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Is Christianity a business?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson has commented on British actors

SAMUEL L. JACKSON generated much debate recently when he complained about the number of black British actors who were being hired to play African-Americans.

Who’d have thought that we would live to see the day when an American would complain about black Britons beating them for roles? Normally, it’s black Britons who complain about playing second fiddle to Americans, so it’s good to see Britons succeeding in an arena considered the preserve of those across the pond.

It would be good to see black Britons gain pre-eminence in the area of theology, where Americans wield great influence – and the prosperity gospel in particular.

No one can deny that during the past two decades, possibly more, the American approach to Christianity, exemplified by the prosperity gospel, has taken a prominent place in the hearts of too many black Christians here in Britain.

In a nutshell, the prosperity gospel equates God’s blessing with material wealth and success. Wealthy and successful people are considered blessed – if an individual is poor and experiences little success they are considered cursed or a failure.


Prospering: American Pastor Joel Osteen

The prosperity gospel has its roots in the New Thought Movement, which came to the fore in the 19th century. It taught the key to health and wealth was thinking the right thoughts, saying the right things and visualising positive outcomes. Norman Vincent Peale popularised such thinking with books like The Power of Positive Thinking.

It was evangelist E W Kenyon’s approach to theology, which blended new thought with aspects of Christianity that helped bring acceptance to the prosperity gospel in Christian circles. He felt that if believers spoke the right words they would receive God’s blessings – the late Kenneth Hagin is considered the father of the word of faith movement. Modern preachers
influenced by his teachings include Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen and Joseph Prince.

The prosperity movement has totally changed how legions of Christians regard their faith. Once upon a time believers viewed the Christian life as one of sacrifice which sometimes involved giving up one’s dreams and ambitions, being humble, pursuing spiritual goals as opposed to worldly ones and building riches in Heaven as opposed to riches on Earth.

In contrast, the prosperity gospel has made some Christians believe that the mark of a successful life is one where all their prayers are answered, all ambitions are achieved, the bank balance is full and that they have the pick of designer goods. This in turn has led to a rise in the number of church leaders who see Christianity as a business. They aren’t too interested in saving souls, or providing pastoral care – they are more interested in earning enough money so that they live a luxurious lifestyle – or at least try to.

The prosperity gospel is one American cultural export us Brits could have done without. Now that it is here and has become ingrained in black Christian culture, we should aim to turn back the tide and get back to teaching an authentic Christian doctrine that is more concerned in teaching people to be like Jesus and serve humanity, than be like Jesus and get rich in the process.

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