Saturday, September 16, 2006

TIME has an article on Joel "God Wants You To Be Rich" Osteen

This is not available online except for the opening paragraphs but only by subscription to TIME. In a Time poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. CORRECTION - I FOUND a free TIME proxy server.
Osteen's relentlessly upbeat television sermons had helped Adams, 49, get through the hard times, and now Adams was expecting the smiling, Texas-twanged 43-year-old to help boost him back toward success. And Osteen did. Inspired by the preacher's insistence that one of God's top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime--and by the corollary assumption that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less--Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work. He didn't have entry-level aspirations: "God has showed me that he doesn't want me to be a run-of-the-mill person," he explains. He demanded to know what the dealership's top salesmen made--and got the job. Banishing all doubt--"You can't sell a $40,000-to-$50,000 car with menial thoughts"--Adams took four days to retail his first vehicle, a Ford F-150 Lariat with leather interior. He knew that many fellow salesmen don't notch their first score until their second week. "Right now, I'm above average!" he exclaims. "It's a new day God has given me! I'm on my way to a six-figure income!" The sales commission will help with this month's rent, but Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: "Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle."
Should I tell Lieberman Democrat Greg Wythe about this? He denies that is what his minister preaches. CNN has a very general synopsis.
The movement's renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen's by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?" he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"

The brickbats -- both theological and practical (who really gets rich from this?) --come especially thick from Evangelicals like Warren. Evangelicalism is more prominent and influential than ever before. Yet the movement, which has never had a robust theology of money, finds an aggressive philosophy advancing within its ranks that many of its leaders regard as simplistic, possibly heretical and certainly embarrassing.
Where to begin. This is so all-American delusional. A church movement similar to the Prosperity Gospel was foretold by Robert Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land and called Fosterites. The original shorter version of the novel is highly recommended, an excellent book and fun read. Of course, the other Heinlein prophecy is the rise of American religious dictator Nehemiah Scudder in other books and stories. Our closest politician today like Nehemiah would probably be Pat Robertson but there are many other contenders. There is a strong religious stream in American culture opposed by an equally strong libertarian stream. Heinlein thought the religious followers were closer to winning out but eventually science and liberty would triumph.

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