Friday, 13 February 2015

The curse in prosperity gospel

'The popular prosperity gospel preacher is an excellent diversionary tool so important for the lazy and corrupt politician.  There is a mutual link between the religious and the political charlatan: both thriving on pacifying their followers with deceit and false hope.'

AFTER penning a piece on exposing counterfeit faith on the 1st of January this year, I have received numerous requests for a follow up article, and this week I have taken the honour and privilege to once again engage the reader on a social issue that has taken centre stage in the affairs of Africa today.

The fact that we recently lost over a dozen people in Kwekwe in a stampede at a Christian gathering, just after we had lost close to a hundred others in Nigeria when the building they were lodging unexpectedly collapsed makes the case of debating Christian faith more compelling.
The curse in prosperity gospel
Our evangelists, prophets and preachers from the Pentecostal movement often proudly declare that God is moving in the mightiest of ways across Africa today, and it is quite common to hear some of them deriding traditional Christian communities in the West as “backslidden.”

The large African churches, the passionate praise and worship teams, the tearful prayers, and the intense hunger for the word of God is unmistakable in African Christianity today, and countries like Malawi, Kenya, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are excellent examples to explain this wave. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has been hit by this worship craze, and this development would be plausible, if only there was no darker side to the tide.

The Christian faith faces a dangerous threat in Africa today, but not from any persecuting opponents or from any external force. The greatest threat to the Christian faith today is from its leadership, so increasingly infiltrated by dangerous mountebanks preaching destruction right from the pulpit of salvation, and the swindlers are far from remorseful.

If there is anything threatening the nobility and integrity of the Christian faith today it is the preaching of prosperity gospel. There is of course a slick version of this deceit in the United States, and factually the US is responsible for manufacturing and exporting this deadly spiritual virus. Without trivialising the damage prosperity gospel has done in the United States, the reality in our midst is that African Christians have now taken this money-focused gospel to new and extremely dangerous levels.

Far from being the blessing our “men of God” rhapsodise so much about, prosperity gospel is drastically damaging the African social fabric, and it is also undermining the nobility and integrity of Christianity itself.

Firstly some communities have easily mixed the doctrine with occultism, especially in places like Nigeria and Ghana. Traditional rituals that would otherwise be dismissed as diabolical and demonic have become acceptable practice in pursuit of the materialistic objectives of prosperity gospel. Some pastors and prophets now pour libations on the ground as a way of enhancing church growth, and bottles of oil, sand, water and other such substances are given to believers as tools for bringing the much sought after blessing.

In Zimbabwe some of this oil has been sold as church merchandise, alongside hand bangles, handkerchiefs and similar objects. The followers of the charlatans merchandising God’s blessing are always reminded that their promised windfall will not materialise unless they continue to give money to the church. Some of the occult practices include indecent conduct with female followers, including hand penetration into private parts, fondling of breasts, or any such indecent behaviour.

Today’s prosperity gospel fuels greed, and it focuses on getting as opposed to giving. It is a selfish materialistic faith with a thin veneer of Christianity. The central theme of prosperity gospel is to continually urge members to sow financial seeds so they can reap bigger and bigger rewards.

Entire conferences are sometimes dedicated to nothing else but collecting offerings, and believers are almost instructed that this is God’s way towards achieving wealth. This is often punctuated by impressive testimonies from selected or volunteering church members, almost always bragging about how much they paid for their suits, shoes, jewelry, or how they travelled first class because of “God’s blessing.” It is an elaborate scam meant to railroad unsuspecting followers into parting with the little hard-earned cash at their disposal.

It is like greed is now officially preached from the pulpit, and the disgusting phenomenon has spread into a cancerous pandemic in what are supposed to be God’s churches. As opposed to the contrived belief that God is moving across Africa in the mightiest of ways, this tragic heresy has become the sorry state of affairs in Africa’s Christianity today.

Some of the young so-called prophets of today are pathetically proud, and they have the temerity to defend the disgrace of pride by misquoting the Bible. We have a warped church leadership in Africa today, thanks to the scandalous commercialisation of the Christian faith. We now have pastors who plant churches not because they have a burden to achieve or realise the salvation of souls, but because they see dollar signs in any auditorium full of people.

People are elevated into church leadership not because of their spiritual maturity, but because they are big-headed opportunists who need positions, applause and recognition to keep them happy. The most dangerous prosperity gospel preacher is the one who is wealthy, or one who can fake wealth to impress listeners. He can easily convince crowds that Jesus died not for our sins, nor for the redemption of our souls, but to give you and me the luxury of driving Bentleys.

Prosperity gospel works against the formation of Christian character. Of course gospel means good news, and the most simplistic way of justifying the preaching of prosperity gospel is to say it is good news to the poor and, as such it is gospel, and cannot be condemned.

