Here is a thoughtprovoking opinion piece from The New York Times:
On a Thursday morning a few months ago, I got a call from my doctor’s assistant telling me that I have Stage 4 cancer. The stomach cramps I was suffering from were not caused by a faulty gallbladder, but by a massive tumor.
I am 35. I did the things you might expect of someone whose world has suddenly become very small. I sank to my knees and cried. I called my husband at our home nearby. I waited until he arrived so we could wrap our arms around each other and say the things that must be said. I have loved you forever. I am so grateful for our life together. Please take care of our son. Then he walked me from my office to the hospital to start what was left of my new life.
But one of my first thoughts was also Oh, God, this is ironic. I recently wrote a book called “Blessed.”
I am a historian of the American prosperity gospel. Put simply, the prosperity gospel is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith. I spent 10 years interviewing televangelists with spiritual formulas for how to earn God’s miracle money. I held hands with people in wheelchairs being prayed for by celebrities known for their miracle touch. I sat in people’s living rooms and heard about how they never would have dreamed of owning this home without the encouragement they heard on Sundays.
I went on pilgrimage with the faith healer Benny Hinn and 900 tourists to retrace Jesus’ steps in the Holy Land and see what people would risk for the chance at their own miracle. I ruined family vacations by insisting on being dropped off at the showiest megachurch in town. If there was a river running through the sanctuary, an eagle flying freely in the auditorium or an enormous, spinning statue of a golden globe, I was there.
You can read the rest @
I have great sympathy for Professor Bowler. Someday that could be me. Any of us could find ourselves in a similar situation without warning and without medical hope.
That said, I cannot reconcile the concept of a "prosperity gospel" with the Gospel of the Kingdom of G-d. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world. Read the Sermon on the Mount; read Matthew 24; does either give you the impression that Christians will prosper before the Second Coming?
The fact that those who are "blessed" seem to suffer hardship, disease, and death at the same rate as those who are not "blessed" calls into question the validity of a "prosperity gospel" and whether or not we can discern who it truly blessed and who is not. I believe G-d knows, but I'm certain that we don't.
Jesus did say "if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." By modern worldly standards, we would not call such a person "blessed". Something tells me that the gospel of prosperity got it all wrong.