Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bailing Out Prosperity Gospel

In this article from Twin Cities local news outlet City Pages I came across this particular gem. To be clear, the article is about a much larger issue involving the allocation of funds from the coronavirus relief bill, but I'm not going to talk about any of that. I have opinions about it, of course, but here's the bit that wanders into Augoeides territory.

Churches and religious organizations also tapped PPP money, including Eagle Brook in Hugo ($2-$5 million), the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul ($1-$2 million) and Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis (also $1-$2 million).

Of particularly delicious note was Living Word Christian Center, a Brooklyn Park megachurch that received a loan somewhere between $2 million and $5 million. Senior Pastor Mac Hammond has been known for preaching the "prosperity gospel," which teaches that God rewards good faith and tithing with the alleviation of sickness and poverty and the deliverance of prosperity and – yes -- actual, material wealth.

Living Word also didn’t respond to interview requests about what role the government plays in the church's prosperity (or lack thereof). Living Word has been on shaky ground in the past, with numerous struggles to meet monthly budgets and repeated investigations by Congress and the IRS.

And what I really want to know here is how Living Word is going to spin this. Prosperity Gospel teaches that (A) God rewards you with money if you're doing a good job and (B) government money doesn't count, because welfare programs are evil. But God didn't give them enough money so they had to take one of those evil government handouts. That's the truth, right there.

There are plenty of legitimate arguments over whether funds like these should go to religious organizations at all, given the separation of church and state. But the funnier point for me is that, basically, in doing this Living Word completely undermined all of that Prosperity Gospel nonsense. It's a scam, and it's time more people realized that.

No matter what these churches preach, the reality behind it is that as long as the church is pulling in money they don't much care where it comes from. And that, in and of itself, should be a complete violation of the actual teachings of Jesus. In Prosperity Gospel, the merchants haven't just taken over the temple, they are the temple.

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