Thursday, July 19, 2018

Vatican Goes Off on Evangelicals, the American Dream and Prosperity



A Vatican-approved journal has dismissed “prosperity gospel” as a pseudo theology dangerously tied up with the American Dream and President Donald Trump’s politics, reports the Associated Press.

Two of Pope Francis’ top communications advisers — an Italian Jesuit and an Argentine Protestant pastor — penned “The Prosperity Gospel: Dangerous and Different” for the current issue of the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, published Wednesday.

In the article, the authors note that the “prosperity gospel” and its belief that God wants his followers to be wealthy and healthy has spread throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Asia, thanks to its charismatic proponents’ effective use of TV and media.

But, according to AP, they point to its origins in the U.S. and its underpinning of the American Dream, and say its vision of faith is in direct contrast to true Christian teaching and Pope Francis’ emphasis on the poor, social justice and salvation.

The Civilta Cattolica article said “prosperity gospel” clearly serves the U.S. economic-political model, especially under Trump, and the idea of “American exceptionalism” and that the United States “has grown as a nation under the blessing of the providential God of the Evangelical movement.”

It cited Trump’s own inaugural speech and the militancy associated with prosperity preachers, in which in a few short sentences Trump mixed in the idea of “God, the army and the American Dream.”

Then the article went after specific evangelicals and their wealth.

The article named several prominent U.S. and international televangelists and megachurch pastors, including Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen — and denounced how they have increased their own wealth and popularity thanks to a “pseudo-Gospel” that subverts the Bible.

Most problematic, they said, was their preaching that if the faithful give money to the preachers, they will reap the rewards exponentially because of their faith that God will provide them riches.

According to AP, articles in La Civilta Cattolica are reviewed and approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Under Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit, the publication has become something of an unofficial mouthpiece of the papacy.

The article, of course, seems to confuse giving to evangelical preachers with entrepreneurship and capitalism and further does not seem to recognize that in order to give to the poor you need to make money in the first place.

Viewed properly, capitalism and free markets are a powerful weapon to advance the Catholic perspective of uplifting the poor---with jobs, with goods and services and with charity when needed.

Jesuit priests, themselves,  never donate significant amounts of money to keep the churches running. The Catholic donation basket is always passed around to the moneymakers.

-RW