The Prosperity Gospel and the GFC

David Van Biema wrote in Time in 2008:
 
 

 

Has the so-called Prosperity gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in Pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York: “The pastor’s not gonna say, ‘Go down to Wachovia and get a loan,’ but I have heard, ‘Even if you have a poor credit rating, God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you’ll get that house or that car or that apartment.’ ” Adds J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma: “It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, ‘If you give this offering, God will give you a house.’ And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy.” If so, the situation offers a look at how a native-born faith built partially on American economic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market.

Although a type of Pentecostalism, Prosperity theology adds a distinctive layer of supernatural positive thinking. Adherents will reap rewards if they prove their faith to God by contributing heavily to their churches, remaining mentally and verbally upbeat and concentrating on divine promises of worldly bounty supposedly strewn throughout the Bible. Critics call it a thinly disguised pastor-enrichment scam. Other experts, like Walton, note that for all its faults, the theology can empower people who have been taught to see themselves as financially or even culturally useless to feel they are “worthy of having more and doing more and being more.” In some cases the philosophy has matured with its practitioners, encouraging good financial habits and entrepreneurship.

But Walton suggests that a decade’s worth of ever easier credit acted like a drug in Prosperity’s bloodstream. “The economic boom ’90s and financial overextensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the Prosperity message,” he wrote recently on his personal blog as well as on the website Religion Dispatches. And not positively. “Narratives of how ‘God blessed me with my first house despite my credit’ were common. Sermons declaring ‘It’s your season to overflow’ supplanted messages of economic sobriety,” and “little attention was paid to … the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM to subsidize cars, clothes and vacations.”

With the bubble burst, Walton and Butler assume that Prosperity congregants have taken a disproportionate hit, and they are curious as to how their churches will respond. Butler thinks some of the flashier ministries will shrink along with their congregants’ fortunes. Says Walton: “You would think that the current economic conditions would undercut their theology.” But he predicts they will persevere, since God’s earthly largesse is just as attractive when one is behind the economic eight ball.

A recent publicly posted testimony by a congregant at the Brownsville Assembly of God, near Pensacola, Fla., seems to confirm his intuition. Brownsville is not even a classic Prosperity congregation — it relies more on the anointing of its pastors than on Scriptural promises of God. But the believer’s note to his minister illustrates how magical thinking can prevail even after the mortgage blade has dropped. “Last Sunday,” it read, “You said if anyone needed a miracle to come up. So I did. I was receiving foreclosure papers, so I asked you to anoint a picture of my home and you did and your wife joined with you in prayer as I cried. I went home feeling something good was going to happen. On Friday the 5th of September I got a phone call from my mortgage company and they came up with a new payment for the next 3 months of only $200. My mortgage is usually $1,020. Praise God for his Mercy & Grace.”

And pray that the credit market doesn’t tighten any further.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1847053,00.html#ixzz1kVhvLAdP

 

Another longer and very detailed article on the subject appeared in the Atlantic “Did Christianity cause the Crash?”: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/did-christianity-cause-the-crash/7764/3/

— wazza2


71 thoughts on “The Prosperity Gospel and the GFC

  1. Is it helpful to have a definition of what we mean by ‘prosperity gospel/doctrine/teaching’. I posted one on another thread but some didn’t care for it.

    Is it merely the teaching that God will bless those who sew into His Kingdom with material possessions or is it more?

    Some deny they teach prosperity when what they’re teaching is not far from it. I’ve heard preachers say ‘We don’t hold to prosperity teaching but…’ and then proclaim that God will bless and reward His people matterially if they are faithful.

    What is it then?

