There is a very interesting article in the December, 2009 issue of the Atlantic Monthly entitled Did Christianity Cause The Crash? by Hanna Rosin. Here is a brief description:
America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.
As I have mentioned on this blog before, this fall semester I am taking a course at SUNY Brockport on the Sociology of Religion and one of the books the professor assigned as Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now. Our last paper assigned which I handed in last week was to "Explain how Protestantism, coupled with the advent of a scientific world view, and capitalism led to the despiritualization and so secularization of man and his world. What role then, according to Osteen's understanding of the covenantal relationship, does God now have in modern man's life? Is this a mature relationship or one based of necessity on "magical thinking?"
I am awaiting the Professor's feedback with bated breath and it won't come until after Thanksgiving. But in the meantime, read Rosin's article, because it describes what role the prosperity gospel plays in our society and how it probably lead thousands of poor people gullibly into the sub prime lending scam thinking it was God's blessing on them. Interestingly some of the prosperity preachers were working for the banks delivering their congregates up for exploitation.
I think to some extent this use of religion may be a good thing because it gives people hope, but it is in the end like so much that religion offers, false hope, and this manipulation of vulnerable people by clergy is a good example of sin in our contemporary world.
As income disparities increase in American society, and manufacturing jobs evaporate leaving a working class unemployed and deeper in poverty, it behooves us as a nation to create real viable solutions not a childlike belief in a Santa Claus deity to dispenses gifts and prizes to good little boys and girls.
As Unitarian Universalists we have a reverence for the interdependent web of all existence and we are well aware that the increasing income disparity of our society is a red flag leading to social problems in the future, and we are more keenly aware of the need for justice, equity, and compassion in our human relations, and most importantly we are cognizant of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Working together for a more economically just society should be a priority for all UUs and we should eschew the kind of magical thinking which Osteen and others preach to a desperate audience.
To access Rosin's article which I recommend, click here.