Friday, August 21, 2015

Prosperity Preacher Strikes Back

In response to John Oliver's epic takedown of Prosperity Gospel preachers, a Christian minister who believes in "seed faith" - the idea that if you donate money to churches, even insane operations that seem to exist only to enrich their founders, you will receive more money back than you donated by "supernatural means" - presented an epic whine about how he should mind his own business and leave prosperity preachers alone.

On Wednesday, Christian minister Jennifer LeClaire said Oliver shouldn’t “mock what you don’t understand,” calling him a “false reverend.”

I think John is pretty clear that he's a false reverend. That's the whole point of his "Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption" fake church.

LeClaire, who operates the Awakening House of Prayer, admitted there are abusive churches. But she does believe in the concept of “seed faith” — the idea that giving money to a church will result in returns for the giver.

At issue is not the idea that offerings can benefit the person making them. Ceremonial magicians do this with spirits all the time, and it does work. The problem comes in when you start teaching that (A) the larger the donation you make, the larger your returns will be and (B) when you donate, you will always get back more money than you put in.

(B) especially turns donating to these organizations into a gigantic Ponzi scheme, and the reason these evangelists become so rich is that it's the best kind of Ponzi scheme, at least for those running it - the kind that never has to pay out. Instead, the money can be spent on luxury jets and mansions that can be classified as "parsonages" to avoid property taxes. That's great work if you can get it.

“[W]e have to be careful not to paint everyone who believes for an airplane or sows a seed to get out of debt as a heretic,” she writes.

Actually, I'm fine with painting them as such. Jesus was very clear that one of the worst things a person could possible do was exploit the poor. Many of the people donating to these ministries are clearly being exploited. Therefore, as I see it "heretic" is pretty much an accurate description.

Oliver’s segment hilariously skewered preachers whose fantastic displays of wealth come at a large cost to parishioners who they compel to donate what little money they have. They tend to believe in the conveniently self-serving idea of prosperity as a sign of God’s favor.

“I do believe in supernatural debt cancellation,” LeClaire writes. “And I don’t believe we should mock so-called prosperity preachers, even if we don’t believe they hear from God. Nor do I believe we should insinuate that God is cursing at them, as Oliver did.”

So LeClaire believes that if you donate money on a credit card, God will zero out your balance? That's not so much heretical as just plain stupid. We most certainly should mock these preachers if we think they don't hear from God, because if they're not doing God's work all that's left is a big confidence trick and people need to know not to donate.

I'm not sure where she got the idea that Oliver claimed God was cursing any of these folks, though, and I've watched the segment several times. It seems to me that if an all-powerful God really wanted to curse them, he would quite frankly be doing a better job - because they sure look rich and successful. I do think, though, that if the God of the Bible is really out there watching he can't be too happy with them.

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