  2. Further related to the above article reveals some interesting shenanigans between pastors and financial institutions. Surely if someone is going to give public financial advice they need to be accountable.

    http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/23079.htm

    “one of the reasons the prosperity gospel is so disastrous is because, when events like this come along, they will turn alot of people away from God as they become disillusioned with what they have been taught about God’s apparent desire for them to be wealthy.”
    The hope for these people though is that, as Rikk Watts has said, “If someone is running from a false view of God, are they further from him or closer to him?’ Interesting thought to ponder.
    In detailing the influence of the prosperity gospel on the financial crash, the article goes on to say that, “In 2008, in the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Jonathan Walton, a professor of religious studies at the University of California at Riverside, warned: Narratives of how “God blessed me with my first house despite my credit” were common … Sermons declaring “It’s your season of overflow” supplanted messages of economic sobriety and disinterested sacrifice. Yet as folks were testifying about “what God can do,” little attention was paid to a predatory subprime-mortgage industry, relaxed credit standards, or the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM.”
    Continuing this point, it adds, “Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots. Both spread in two particular kinds of communities – the exurban middle class and the urban poor. Many newer prosperity churches popped up around fringe suburban developments built in the 1990s and 2000s, says Walton. These are precisely the kinds of neighborhoods that have been decimated by foreclosures, according to Eric Halperin, of the Center for Responsible Lending.”
    The article also makes the point that “most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along…areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis.” Another researcher quoted in the article, Kate Bowler, “spent a lot of time attending the “financial empowerment” seminars that are common at prosperity churches. Advisers would pay lip service to “sound financial practices,” she recalls, but overall they would send the opposite message: posters advertising the seminars featured big houses in the background, and the parking spots closest to the church were reserved for luxury cars.”
    Perhaps the most evil legacy of the prosperity gospel is that its adherents will stoop to the most pernicious form of racism to get their dollars, exploiting the poor and non-white Latinos and African Americans. The Atlantic article says that, “at least 17 lawsuits accusing various banks of treating racial minorities unfairly were already under way. One theme emerging in these suits is how banks teamed up with pastors to win over new customers for subprime loans.”
    The prosperity gospel has its roots in the USA, but its tentacles have spread to all parts of the world, from Africa to Australia. It is not good news; it is a ‘gospel’ which is held captive to a culture in which the dream of material wealth is the highest goal of humanity. It is a nationalist, me-centred heresy. Consider the following from the article about the slick salesmanship of prosperity gospel pastors:
    “In their new congregation, their pastor slowly walks them through life in the U.S., both inside and outside of church, until they become more confident. “In Mexico, nobody ever told them they could do anything,” says Lin, who was himself raised in Argentina. He finds the message at prosperity churches to be quintessentially American. “They are taught they can do absolutely anything, and it’s God’s will. They become part of the elect, the chosen. They get swept up in the manifest destiny, this idea that God has lifted Americans above everyone else.”
    The false view of faith that sees their riches as a gift from God is another common form of delusion amongst those held captive. Researcher Tony Lin says, “I wasn’t very surprised when the whole subprime-mortgage thing blew up. I’m sure a loan officer never said, ‘God wants you to have a house.’ But you’ve already been taught that. Now here comes the loan officer saying, ‘Sign here, and this house will be yours.’ It feels like a gift from God. It’s the perfect fuel for the crisis.”
    The financial crisis has done little to dampen the evangelistic fervour of the prosperity gospellers. From the distance, from the sidelines of the noise and glamour of the churches from which this message is proclaimed, whispers the quiet voice of the Man of Sorrows – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”.
    by Nils von Kalm

  3. More evidence of collusion

    Beth Jacobson is a star witness for the City of Baltimore’s recent suit against Wells Fargo. Jacobson was a top loan officer in the bank’s subprime division for nine years, closing as much as $55 million worth of loans a year. Like many subprime-loan officers, Jacobson had no bank experience before working for Wells Fargo. The subprime officers were drawn from “an utterly different background” than the professional bankers, she told me. She had been running a small paralegal business; her co-workers had been car salespeople, or had worked in telemarketing. They were prized for their ability to hustle on the ground and “look you in the eye when they shook your hand,” she surmised. As a reward for good performance, the bank would sometimes send a Hummer limo to pick up Jacobson for a celebration, she said. She’d arrive at a bar and find all her co-workers drunk and her boss “doing body shots off a waitress.”

