19 Matching Annotations
  1. Oct 2020
    1. Take a look at the overlap of this philosophy with early Norman Vincent Peale's philosophy which apparently heavily influenced the Trump family.

    2. It’s difficult to say that the prosperity gospel itself led to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Again, only 17 percent of American Christians identify with it explicitly. It’s far more true, however, to say that the same cultural forces that led to the prosperity gospel’s proliferation in America — individualism, an affinity for ostentatious and charismatic leaders, the Protestant work ethic, and a cultural obsession with the power of “positive thinking” — shape how we, as a nation, approach politics.

      Power of Positive Thinking is a book by Norman Vincent Peale and provides the direct link to influence on Trump here.

      Also interesting to note the 17% number which can potentially be a threshold level for splitting a community or society from a game theoretic perspective. (Note: I should dig up the reference and re-read it.)

    3. A second strand in the development of the American prosperity gospel was the valorization of the “Protestant work ethic.” Written in 1905, Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism traced what he saw as the specifically Protestant approach to labor as integral to the development of capitalism and industrialization. In Weber’s historical analysis, Protestant Calvinists — who generally believe in the idea of “predestination,” or that God has chosen some people to be saved and others damned — felt the need to justify their own sense of themselves as the saved. They looked both for outward signs of God’s favor (i.e., through material success) and for ways to express inward virtue (i.e., through hard work). While the accuracy of Weber’s analysis is still debated by scholars, it nevertheless tells us a lot about cultural attitudes at the time Weber wrote it.
    4. According to a recent Dutch study, that point of view still holds true today: Protestants and citizens of predominately Protestant countries tend to conflate labor with personal satisfaction more than those of other religious traditions.

      How does this juxtapose with the ideas of indigenous scocieties in James Suzman's article The 300,000-year case for the 15-hour week (Financial Times, 2020-08-27)

    5. Its roots, though, don’t just lie in explicitly Christian tradition. In fact, it’s possible to trace the origins of the American prosperity gospel to the tradition of New Thought, a nineteenth-century spiritual movement popular with decidedly unorthodox thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James. Practitioners of New Thought, not all of whom identified as Christian, generally held the divinity of the individual human being and the priority of mind over matter. In other words, if you could correctly channel your mental energy, you could harness its material results. New Thought, also known as the “mind cure,” took many forms: from interest in the occult to splinter-Christian denominations like Christian Science to the development of the “talking cure” at the root of psychotherapy. The upshot of New Thought, though, was the quintessentially American idea that the individual was responsible for his or her own happiness, health, and situation in life, and that applying mental energy in the appropriate direction was sufficient to cure any ills.
    1. Critics, including Sarah Posner and Joe Conason, maintain that prosperity teachers cultivate authoritarian organizations. They argue that leaders attempt to control the lives of adherents by claiming divinely-bestowed authority.[63] Jenkins contends that prosperity theology is used as a tool to justify the high salaries of pastors.

      This would seem to play out in current American culture which seems to be welcoming of an authoritarian president.

    2. In a study of the Swedish Word of Life Church, he noted that members felt part of a complex gift-exchange system, giving to God and then awaiting a gift in return (either from God directly or through another church member).[66]

      This philosophy has been around long enough that there ought to be evidence that it works for more than just the leaders of the churches. If anything, it feels like the middle classes that are practicing it are practicing it right towards poverty over the past 20 years.

    1. If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology.

      This adds more to my prior comment with the addition to Max Weber here. Cross reference some of my reading this past week on his influence on the prosperity gospel.

  2. Sep 2020
    1. Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic argues that prosperity theology contributed to the housing bubble that caused the late-2000s financial crisis. She maintains that prosperity churches heavily emphasized home ownership based on reliance on divine financial intervention that led to unwise choices based on actual financial ability.[36]

      This is a fascinating theory. I wonder how well it plays out for evidence?

    2. Oral Roberts began teaching prosperity theology in 1947.[4] He explained the laws of faith as a "blessing pact" in which God would return donations "seven fold",[26] promising that donors would receive back from unexpected sources the money they donated to him. Roberts offered to return any donation that did not lead to an equivalent unexpected payment.

      How does this track with the growth of Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes in the late 1800's and early 1900's?

    3. Rather than asking, Kenyon taught believers to demand healing since they were already legally entitled to receive it.

      This sort of entitlement isn't helpful in American culture which is already heavily entitled, especially in white communities.

