Thursday, December 31, 2009

Accident on Market Street: Did the Prosperity Gospel cause the crash?

In the December 2009 issue of Atlantic magazine, there is an article titled "Did Christianity cause the crash?"  I think it would be more accurate to ask "Did the Prosperity Gospel cause the crash?"  The article's abstract is below:
America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong
What is the prosperity gospel?  According to wikipedia:
Prosperity theology (also known as prosperity doctrine, health and wealth, prosperity gospel) is a religious belief centered on the notion that God provides material prosperity for those he favors.[1] It implies both that people who are favored by God will be materially successful, and also that materially successful people are successful because God favored them. The prosperity gospel is often used by its promoters to elicit donations, on the premise that donations will be materially repaid and rewarded through divine intervention.
However it is termed the concept is an interesting one.  I think the premise is a "chicken or egg" question.  A case could be made for predatory lenders taking advantage of pastors and congregations preaching this concept, but a case could be made that belief in the prosperity gospel led people to take extreme risks because "God will give it to us."

I tend to think that these issues heterodyned, each contributing some to the overall collapse.  While the prosperity believers were taking bigger risks than was perhaps warranted, cynical financial intent on lining their pockets saw a market ripe for the picking, unquestioning lambs for the slaughter.

No comments:

Post a Comment