    The idea of reaching out to churches took off quickly, Jacobson recalls. The branch managers figured pastors had a lot of influence with their parishioners and could give the loan officers credibility and new customers. Jacobson remembers a conference call where sales managers discussed the new strategy. The plan was to send officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, $350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans,” Jacobson told me. “They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/did-christianity-cause-the-crash/7764/2/

  4. From a website: ‘The word mortgage comes from the French word “mort” which means “dead” and “gage” from Old English, which means pledge. The term came from the doubtfulness of whether or not the mortgagor would pay the debt. In the 1500’s, if the mortgagor did not pay, then the land pledged as security for the debt was taken away. The land was then considered “dead” to the mortgagor. Nowadays, the term mortgage is used as a term for purchasing a property. We no longer associate anyone’s death with it.’

    Linking with the last few posts on another discussion, perhaps Ananias and Saphira were the first true examples of defaulting on a ‘mortgage’!

    As to what defines a prosperity gospel, I would agree with your take, inasmuch as it deludes the listener into believing that because they are planting or sowing into a certain ministry God is OBLIGATED (and often the message is framed that God now has to give back 100-fold or whatever according to laws he has set up) to bless them financially in the near future. Very often it’s a simple equation: you give material things, you will receive many more material things back. It quickly becomes a ‘me-focussed’, worldly pursuit and as the bible says, many a man has pierced himself with much heartache making money or things his idol.

    Not sure which Wisdom book it is, but this phrase should sum up our approach to mammon – Lord, please allow me to have sufficient that I don’t disgrace you by resorting to stealing or ill-gotten gain, and not so much that I get complacent and forget you.

  5. Bones, I probably don’t believe in the “prosperity gospel” as it is preached and practiced.

    So I probably through you with my use of the word “prosperity”.

    I simply think prosperity is good, poverty is bad. But I think christians both in the early church, in times of persecution, and tribulations can rejoice and overcome in the midst of poverty.
    I believe that over time through hard work, planning, thrift, living within your means, not wasting your money, having a plan etc etc that nobody needs to be poor. And if there are poor, we should help them get “unpoor”, through financial aid, education, encouragement etc.

    I don’t think preachers need or should have jets and huge mansions paid for by offerings.

    But I’m probably wrong in your eyes, because I don’t think it’s God’s will or desire that people be poor or sick their whole lives. Just can’t believe that. Sorry.

  6. Bones, I probably don’t believe in the “prosperity gospel” as it is preached and practiced.

    You mean like this and she still asks for donations? She’s pure greed:

    Joyce Meyer says God has made her rich.

    Everything she has came from Him: the $10 million corporate jet, her husband’s $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes sedan, her $2 million home and houses worth another $2 million for her four children — all blessings, she says, straight from the hand of God.

    It’s been an amazing run, nothing short of a miracle, says Meyer, a one-time bookkeeper who heads one of the world’s largest television ministries. Her Life in the Word organization expects to take in $95 million this year.

    Just look around, she told reporters last month from behind her desk on the third floor of the ministry’s corporate offices in Jefferson County.

    “Here I am, an ex-housewife from Fenton, with a 12th-grade education,” she said. “How could anybody look at this and see anything other than God?”

    In many ways, Joyce Meyer is an American Cinderella.

    Describing herself as sexually abused as a girl and neglected and abandoned as a young wife, Meyer has remade herself into one of the nation’s best-known and best-paid TV preachers. She has taken her “prosperity through faith” message to millions.

    “If you stay in your faith, you are going to get paid,” Meyer told an audience in Detroit in September. “I’m living now in my reward.”

    Meyer, 60 and a grandmother, runs the ministry with her husband, Dave, and the couple’s four children. All of the family, including the children’s spouses, draw paychecks from the ministry.

    But the way Meyer spends her ministry’s money on herself and her family may violate federal law, legal and tax experts say. That law bars leaders of non-profits — religious groups and other charities — from privately benefiting from the tax-free money they raise.

    Last month, Wall Watchers, a watchdog group that monitors the finances of large Christian groups, called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Meyer and six other TV preachers to find out whether their tax-exempt status should be revoked.

    Meyer and her lawyer say she scrupulously abides by all federal laws.

    Meyer’s rise to prominence followed years of struggle. But by 1998, Charisma & Christian Life magazine was calling her “America’s most popular woman minister.”

