A couple of weeks ago, over at The Immanent Frame, I was asked to comment on Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic article which drew connections between the prosperity gospel and the subprime mortgage catastrophe. At that time, I suggested the following:
So prosperity preachers are easy targets for blame—and they certainly deserve that. But what about the sort of low-grade, soft-sell gospel of prosperity that is part of “mainstream” evangelicalism? While folks like Rick Warren are quick to denounce the heresy of treating God like a cosmic bubble-gum machine, run-of-the-mill suburban evangelicals are complicit with a consumerism and fixation on property that operates under-the-radar, as it were. While mainstream megapastors aren’t promising Bentleys for faith, they generally extol a vision of the “good life” that has 4 bedrooms and a 3-car garage, with an SUV in the drive. (If you really want to know what evangelicals value, stroll the parking lot at Saddleback Church—and then ask folks where they live.) This is why evangelicals have been so easily assimilated to the American ideal of economic growth and personal prosperity (an American gospel that is certainly not just the property of Republicans).
In other words, while Osteen and his ilk might be denounced by evangelicals, I do wonder if his gospel of prosperity differs by degree, rather than in kind.
Why do I find myself thinking about a 900-foot Jesus?