I should not generalize millions of people and their churches. After all, a Methodist church certainly can be very different than a Pentecostal one. However, as this woman pointed out, the prosperity doctrine is everywhere and has invaded many kinds of churches, not just the sentimental emotionally-driven ones. This is the implication I always get from my husband: That the reason these people believe this is because they come from a brand of Christianity that is emotional and illogical. Not like him and the churches he grew up in. I would posit at this point that I think religion in itself is emotional and illogical.
To be clear, he grew up Southern Baptist. Now, I was not raised Baptist, but I have studied their beliefs and attended services and I am sorry, but this is wrong. Baptist churches are just as likely to believe in the prosperity doctrine as any other church. In fact, some of the biggest mega-churches in America come from Baptist traditions.
The real issue with his thinking is that there is this notion that if I had just received the right flavor of Christianity, I would not say the things I say and would still be a believer. Every time he alludes to this I want to start listing all the reasons why I don't believe anymore. The top 40 have to do with the Bible itself and the supposed nature of God. Somewhere down the list are some of my frustrations with the church itself. To be clear though, my frustrations with the way the church handles sex or women, are not the reasons I am no longer a Christian. Prosperity doctrine is a frustrating disease that has permeated the American church (and is spreading globally too), but it is not the reason I no longer believer. How Christians act in very un-Christianlike ways doesn't even have a part in it. Those are things that bother me, but they are not the reason for my unbelief.
My parents raised me in a very mystical form of Christianity. My mother believes in everyday miracles, healing, name it and pray it, anointing of oil, and demons. Yet, I don't see any of this as crazy because when I read the Bible, I see where they are getting this stuff. The Bible does talk about demons, it talks about fighting them, casting them out, and possession. So why is it crazy that someone would believe a person can be demon-possessed if they are a believer? If you truly believe the Bible, then it actually makes sense that you would believe that. The problem for me now, the reason why I find it all so ridiculous is that I no longer believe the Bible is true. I don't think there are demons. I suspect that the demon-possessed mentioned throughout the Bible were people with mental illnesses. Can you imagine having schizophrenia in that time period? So what if other people choose to interpret demons to not mean actual physical ones? It's not like it isn't in there. My husband rolls his eyes at my mother for being so illogical and emotional, but I would posit that she is living her faith in the context of the Bible. He says she is twisting scripture and I know she would say he was the one doing so.
The flavor of Christianity I was given is a bit extreme, but it isn't the reason why I am no longer a Christian. I seriously doubt if I had been raised Church of the Nazarene or Lutheran, that I would still be a believer. In fact, I think that if I hadn't grown up in such an environment, I would have become an atheist even sooner.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.