    Last year, Meyer was the keynote speaker at the Christian Coalition’s Road to Victory tour, a gathering of some of the nation’s most influential politically conservative leaders.

    And today, her TV shows, regional conferences and fund raising from her Web site bring an average $8 million a month to her ministry. Of that, the ministry says it spends about 10 percent — $880,000 a month — on charitable works around the globe.

    Her star has risen so high and so fast that it amazes even Meyer.

    “Dave and I feel almost like, ‘Can this really be us?”‘ she said. “We feel like we’re the most blessed and honored people on the face of the Earth.”

    “Every nation, every city”

    Meyer’s ministry stretches around the globe.

    From a 15-minute St. Louis-area radio show in 1983, it has spread to virtually every corner of the civilized world, largely through the reach of satellite and cable transmissions and the Internet.

    In the United States, her “Life in the Word” TV show airs on local channels in 43 states, from Pembina, N.D., and Crowley, La., to Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

    Meyer has become a household name in areas of Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Africa, Australia — about 70 countries in all, according to her ministry’s magazine.

    She says the ministry gets 15,000 letters a month from India alone.

    In September, an Arabic language translation of her program began airing six times a day on the Life Channel network in the Middle East. Meyer hopes to use the network to bring the message of Christianity to 31 Islamic nations.

    “You’ve got to keep in mind that nobody’s ever done this,” Meyer said. “When a Western woman shows up in Western clothes, preaching the gospel of Jesus in the Arabic language, it’s going to be rather interesting.”

    Meyer and her husband say the ministry has the potential to reach 2.5 billion people every weekday.

    Despite the ministry’s far-flung success, the couple say they still have work to do.

    “Every time we feel like we’ve reached our peak, God opens more doors,” Dave Meyer says.

    The couple’s recent slogan, printed on posters in the ministry’s headquarters and on banners at its conferences, sets out an ambitious goal for the future: “Every nation, every city, every day.”

    Devoted followers and dogged critics

    Meyer’s hard-edged, often self-effacing preaching has won her legions of followers, many of them women who see her as part minister, part trusted friend.

    “She’s so down-to-earth,” bus driver Eva McLemore, 43, said at one of Meyer’s recent conferences in Atlanta. “She makes you feel like she’s your sister, that she can totally relate to you and understand you with no condemnation, no judgment.”

    Her style also has prompted criticism from those who paint Meyer as a get-rich-quick carnival barker focused on one thing: how to get the most money from the most people in the shortest time.

    Ole Anthony, head of the Dallas-based religious watchdog Trinity Foundation, says, “She is in the typical genre of the TV evangelists who have become wealthy on the backs of the poorest people they are supposedly ministering to.”

    Besides being a charismatic speaker, Meyer is the author of more than 50 books on a variety of topics, from self-help books on dieting and marriage to deeper, more philosophical themes.

    Two of her most recent books, “Knowing God Intimately” and “How to Hear From God,” deal with building a faith-based relationship with God.

    She also sells audiotapes and videotapes, enough to fill several pages in the ministry’s product catalog.

    Meyer makes no excuses for hawking her books and tapes and for relentlessly pleading for donations on her Web site, on her TV show and at her conferences.

    “They don’t let me on that television for free,” she said at the Atlanta conference. “The gospel is free, but the pipeline that carries it is not.”

    A penchant for nice things

    Meyer is fond of nice things and is willing to spend for them. From an $11,000 French clock in the ministry’s Fenton headquarters to a $105,000 Crownline boat docked behind her vacation home at Lake of the Ozarks, it’s clear her tastes run more to Perrier than to tap water.

    “You can be a businessman here in St. Louis, and people think the more you have, the more wonderful it is,” Meyer said in an interview. “But if you’re a preacher, then all of a sudden it becomes a problem.

    “The Bible says, ‘Give and it shall be given unto you.’ ”

    The ministry’s headquarters is a three-story jewel of red brick and emerald-color glass that, from the outside, has the look and feel of a luxury resort hotel.

    Built two years ago for $20 million, the building and grounds are postcard perfect, from manicured flower beds and walkways to a five-story lighted cross.

