Prosperity Gospel – religion and capitalism – Page 1

see also  Prosperity Gospel – Religion and Capitalism – Page 2

How Hyper-Religious Political Stunts by Republicans Keep Voters Captive to Corporate Ideology by CJ WERLEMAN, AlterNet, Mar-3, 2014  If you want to know why nine out of the 10 poorest states are located in the hyper-religious South, look no further than this calculated right-wing political play, which is designed for one purpose: to ensure Southern and Sunbelt voters continue to vote against their own self-economic interests.

A Christian Nation? Since When? By KEVIN M. KRUSE, New York Times, MARCH 14, 2015 How Business Made Us Christian 

How Corporate America Invented Christian America By KEVIN M. KRUSE,, April 16, 2015  Inside one reverend’s big business-backed 1940s crusade to make the country conservative again.

How Big Business Invented the Theology of ‘Christian Libertarianism’ and the Gospel of Free Market By Kevin Kruse / AlterNet, June 1, 2015 The inside history of how Evangelical preachers were used to infuse society with the economic dogma that plagues us today.

Why Christian Fundamentalism Is Still a Big Deal in U.S. Politics and How It Got That Way By Eric C. Miller / Religion Dispatches June 10, 2015 


Paul Crouch, Architect of Prosperity Gospel Televangelism, Dead at 79

by Sarah Posner,, December 1, 2013

Paul Crouch, the founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network and an architect of global prosperity gospel televangelism, died yesterday at the age of 79.

Crouch built the network from one station in the 1970s to a global empire featuring a 24-hour menu of health and wealth gospel, preying on the gullible to turn their money over to televangelists to receive God’s blessing.

The network has purchased property all over the world to spread its message to Christians and non-Christians alike. Last year, when the network acquired studio space in Jerusalem, Crouch said on his Behind the Scenes program, “the harvest is coming in so fast. People, the messianic congregations are growing like you can’t believe.” Crouch maintained the purchase was of a “prophetic” significance, claiming that it would reach both the Jewish and Arab residents of the city.

Crouch’s son Matthew, speaking from a Jersualem balcony with his father, added, “what is the message of the Gospel, if it isn’t for the Jew first?”

Best known for his controversially extravagant spending, with his wife and business partner Jan, Paul Crouch survived many a media exposé. He and his wife built their network, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, using tax-exempt donor funds, frequently, former insiders have charged, for their own enrichment.

In 2004, the conservative Christian financial watchdog Ministry Watch issued a scathing report on the network, charging that its “huge cash stockpile” should be spent on charitable works, rather than on the Crouches’ personal luxuries. That same year, the Los Angeles Times ran a damning three-part exposé of the family’s mansions, luxury cars, and private airplane. But perhaps the most damaging revelation was the claim by Crouch’s former chauffeur, Lonnie Ford, that Crouch had paid him $425,000 in hush money to keep silent, Ford claimed, about how he was forced to have sex with Crouch to keep his job. On the air, Crouch called the story a “pack of lies right out of the pit of hell.” Other prosperity televangelists closed ranks around Crouch; the enemy, after all, was the secular media.

More recently, in 2012, Brittany Koper, the Crouches’ granddaughter and daughter of their son Paul, Jr., sued the network. She described to the New York Times “company-paid luxuries that she said appeared to violate the Internal Revenue Service’s ban on ‘excess compensation’ by nonprofit organizations as well as possibly state and federal laws on false bookkeeping and self-dealing.” The luxuries included a “former Conway Twitty estate in Tennessee, corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each and thousand-dollar dinners with fine wines, paid with tax-exempt money.” The network has repeatedly denied Koper’s allegations, and has claimed it was Koper who stole money from the network.

Koper’s sister, Carra Crouch, also sued the network, claiming her family covered up her rape by a TBN employee when she was 13 years old.

The Orange County Register reported last year that Koper’s husband, Michael, filed documents in her lawsuit alleging that Jan and her son Matthew were celebrating that the elder Crouch—thought then to be on his deathbed—had signed a letter leaving them, not Paul Jr., in charge of the network.

