November 16, 2009
God's Prosperity

Is so-called "mega-church Christianity" actually to blame for the recent economic problems, or is it the harbinger of a new, working faith?

So, the question before us is, did Christianity actually cause the recent market crash? Despite the deliciously incindiary title, what we find inside is instead another tired retread of "Blame the Bourgies".

That's right, folks, it's not *necessarily* Christians in general who are at fault. Rather, it is instead the particular type of uneducated Christian who has held on to hope, worked hard, took risks, and refused to believe that faith and success cannot go hand-in-hand who are ultimately to blame. It's a lament as old as Robespierre, for the same reasons, if not (for now) the same consequences.

The author's relief that the brilliant success stories so thick on the ground were currently quite a bit less-than-successful is almost palpable. After all, the one thing a good secular humanist, quite firmly holding Marx's left hand, cannot abide is working class success, with, of all things, faith at its heart. So we are treated, at the end, with the ill-disguised confusion of a person quite firmly convinced these are people being exploited while not quite being able to put a finger on exactly why they seem so enthusiastic about it.

What I think is far more interesting, and completely unremarked at any point in the article, is what a real departure this is for Christian doctrine. Jesus's core message is, at heart, one of radical egalatarianism. You don't give what you can, he says many times, you give everything you've got, and then some, and then ask if there's anything more you can give while you're at it. It worked in that time, and for most of the rest of history, because the world was so steeped in death, injustice, and misery for such a very long time. It was only through the radical repudiation of such unending horror, literally turning one's back on the world and trusting everything to God, that one could find hope in the middle of such despair.

The truly strange part is so many people did. Then again, what other choice did they have?

The modern way of life, with its wealth, safety, and plenty, is so utterly different most people literally cannot imagine it. Those who do not have to imagine it because they're sitting in it are legendary in the lengths to which they will go to escape the old world to enter ours.

The world changed, and, to an organization with an institutional memory measured in millenia, with breathtaking suddenness. Christianity's legendary adaptability, which had served it so well when its adherents were being used to light Nero's garden or feed the occasional Norse tree, had grown brittle. It could not cope with such a fundamental transformation, one that not only refused to stop but sped up seemingly out of spite. Its failure led to the rise of endless doctrines shriekingly cold yet strikingly seductive, covered in the blood of billions.

But, while down, it would seem Christianity isn't actually out. It may very well be that these oft-derided mega-churches, with their treacly tales of independence and hope, are in fact the wave of the future. If the are, it will be because THEY WORK.

In the market of ideas only ivory tower academics and their well off minions have the luxury of sneering at the masses while simultaneously refusing to DIS-believe in doctrines that at best consign those masses to beggary at the hands of the state, and at worse all too frequently to a mass grave at the hands of that state's police. The rest of us are too busy making our own way, and too practical to really trust someone who WANTS to sell his house for a Jackson Pollock original.

Instead it would seem a very large number of Americans, and most importantly of all those who are quite new at BEING Americans, have decided on a third way, one which combines enough of the faith of their fathers to be recognizable, yet which openly acknowledges and embraces those aspects of the modern world which have proven to work over the centuries: faith in yourself, in your ability to relieve your own suffering, in the desirability of this goal and its comforts, while still grounding you in the humble humility of a peasant's love.

It can, will, and does work. But only if we let it.

Lest you think your friendly neighborhood crank has finally fallen off the right side of the world, I feel it important to point out I'm not only not a Christian, I'm a card-carrying secular Buddhist who occasionally gets yelled at for teaching my heathen faith to my daughter. I just think these people deserve more, and better, than they've gotten from main stream media.

Posted by scott at November 16, 2009 09:01 PM

eMail this entry!

I just wrote a very interesting comment on your article and was told I had comments that couldn't be published on your site. No bad words or ideas that differed from your comments just considered me not worthy of making a comment. lol

mommy dearest

Posted by: Pat J. on November 17, 2009 09:36 AM

You don't get yelled at, you get scolded. She is in Catholic school, don't tell her the opposite of what she is learning. When she is old enough to make up her mind, she can go to whatever direction she is comfortable with...

Posted by: ellen on November 17, 2009 10:25 AM

It all comes back to the fact that monetary value is not a physical property of matter, like volume and weight are. It exists only in our imaginations, and like all imaginary things can be created and destroyed at will. And, like all imaginary things (such as invizible sky wizards), just because it's imaginary doesn't keep it from affecting the real world in extremely powerful ways.

Money is, in its basic form, the quantized belief in whatever authority issues it. It enables us to assign a numeric value to our beliefs, and thus apply the rules of mathematics (and, from there, all other scientific disciplines) to those beliefs. This property alone makes money the greatest invention in the history of mankind, but it only works as long as our beliefs hold steady and don't waver. A legal system, necessarily born from the religious definition of God's justice (irrespective of the God worshipped), is necessary to prevent the value of the money from fluctuating so wildly as to render it useless for anything.

Marxists simply reject outright the fact that value is an imagined property, and try to use science to first discover the fixed value of all things (the "fair use value" in the original texts), and then create a legal system to force everyone to use the fixed value, regardless of what the value is believed to be. The end result is the shortage of necessary supplies whenever the fixed value is less than the believed value, and the gross waste of equally necessary supplies in a quiet rebellion whenever the fixed value is greater than the believed value.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on November 17, 2009 11:04 AM

Great write, first of all. Secondly, the article linked here is definitely crap. First of all, that the author attempts to blame the religion by using three major examples (a smaller Latino church, Oral Roberts, and Joel Smiling Olsteen) and then extrapolate the behavior is simply asinine. As one who's attended these sorts of churches in his past (I don't think I've been to a church in at least 15 years for anything other than a wedding and I'm agnostic.), the message was also tempered with fiscal responsibility. In fact, one of the big movements within the evangelical churches has been eliminating debt of all kinds. Pay the mortgage off quicker, use cash, etc. Odd that the author managed to miss all of that in her "detailed investigation" or whatever the crap she thinks this is happens to be very telling.

I'm betting that if I did just as much research and exposed the liberal think tanks of America as being responsible for the bust, she'd dismiss the article completely out of hand as being irresponsible.

Posted by: Ron ap Rhys on November 17, 2009 12:24 PM
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