    The driveway to the office complex is lined on both sides with the flags of dozens of nations reached by the ministry. A large bronze sculpture of the Earth sits atop an open Bible near the parking lot. Just outside the main entrance, a sculpture of an American eagle landing on a tree branch stands near a man-made waterfall.

    A message in gold letters greets employees and visitors over the front entryway: “Look what the Lord Has Done.”

    About 510 people work there. It’s an office much like that of any other business, where clerks open mail, accountants count money, editors tweak Meyer’s videos, technicians copy tapes, and warehouse workers send out the tons of Meyer’s tapes and books to paying customers. The only sign of a church inside is a chapel, but the public is kept out. Only employees worship there.

    The building is decorated with religious paintings and sculptures, and quality furniture. Much of it, Meyer says, she selected herself.

    A Jefferson County assessor’s list offers a glimpse into the value of many of the items: a $19,000 pair of Dresden vases, six French crystal vases bought for $18,500, an $8,000 Dresden porcelain depicting the Nativity, two $5,800 curio cabinets, a $5,700 porcelain of the Crucifixion, a pair of German porcelain vases bought for $5,200.

    The decor includes a $30,000 malachite round table, a $23,000 marble-topped antique commode, a $14,000 custom office bookcase, a $7,000 Stations of the Cross in Dresden porcelain, a $6,300 eagle sculpture on a pedestal, another eagle made of silver bought for $5,000, and numerous paintings purchased for $1,000 to $4,000 each.

    Inside Meyer’s private office suite sit a conference table and 18 chairs bought for $49,000. The woodwork in the offices of Meyer and her husband cost the ministry $44,000.

    In all, assessor’s records of the ministry’s personal property show that nearly $5.7 million worth of furniture, artwork, glassware, and the latest equipment and machinery fill the 158,000-square-foot building.

    As of this summer, the ministry also owned a fleet of vehicles with an estimated value of $440,000. The Jefferson County assessor has been trying to get the complex and its contents added to the tax rolls but has failed.

    Stylish sports cars and a plane

    Meyer drives the ministry’s 2002 Lexus SC sports car with a retractable top, valued at $53,000. Her son Dan, 25, drives the ministry’s 2001 Lexus sedan, with a value of $46,000. Meyer’s husband drives his Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG sedan.

    “My husband just likes cars,” Meyer said.

    The Meyers keep the ministry’s Canadair CL-600 Challenger jet, which Joyce Meyer says is worth $10 million, at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield. The ministry employs two full-time pilots to fly the Meyers to conferences around the world.

    Meyer calls the plane a “lifesaver” for her and her family. “It enabled us, at our age, to travel literally all over the world and preach the gospel” with better security than that offered on commercial flights, she said.

    Security is important to Meyer, who says she has received death threats. She has a division of the ministry dedicated to her safety. Her officers wear pistols; they guard the headquarters’ front gate, keeping out anyone but employees and invited guests.

    The ministry bought a $145,000 house where the security chief lives rent-free to keep him close to the ministry’s headquarters.

    The family compound

    The ministry has also bought homes for other key employees.

    Since 1999, the ministry has spent at least $4 million on five homes for Meyer and her four children near Interstate 270 and Gravois Road, St. Louis County records show.

    Meyer’s house, the largest of the five, is a 10,000-square-foot Cape Cod style estate home with a guest house and a garage that can be independently heated and cooled and can hold up to eight cars. The three-acre property has a large fountain, a gazebo, a private putting green, a pool and a poolhouse where the ministry recently added a $10,000 bathroom.

    The ministry pays for utilities, maintenance and landscaping costs at all five homes. It also pays for renovations. The Meyers ordered major rehab work at the ministry’s expense right after the ministry bought three of the homes.

    For example, the ministry bought one home, leveled it and then built a new home on the site to the specifications of Meyer’s daughter Sandra and her husband, county records show.

    Even the property taxes, $15, 629 this year, are paid by the ministry.

    Meyer called the homes a “good investment” for the ministry and said the ministry bears the cost of upkeep and maintenance because the family is too busy to take care of such tasks.

    “It’s just too hard to keep up with something like that when you travel as much as we do,” Meyer said.

