And Jesus so loved the rich he gave his life for them. Or so you’d think. Jesus’ evolution into a plutocratic champion of the ultra-wealthy beggars belief. That is certainly the outlook of prosperity gospel, the idea that Jesus will make you rich. It does make some people rich – the people sending the message, that is. And it’s the fools who believe this gospel who make them rich.
Witness Pat and Jan Crouch, who run the Trinity Broadcasting Network, “the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel.” Faith in the almighty dollar that is. Fundamentalists accuse liberals of worshiping material things, of putting those material things above god and therefore engaging in idolatry.
That would be a sin, it would seem, endorsed by the Crouches, who raked in $92 million in donations in 2010, according to the Telegraph. All that money seems to have gone into fueling an outlandishly wealthy 1 percent-style existence, which included “private jets, mansions and a $100,000 motor home for their pet dogs.”
While Americans struggle. While Americans and people all around the world starve and die from disease. While Americans are homeless. A luxury motor home for dogs.
Apparently, just the way Jesus wanted it.
As the Telegraph reports:
The couple’s granddaughter Brittany Koper, 26, has now filed court papers claiming she was sacked after discovering “illegal financial schemes” adding up to tens of millions of dollars.
Oh dear. And that’s not all:
A legal claim from another relative, Joseph McVeigh, alleged that TBN obtained a $50 million Global Express luxury jet through a “sham loan”, owned an $8 million Hawker jet for Jan Crouch’s personal use, and had 13 homes for the Crouch family’s use across the United States. He claimed a $100,000 recreational vehicle was for the use of Jan Crouch’s dogs.
The gospel of Jesus is not much apparent in modern fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. He hardly gets a mention. And those who do mention him apparently just see his name as a sort of abracadabra for wealth. Many questions have been asked about this particular theology, by Time in 2006 and CBS News in 2009, among others, but rather than dying for their salvation, those who endorse the prosperity gospel seem to think Jesus died to make them rich.
The Crouches are hardly the first to live like millionaires. As CBS News reported in 2009, the Copeland’s of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries enjoyed “a lavish lakefront home, all 18,000 square feet of it, and a fleet of private planes – all paid for by the ministry.” Most folks don’t own $20 million dollar jets, let alone the four owned by the Copelands.
It is with good reason that Cathleen Falsani wrote in the Washington Post that the prosperity gospel as one of the “worst ideas of the decade” and labeled it an “insipid heresy.” Christianity Today had this to say about the Copeland’s as well back in 2009:
In Fort Worth, Texas, a review board ruled December 7 that Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ $3.6 million jet did not have tax-exempt status. The ruling came after the ministry, whose 1,500-acre campus includes a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion, refused to release the salaries of Copeland, his wife, and others.
If this obsession with wealth is not idolatry it is difficult to imagine what is. It’s no wonder that George Carlin always joked that God was real bad with money. He might be. But we can’t say that about his followers.
Let’s face it: bad as this is, the Crouches are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plundering Christian pocketbooks for Jesus.
Money has always been a driving force in the Church. Look at the Papacy – spiritual wealth? It meant nothing. It was worldly wealth the Catholic Church always wanted and protestant fundamentalists have followed in Catholicism’s footsteps. It’s a lucrative industry, the gospel, whatever gospel you care to preach. And it’s not just the prosperity gospel advocates but fundamentalists as well, who seem to be rich as Croesus, throwing money around like there is no tomorrow to press their brand of social conservatism on an America that wants nothing to do with it. The money seems endless.
As The Atlantic reported in 2009:
The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful.
Whatever happened to the gospel Jesus actually preached? Here is a poor illiterate – at best semi-literate Galilean who says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the message being sent is a worldly and egocentric one, the very powers Jesus preached against 2000 years ago. Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, but apparently Christians have found a way to do just that.
Paul of Tarsus managed to spread Christianity from Syria across Asia Minor and into Greece, possibly beyond, depending upon who you believe. And he managed to do it without building up a mega empire of wealth with fleets of galleys plying the waters of the Mediterranean. He did it, traveling on his own two feet across thousands of miles of rugged terrain with apparently little more than the clothes on his back and the goodwill of his fellow religionists.
Now there is a lesson today’s Christian high-rollers could learn from. And for the rest of us, we already have a worldly 1%ers trying to enrich themselves at our expense while they take our rights. We don’t need a bunch of religious high-rollers to join them and take what freedoms remain while they create an American papacy in our midst.