Televangelist Transgression: The Health And Wealth, Abundant Life Tropes

Posted in Faith, Religion, Television on  | 7 minutes | No Comments →

Interestingly, this new age of televangelist reminds me of the classic New Age, realize-all-your-dreams-and-desires guru: Impeccably clean and dangerously persuasive, with just a slightly discernible veil of cunning. I wanna spout off about some of the typical American religious chutzpah I'm listening to right now, conveniently on Sunday morning.

I left the television on last night when I fell asleep. As last night was Saturday, I awoke not only to the usual sounds of hungry animals, but also to the comforting and assuring voice of sheen-and-shine Midwestern televangelist, Joel Osteen. You don't have to bother telling me that I spelled his name right, either, because the producers take great pains to ensure it's displayed prominently at every possible turn of the kiosk. Now, most of the time I can see the value of Joel's little spiels – I watch enough television that I've caught maybe 3 of his programs now. They read more like Maslow with simpler vocabulary and watered-down dogma. When his program ended, I opted not to change the channel, as I was very into whatever I was writing at the moment.

I'm glad I didn't, because today was my first day meeting Dr. Frederick KC Price, and I must say, I am really impressed. He was generous enough to illuminate that my current financial strain has nothing at all to do with the market economy, but is surely the result of some unconfessed sin or other negligent failure on my behalf. I've been broke for some time now, and I've always thought it was the inherently cyclical nature of the creative career path, or possibly the economic rigidity beat forcibly into our populace by FauxNews and other reprehensible media conglomerates. But here was Dr. Price in my own home this morning to tell me otherwise! It must have been from God.

If his brief discussion on television wasn't good enough, I was given the option of purchasing any of Dr. Price's fabulous books, and on top of that, his wife and son also publish books about – guess what else – how to maximize the benefits of faith!

"Yippee, honey! Call the grandkids, 'cuz we're gettin' that new RV and driving out to Tonopah soon. I know because I've applied the Proven Principles of Prosperity contained in Dr. Price's new book, and now it's just a matter of time. Shucks, if it don't work, we can always git his son's book. It's only $14.95, ain't that a good deal, honey?"

This is the reasoning of those who fall prey to the abundant life trope. In case you've never heard of it, the trope tells believers that shortcomings and problems in their lives are the direct result of unconfessed sin and personal failures, and that all they need to do is be better Christians to get more money and good health. The idea is finely summarized by the following, taken from a paid advertisement for Dr. Price's $17.95 book Prosperity:

"Prosperity is the result of doing God's will."

As if further support was needed for L. Ron Hubbard's unscrupulous embrace of religion as a get-rich-quick scheme! Try telling Job or Jesus that their difficulties were the result of unconfessed sin or personal failures!

Friends, the most damaging pastors aren't the ones who are absolutely full of error. After the obvious offenders that embezzle funds, blow up clinics and molest kids, the worst priests and pastors are the ones who base their sermons around a grain of truth or respectable principle, then proceed to distort or support it ad nauseum from ulterior and misunderstood motive.

Discussing tithing, Dr. Price oversimplified things grossly and the techniques he used to prove his point were questionable. Being unfamiliar with the extent to which Dr. Price has studied logic, I was especially interested in hearing his argument. He felt compelled to select two individuals from the crowd. He began by asking the man how long he'd been married to his wife, and of those years, how many his wife had been female. He then asked the same question to the wife concerning the man. The setup was to create the illusion that one is only "true" if they hold to what they profess every single second of every single day. The logical error in comparing an involuntary condition with a phenomenon over which one has absolute choice should be readily apparent, and we didn't need to ask Dr. Price for an example of a "true" tither, either. In the very next breath, after casting doubt on his own congregation, Price had the audacity to declare that he and his wife were, in fact, true tithers who had never missed a single tithe!

Seriously, folks, this stuff is completely wrong. After passively insulting his congregation for deluding itself about tithing, Dr. Price bragged directly about his own level of piety. The pomposity was absolutely disgusting, as was the passivity with which it was received.

It's not that believers shouldn't think seriously about money and tithing, because they should. And I don't disagree with the idea that I might have unconfessed sin in my life. Who doesn't? Although no formula exists, I even believe the notion that personal failures can directly influence anyone's state of financial prosperity.

The health-and-wealth, abundant life tropes substitute selfishness for righteousness as motive. They are unbiblical, materialistic doctrines that further encourage a fragmented body of Christ to engage in deficit thinking and ignore both the ability and the calling to respond directly to the needs of others. The attention is taken off the development of selflessness and focused squarely upon the self, and the measure of faith becomes circumstantial; when we are broke or in poor health, we must be living disobediently, and when money and health abound, we must be living faithfully.

After 2,000 years does nobody remember? I thought the message was to be content and thankful in spite of circumstance? What happened to the Israelites that expressed deficit thinking? What happens to anybody that engages in deficit thinking? They rob energy from successful planning and action that could serve some other positive means. Folks, whether our salary has four figures or six has absolutely zero bearing on our ability to do the right things in life. Whether we own or rent makes no difference to the man on the street or to our own ostracized family members. Brand names and labels make no difference in arguments of truth. Why aren't these so-called religious powerhouses attacking the love of money and the equally unbiblical doctrine of circumstantial contentment? Instead, they replace righteousness with selfishness as the motive in serving God, and the folks in the audience can't seem to taste the bitter pill beneath the *peanut butter.

Often in both testaments, those who sought righteousness did not experience abundant wealth and pleasantries, and while there is arguably a connection, the notion of some controllable ratio between faithfulness and prosperity is patently false and unbiblical. It also violates common sense and the laws of average: Those who believe in God or strive to be righteous will go through cycles, trials and tribulations just like anybody else.

Now I have no knowledge of Dr. Price's motive and cannot judge the man, only the words, but as a writer and publisher, I can see rather clearly that at least some of Dr. Price's prosperity is coming from book sales directed towards the simpleton who lacks either a strong foundation in scripture, the ability to question authority, or both.

*Hat tip to PhillyChief for the analogy

PS – I was looking for a quick YouTube link so you could listen to Fred for yourself, but I thought this footage of another believer assassinating Fred's character in the name of God was more interesting.

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