The Church of Capitalism: Prosperity Gospels, Billionaire Preachers and a New Path to Heaven
So if you read such a passage wouldn’t you wonder if God was likely to judge the poor in the same light as he judged the wealthy?
If you gave credence to the Joel Osteen inspired “Prosperity Gospel” you’d learn that not being a financial success is more or less a sin. The Prosperity Gospel is defined as: A religious belief among some Protestant Christians that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God.
Historian Randall Collins surmised it was the church more than any other agency that put into place the preconditions of Capitalism. In fact, during the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was the main locus of the ascendency of early Capitalism (acton.org).
The Prosperity Gospel originated as a subsidiary of Pentecostalism in post-World War II America. Although, it began within local congregations the movement attained a larger following due to the use of television and radio, allowing the message to expand its horizons.
By the 1980’s the Prosperity Gospel would become firmly entrenched in Society with the advent of “Televangelism” (thegospelcoalition.org).
As of 2018 the most famous Prosperity Gospel preacher, Joel Osteen’s, televised sermons were witnessed by approximately 10 million people in the United States and several million more in over 100 countries. Osteen’s Sunday Morning performances sell out 18,000 seat arenas and is shown on nearly every National television station.
Despite his immense popularity amongst his dedicated followers, Osteen has received growing criticism for his intense belief in the Prosperity Gospel. In October 2007, CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a 12-minute segment in which reformed Theologian Michael Horton described Osteen’s approached to religion as pure heresy.
Osteen is not alone when it comes to accruing substantial amounts of wealth through the word of God.
Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
Kenneth Copeland, another Texas preacher, has a fleet of private jets and even his own airport thanks to parishioner investments into his “Word of Faith” movement. Copeland has written that his dedicated flock would be repaid “hundredfold” by giving their hard-earned money to God. If this isn’t taking advantage of the scourge of Capitalism, I don’t know what is. Is it blind faith, stupidity or truly the belief that one will soon benefit financially by lining the pockets of a Charlatan?
What these godly opportunists are doing is certainly not illegal, perhaps extremely immoral but within America’s ultra-capitalist, religious sector it is seen as a monumental chance to not only get closer to God but become rich in the process. And what’s a better way to get into heaven, right?
There’s no better example of the link between the Christian Church and Capitalism then the consumerism of the Christmas holiday. In 2022 consumers spent a record 9 billion dollars on Black Friday, the premiere shopping day of the year. The religious aspect of Christmas has been completely blanketed by the rush of gift giving. There’s no doubt that December 25th is no longer seen as Jesus Christ’s birthday but the perennial day for the Church of Capitalism.
Photo by Cris Faga/REX/Shutterstock (9990525v)
Black Friday in Sao Paulo, Brazil – 22 Nov 2018
One example of the effects Christianity and the Prosperity Gospel has on popular culture is the controversial Hillsong church. The Hillsong church was established in 1983 as the Hills Christian Life Centre in New South Wales, Australia by Brian Houston. The church and its music were extremely successful before a series of criticisms and scandals damaged their brand. Before the negative press Hillsong enjoyed an unprecedented amount of global accolades from not only common worshippers but also A-list celebrities and millionaires including: Justin Bieber and Kevin Durant, amongst others.
NYC Hillsong headman Pastor Carl Lentz developed an oddly close relationship with Bieber too the point where Pastor Lentz accompanied him on a world tour as his “spiritual advisor” soaking up the attention that comes with traveling with an international superstar. Pastor Lentz also seemed to be making important decisions for the singer regarding his career, almost as if to serve as the singers manager (religionnews.com).
In November of 2021 Pastor Lentz was fired by Hillsong global pastor Brian Houston for “Leadership issues, and moral failures” following the revelation of extramarital affairs. It wasn’t only Carl Lentz who was forced from his extremely financially profitable position, in January of 2022 Brian Houston was also barred from running Hillsong due to allegations of concealing sexual abuse of a child committed by his father which allegedly took place during the 1990’s. ( cnn.com)
Hillsong is a perfect example of individuals using religion and the promise of great wealth and happiness to shamelessly lure regular people into a Gospel based on false promises and twisting the words of the Bible. Hillsong’s connection to popular celebrities and their nightclub like sermons also helped gain peoples need to feel exceptional by joining the Church and donate large sums of money.
The downfall of a megachurch like Hillsong should be seen as a positive for the Christian community.
Hillsong’s approach to religion and it’s obsession with money and celebrity shined an unwelcomed spotlight on the negative aspects of modern Christianity, especially the aforementioned “Prosperity Gospel.” But as long as Pastors like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland continue preaching to tens of thousands of worshippers in person and millions more on television and radio the Church of Capitalism will not only cease to exist but grow steadily.
The connection between Christianity and Capitalism started in the Middle Ages and now has grown into a billion-dollar industry.
The people who are drawn into the hopes and expectations that as long as you continue lining the pockets of these Televangelists you will eventually reach financial success while avoiding eternal damnation.
It appears now instead of “praying” your way to reach the gates of heaven you’ll be “paying” your way.
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