But prosperity gospel as often preached today is a very poor imitation of the gospel, and it dangerously ignores suffering, poverty, humility, patience, or delay. It is simply a gospel of illegal shortcuts where people are gathered and promised instant results and overnight success, including securing of husbands for the desperate unmarried and ageing ladies. When these promises fail to materialise, as is the case most of the time, the follower is simply blamed for not giving enough money in offerings, or even for lacking in faith.

We have this prosperity gospel that does not agree with Jesus when he said we should deny ourselves and follow him, carrying our own crosses. Rather, we are now taught to deny Jesus and follow the urge of our materialistic lusts, perhaps not in literal terms but surely in deed. Many of our African pastors are evidently set on getting rich, and this is not to demean the decent work of many other well-meaning true servants of God on the continent.

The continent has a serious leadership crisis in its churches, particularly within the Pentecostal movement. The church now accommodates and even hails young men and women who openly enroll into Bible School for the financial benefit of pastoring, and it is hard to imagine the grief of putting up with Bible schools churning out charlatans.

In fact, prosperity gospel has this ironic effect of keeping people in poverty. It encourages politicians to follow corrupt patterns, as even the church seems to understand and to promote inexplicable shortcuts to riches. That role of the church as the arbiter of morality has drastically diminished with this scramble for riches.

The popular prosperity gospel preacher is an excellent diversionary tool so important for the lazy and corrupt politician. He provides the required false hope to the bewildered masses, pacifying them so they do not cause unwanted trouble for the corrupt and underperforming politician. There is a mutual link between the religious and the political charlatan: both thriving on pacifying their followers with deceit and false hope.

In the past 25 years Sub-Saharan Africa is the only place on earth where poverty has been on the increase, and clearly the much hailed prosperity gospel is not bringing prosperity to the continent. If one is looking for the fruit of today’s prosperity gospel, there is no need to look any further than the wallet and bank account of the preacher of the message.

The followers will have to make do with wild cheering of the preacher and mountains of pulpit driven hope, as did the Zimbabwean lot when one popular prophet once promised the raining of precious stones all over the place.

It is surprising that well-trained editors in our media fraternity allowed the nonsense to pass for news, and when sober-minded people questioned the logic of honouring this gospel swindle with public attention, they were met with the fury of the expectant followers of the prophet.

The other Zimbabwean young prophet once popularised the exciting myth of miracle money, and now he has pending court cases for fraud, apart from a whole other assortment of vexing misfortunes.

In Kenya “Prophetess” Lucy Nduta was jailed for two years for deception and fraud, and recently her son Victor Kanyari was busted for coaching people to stage-manage miracles in order to attract membership. He has other pending accusations of indecently handling female congregants, as well as demanding hefty sums of money before “performing miracles.”

Prosperity gospel undermines efforts to relieve poverty. It is just wrong to teach people that believing harder in and of itself is a panacea to alleviating poverty. This is what Apostle Paul had to say about such mentality in James 2 vs 15-16:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

There are systematic practical ways of getting daily provisions that cannot be ignored simply because a chanting prophet is exuding excitable stuff about shortcut miracles from the pulpit microphone.

Just like faith healing, prosperity gospel blames the member that fails to achieve the preacher’s promises, making the poor and the sick feel guilty for not being good enough to achieve what the prophet or leader preaches. The Bible does not teach shame in poverty or sickness, and no one should.

Today’s prosperity gospel denies the relationship between work and wealth, and this breeds lazy zealots who sit and do nothing with their lives in the hope that miracles will transform their lives. Instead of seeking the God of miracles these people spend their sorry lives seeking the miracles of God, and these prosperity gospel preachers prey on their vulnerability, if not gullibility. God expects us to work. That is why Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3 vs 10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

This gospel that misrepresents economic principles is just deceptive. Miracle money, mysterious settling of debts, miraculous payment of bills and all such populist but deceptive church dramas must be exposed for what they are; criminal and disrespectful acts by conscienceless charlatans preying on the vulnerable.

Miracles cannot be an everyday occurrence; otherwise they cease to be miracles. They are extraordinary by nature, and they cannot be preached as the norm of getting along in life. Jesus Christ did not multiply a few of bread and fish everyday, in order to make it easy and miraculous for his followers.

Prosperity gospel teaches the more is better philosophy, creating and promoting discontentment in the followers of these preachers, and that hunger for material belongings creates in people serious spiritual poverty as well as corrupt tendencies.

In Malawi a significant number of the busted culprits of the cashgate scandal were practising tongue-speaking Christians, some of them caught with stacks of stolen money in their houses.

Africa we are one and together we will overcome!
REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.
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