The Register, which closely follows the lawsuit against the network based in Santa Ana, also reported that Paul and Matthew Crouch suggested that God might punish TBN’s adversaries with death. “God help anyone who would try to get in the way of TBN, which was God’s plan,” Crouch said. “I have attended the funeral of at least two people who tried.”

Frequently overlooked amid the Crouches’ family feuds, financial and sexual scandals, prosperity preaching, faith healing claims, revelation, prophecy, and apocalyptic outlook was the role Crouch played in the development of Republican evangelical outreach in presidential campaigns. The Times obituary today notes that Crouch interviewed Rick Santorum last year; that’s a tradition, though, that dates back to the George H.W. Bush era, when Bush’s evangelical outreach guru Doug Wead brokered an interview for the Yankee Episcopalian to reach TBN’s audience.

Wead, who developed an extensive list of influential evangelicals with whom he wanted 1988 Bush presidential primary campaign to connect, had first-hand knowledge of the Crouches’ world. Yet he recognized the potential downside of Bush being seen with Crouch, whom he described as an “exaggeration of the most bizarre manifestation of the peculiar evangelical subculture.” He advised the vice-president not to appear for a televised interview with Crouch. But he staged such an interview himself, using the tagline “correspondent Doug Wead,” coaxing Bush to exhibit his faith in Jesus Christ for the TBN audience.

When George W. Bush first ran for president in 2000, Wead helped push for Crouch’s support without Bush appearing on the network. John McCain, however, had no such luck: he submitted to a 2007 interview with Crouch’s son, Paul, Jr.

To outsiders, the Crouches are comical, Elmer Gantry-esque caricatures of themselves, he with his prophecies and flamboyant fawning over the televangelists he helped turn into stars, she with her pink hair piled high on her head, garish make-up, high-pitched voice, and gaudy clothes. But as Wead recognized, they have an audience (one worth cultivating for votes, at least), in a subculture not only unfamiliar but probably outright incredible to many Americans.

When I was writing my book, I attended one of those notorious TBN “Praise-A-Thons” at the network’s suburban Atlanta studio. (For more on what happened that night, see this post on prosperity gospel and foreclosure.) The studio audience is nothing more than a prop. While the audience is asked to deliver money to an altar ready-made for the cameras, the real money comes pouring in from those at home.

The people in the studio audience, some bussed there in church vans, are true believers. They were willing to stay in their seats during crucial camera pans so television viewers could feel the anointing, too. They spoke in tongues and were slain in the spirit, but not too much if it wouldn’t play well on TV. The sad genius of it all was the orchestration to make the audience feel like a crucial part of something huge, something God wanted, something that God was going to bless many times over with miraculous riches and good health.

Jan Crouch was there, without Paul. The audience heard of her healing from colon cancer, “no radiation, no chemo, just Jesus!” she exclaimed.

After the healing story, Jan Crouch really got down to business. “The gift of the anointing for prosperity is flowing on this Praise-a-thon,” she said. The Praise-a-thon (which raises millions for the network that even conservative Christian critics charge lacks transparency and accountability) “is not about TBN,” said Crouch. “It’s about you.”

Paul Crouch managed to survive scandal after scandal, even those that tore apart his own family. For his supporters, he was a prophet, or at least a lucrative patron and ally. For anyone shocked by the excesses and abuses of prosperity preaching and exploitation of tax-exempt status, though, Crouch was a heretic and a charlatan. For both, his imprint will long survive him: he leaves not only a legacy of scandal, but a legacy of forever altering the landscape of American and global Christianity.

