Editorials

Wineke: 'Prosperity gospel' is ongoing heresy

MADISON, Wis. - In the midst of all the other controversies this week, President Trump announced that Florida preacher Paula White will be the new spiritual adviser to his Office of Public Liaison.

This pretty much puts a cap on the president's corruption of evangelical Christianity.

White is best-known for her advocacy of the so-called "prosperity gospel," which holds that God's will for his people is that they be rich and has a subtext that the more you give, the more God will give you.

It is a very appealing gospel for the times, when the president's reelection campaign touts a rising stock market and declining unemployment statistics.

The only trouble with it, from an evangelical Christian viewpoint, at least, is that it runs counter to something Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

That's Luke 16:13 for those of you who don't memorize the Bible.

White, herself, is kind of an interesting character.

She converted to Christianity in 1984, said she had a vision from Jesus and started healing people. Those of us who have theological degrees from graduate schools tend to look down on these self-proclaimed disciples – although, what White claims is pretty much the same as the experience of St. Paul, the guy who wrote the biblical Epistles.

She founded giant congregations that later went bankrupt, wrote lots of books and has a television ministry. She posits herself as the president's personal pastor.

And all that is fine. We have freedom of religion in this country and if people want to believe in a prosperity gospel, they have every right to do so.

I do think it is fair to note that many prosperity gospel preachers become prosperous by convincing poor people to send them money but that's a different story.

I don't even have all that much problem with Paula White. My problem is with the evangelical Christian community that confuses the prosperity gospel with Christianity. That always leads to idolatry and idolatry sooner or later leads to ruin.

Evangelical leaders from Franklin Graham to Jerry Falwell Jr. to some pastors of Baptist megachurches to White have been going around proclaiming Trump to be, essentially, a prophet of God, sent to save this country from liberals and the "deep state."

And once you bend your knee to Trump, there's no going back. He demands obeisant servility and will turn viciously on even his most servile supporters should they defy him – or even disagree with him.

So you see Trump supporters lining up behind him, smearing soldiers who earned Purple Hearts in combat, sneering at diplomats who have devoted their lives to this country, disavowing statements they have made only days previously.

This is the result of a prosperity gospel at work in the political world. It actually works for a while. But, in the long run, you can't serve both God and mammon.

 

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