The More You Give, the More You Get

What do Bennie Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Eddie Long, Paula White and Creflo Dollar have in common? They all preach what has come to be known as The Prosperity Gospel. The philosophical underpinnings of their ministries are deeply complex, requiring many hours of contemplation, so it won't be easy for me to capture the essence of their teachings in just a few words, but I'll try. The Prosperity Gospel goes a little like this: You give them money, they prosper. They do this by convincing you that by having an authentic belief in God, you will be prosperous. Of course, the authenticity of your belief is best measured by how much you sacrifice to their ministries.

And who wants to win that lottery the most? None other than those least able to pay for the ticket. These televangelists prey on the hopes and dreams of the impoverished through their living room T.V. set while weekly raking in the dough. God is refashioned into Santa Claus for adults. Just sit on Benny Hinn's knee, tell him what kind of car you want, slip him a little something on the side, and wait for the miracle to occur. In the meantime, he hops on board his private jet to pick up his dry cleaning in Cancun.
Because they run churches they do not have to file tax forms with the IRS. So it's unclear how many millions - or billions - are collected every year.

“Rolls Royces, Bentleys ... a marble commode in an expensive home: that’s a lot of money down the toilet,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Grassley has asked for their financial records following a two year investigation into their tax exempt status. The latest update on responses from these various ministries is less than encouraging. December 7, 2007 was to have been the deadline for providing this information to the Senate finance committee. As of March 31 of this year, only some have responded. Creflo Dollar has outright refused. (ref - pdf warn)

A former staff member for Without Walls International Church named Hector Gomez said, "Mansions, big planes, money, fame. That's what it's all about now; there are prophets for God, and there are prophets for profit. That's the category they fit in." and that he has received "more manipulation than inspiration" from them. (ref)

And just to make sure you're not cheating on your faith, there's this gem:

An assistant pastor took the stage first and talked about the importance of tithing, about how God's law directs members to give a certain percentage of income to the church.

"Tithe is 10 percent of your gross income, not your net," Randy has reminded congregants. (ref)

Huh. I'd have guessed God would get a bigger tip than waiters - 15% at least, maybe 20% on non-cyclone days.

Prosperity Theology is big money squeezed from poor people. It's no different than gambling with the promise of big payouts except, in this case, the House always wins.



Erica said...

The tithe of 10% is based on the ancient Jewish practice. However, it was originally intended simply to be a guideline of how much you should give to those in need -- basically, what you give to charity (tzedakah).

The Christian understanding that tithe should go directly to the church probably developed in the Middle Ages when the Catholic Church was sucking up wealth from everybody. (To some extent, that still worked -- the Church was pretty much the only one who could take care of the needy.)

The modernized concept of giving 10% income (gross OR net) to a rich, not-needy preacher is pure exploitation, though. There's nothing in the Bible to support it, and there's plenty to condemn it. The "Prosperity Gospel" is just disgusting.

The skepTick said...

I learn a little more everyday. Thanks for leaving a comment. I wonder how 10% was chosen, though. Why not 5% or 20%? If you go by the bible, it should really be 100%:

Mark 10:17-22 - " . . . go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven . . ."
Luke 18:22-25 - ". . . it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Lesson learned: don't use the bible as your textbook on market economies.

Dreamin' said...

Copeland is standing up for what he believes is right in this situation. The future implications could be scary if Grassley is given access to this kind of information. He should have asked for an IRS investigation from the beginning just as Copeland has requested.

The skepTick said...

Yah...somehow I think he's standing up for more than what he thinks is right.