Mitt Romney’s Prosperity Gospel

By Peter Laarman, October 29, 2012

The presidential candidate as televangelist

Mitt Romney’s endorsement by various televangelists obscures the more important ways in which the candidate himself now projects the essence of televangelism. As the campaign enters the final days, Candidate Romney increasingly exhorts his audiences to dare to have faith in the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11.1), to dare to imagine a whole new life for themselves under this very rich man’s care, to dare to believe in the Gospel of Wealth, and to be saved, finally, from real-world lives that are going nowhere in the $10/hour economy

Watching Romney’s preacherly side take the stage in the second debate, I mistakenly feared for a time that he was having the better evening because of his way with a microphone and his remarkable capacity to modulate his voice (not to mention outing himself as LDS pastor and bishop). But it was Billy Graham’s endorsement, splashed into our faces via an expensive full-page Sunday New York Times ad, that triggered my flat-out recognition: the 94-year-old daddy of all televangelists is laying his bony patriarchal hands upon a fellow preacher who shares his hawk-like profile, and that man is not Franklin Graham.

Romney wants us to turn away from the false gospel of an impostor, a usurper, a false messiah, who happens to be the sitting president. Pretty much every Romney speech tells the story of how this imposter’s hope proved to be a false hope. Romney is clearly trying to plead for the souls of those who voted for Obama the first time. Romney’s message: “It’s okay, I understand the seduction: they don’t call Satan the ‘Father of Lies’ for nothing.”

But far more potent than the trashing of Obama in the new Romney pitch is the miracle-cure element (and the part that makes Obama people go nuts). To wit: “C’mon, folks! Just walk through these waters and watch that dropsy vanish, watch those deficits just disappear, watch those good American jobs fall like manna from Heaven.” He joins this with a very effective appeal to a still-Puritanical American need to avoid indebtedness and accept austerity as the price of redemption.

This is what Romney means when he refers to “big things” that need to be resolved. The biggest thing of all, for his purposes, is recovering the will and the capacity to believe. This very much includes believing that some should suffer (working people, “takers,” not plutocrats) in order to achieve national redemption. As Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Jeff Madrick, and many others are quick to say, imposing austerity on workers is the worst possible remedy. But this doesn’t mean that many middle-class and working-class Americans, including many who consider themselves free of any residual Puritanism, don’t buy into the new austerity.

Obama’s response so far to Romney’s Austerity/Prosperity Gospel: “Do the math.” The professor’s answer to the preacher.

But Mr. President, with respect: Your own Education Department will affirm my suggestion that we are no longer the world’s most mathematically-inclined nation. We’re a scratch-to-win nation. We’re a roll-the-dice people. And our god is that God: the one who makes water flow from the rock (Numbers 20:11); who surprises us all the time by blessing us in the least likely circumstances. Mr. President: You need to understand this. You need to work with this, but very, very carefully.

Because, like it or not, the endgame in this election is going to be about which candidate does religion better, I fervently wish that Mr. Obama would say a bit more about the problem of cheap grace. Reminding us that people who work very hard for very little are not the abusers of cheap grace, but that others in well-feathered nests who are preaching sacrifice might be in real trouble on the cheap grace front.

Obama cannot and should not condemn those in the electorate who buy into Romney’s “there will be showers of blessing” message, but he probably does need to get his preacher voice on to remind folks that all covenant promises are conditional. That is, he should tell us in a religiously-resonant way that expecting God’s favor without loving mercy and doing justice is an utter impossibility. And (this is trickier) that God’s prescribed path of blessing is identical to the path of a bottom-up recovery, which necessarily means casting the rich down from their thrones (Luke 1:51-53—and the proof-texting business here is all mine: God knows that Obama should not be doing this except by implication).

It is not the least bit difficult to see why the Austerity/Prosperity Gospel claims so many Americans: it’s God and Mammon gift-wrapped together with a big shiny bow. It’s likewise not hard to see how a residual Puritanism and the Prosperity Gospel can reinforce each other.

I don’t expect the president to counter all of this through a few well-chosen words. But with so much at stake, we need a bit more than “do the math.” We need a bit more evocation of the most important part of Winthrop’s “shining city” sermon, which is the part about bearing one another’s burdens and prospering by way of ethical community. And also just a bit about how to recognize the false prophets of any age. That would be those who cry “peace!” when there is no peace, and those who pronounce God’s blessing upon an oppressive status quo.