    1. Thus could Ken Copeland write in his Laws of Prosperity, "Do you want a hundredfold return on your money? Give and let God multiply it back to you. No bank in the world offers this kind of return! Praise the Lord!” In this mentality, tithing is a financially responsible thing to do. It’s a show of faith and a shrewd investment alike, a wager on the idea that God acts in the here and now to reward those with both faith and a sufficiently developed work ethic.

      And of course, if you're giving away 10%, you've got to work even harder to make up that initial loss!

    2. Figures like Kenneth Hagin, his protégé Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and, of course, Osteen himself built up individual followings: followings that often grew as a result of cross-promotion (something religious historian Kate Bowler points out in her excellent Blessed, a history of the prosperity gospel movement). One preacher might, for example, feature another at his conference, or hawk his cassette tapes.

      Some of this is the leveraging of individual platforms for cross-promotion here, which helped in a pre-social media space and which now happens regularly online, particularly in the "funnel" sales space.

    3. Throughout the twentieth century, proponents of this particularly American blend of theology envisaged God as a kind of banker, dispensing money to the deserving, with Jesus as a model business executive. Both of these characterizations were, at times, literal: In 1936, New Thought mystic and founder of the Unity Church Charles Fillmore rewrote Psalm 23 to read, “The Lord is my banker/my credit is good”; in 1925, advertising executive Bruce Bowler wrote The Man Nobody Knows to argue that Jesus was the first great capitalist. The literal money quote reads, “Some day ... someone will write a book about Jesus. Every businessman will read it and send it to his partners and his salesmen. For it will tell the story of the founder of modern business.”

      Note the strong restructuring of god in line with capitalism

    4. These three strands collided throughout the twentieth century, as the prosperity gospel came into being. It started — like the “work ethic” Max Weber described — as a way to justify why, during the Gilded Age, some people were rich and others poor. (One early prosperity gospel proponent, Baptist preacher Russell H. Conwell, told his mostly-destitute congregation in 1915: “I say you ought to be rich; you have no right to be poor.”) Instead of blaming structural inequality, Conwell and those like him blamed the perceived failures of the individual.

      This philosophy also overlaps some of the resurgence of white nationalism and structural racism in the early 1900's which also tended to disadvantage people of color. ie, we can blame the coloreds because it's not structural inequality, but the failure of the individual (and the race.)

    5. A final strand of the development of the prosperity gospel was the development of charismatic Pentecostal churches in America. An umbrella term for a decentralized group of churches — comprising over 700 denominations — Pentecostal churches are characterized by an emphasis on what is known as “spiritual gifts” (or charisms, from which the term “charismatic” is drawn). A worshipful Christian might experience, for example, the gift of healing, or might suddenly start speaking “in tongues.” This tradition of worship meant that, for a believer, the idea that God would manifest Himself to the faithful in concrete, miraculous ways in the here and now was more prevalent than it would be in, say, a mainline Episcopalian church. In addition, the decentralized nature of these churches also meant that individual leaders, many of whom practiced faith healing or similar practices, had a particularly strong effect on their congregations and could build up individual personal followings.

      Take a look at the potential relationship with these ideas and those described by Colin Woodard in American Nations and the overlap with Kevin Phillips' viewpoints.

    6. The prosperity gospel is an umbrella term for a group of ideas — popular among charismatic preachers in the evangelical tradition — that equate Christian faith with material, and particularly financial, success. It has a long history in American culture, with figures like Osteen and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, glamorous, flashily-dressed televangelists whose Disneyland-meets-Bethlehem Christian theme park, Heritage USA, was once the third-most-visited site in America.
    7. As Laura Turner notes in an excellent piece for BuzzFeed, no theological tradition is as rife for accusations of hypocrisy as the “prosperity gospel,” a distinctively American theological tradition. While it’s popular among many evangelical Protestants, it’s been condemned by many others. But to many of its critics, especially since the election of Donald Trump, this tradition has come to represent the worst of the conflation of American-style capitalism, religion, and Republican party politics.
  3. Aug 2019
    1.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

      This verse is often taken out of context, often to imply that God will give you whatever you want if you just ask.

      If you look at the two verses that proceed it, Paul wrote that he had "learned in whatever situation I am to be content". The next verse talks about being "brought low" and facing "hunger". This verse offers no support for easy success or a "Prosperity Gospel".