    She said that federal tax law allows ministries to buy parsonages for their employees, so the arrangement does not violate any prohibitions against personal benefit.

    Meyer also said the decision to cluster the families together was a way to build a buffer to better ensure privacy and security.

    “We put good people all around us,” she said. “Obviously, if I was trying to hide anything or thought I was doing anything wrong, I wouldn’t live on the corner of Gravois and 270.”

    The irrevocable trust

    Meyer says she expects the best, from where she lives to how she looks.

    Much of her clothing is custom-tailored at an upscale West County dress shop. At her conferences, she usually wears flashy jewelry. She sports an impressive diamond ring that she said she got from one of her followers.

    Meyer has a private hairdresser. And, a few years ago, Meyer told her employees she was getting a face-lift.

    Not everything is paid directly by the ministry.

    Last year, the Meyers bought a $500,000 atrium ranch lakefront home in Porto Cima, a private-quarters club at Lake of the Ozarks. A few weeks later, they bought two watercrafts similar to Jet Skis and a $105,000 Crownline boat painted red, white and blue that they named the Patriot.

    In 2000, the Meyers also bought her parents a $130,000 home just a few minutes from where the Meyers live.

    The Meyers have put the Mercedes, the lake house, the boat and her parents’ home into an irrevocable trust, an arrangement that tax experts say would help protect them from any financial problems at the minisry.

    Meyer says she should not have to defend how she spends the ministry’s money.

    “We teach and preach and believe biblically that God wants to bless people who serve Him,” Meyer said. “So there’s no need for us to apologize for being blessed.”

    Meyer’s “trusted” board

    For the most part, Meyer can spend the ministry’s money any way she sees fit because her board of directors is handpicked. It consists of Meyer, her husband and all four of her children — all paid workers — as well as six of Meyer’s closest friends. (Ministry officials said that daughter Laura Holtzmann has now resigned; state records still list her on the board.)

    “Our family is a huge help to us,” Meyer said. “We couldn’t do this if we didn’t have somebody we trusted.”

    Board members Roxane and Paul Schermann are such close friends that for more than a decade they lived in the Meyers’ home. The ministry employed both of them as high-level managers and in 2001 bought them a $334,000 home. Roxane Schermann no longer works at the ministry; her husband continues as a paid division manager. The Schermanns bought the house at the same price from the ministry in January.

    Delanie Trusty, the ministry’s certified public accountant, also serves as the ministry board’s secretary.

    The board decides how the ministry’s money is spent. The salaries of Meyer and her family are set by those board members who are not family members and are not employed by the ministry, Meyer’s lawyer said. The arrangement meets IRS regulations, the lawyer said.

    “We certainly wouldn’t have enemies and people we don’t know” on the board, Meyer said. “That wouldn’t make any sense. Anybody who has a board is going to have people in favor of you.”

    Meyer and her ministry refuse to tell how much the ministry pays Meyer, her husband, her children and her children’s spouses.

    “I don’t make any more than I’m worth,” Meyer said. “We’re definitely within IRS guidelines.”

    Such an overlap between top administrators and board members concerns the IRS because “the opportunity to manipulate and control the organization is easier to accomplish,” said Bruce Philipson of St. Paul, Minn., the IRS group manager of tax-exempt organizations for this region.

    The followers stay loyal

    Meyer’s followers don’t seem to care how much of her ministry’s money Meyer spends on herself. In interviews with some of her followers at her conference in Atlanta in August, all said they believe that Meyer helps them and that she deserves the wealth.

    William Parton, 32, an Atlanta policeman, said people should not care what Meyer does with the money.

    “I think if they believe they are doing what God has called them to do, and they have a following, and people enjoy listening to them, even if it’s just for entertainment value, just like sports athletes, they deserve to live however their means dictate,” he said.

    Michael Scott Horton, who teaches religious theology at Westminister Theological Seminary in Escondido, Calif., said attitudes such as Parton’s are exactly what evangelists like Meyer bank on.

    “These poor people want to believe that they have that kind of faith,” Horton said, “that they’re going to risk it all on the say-so of this supposed man of God standing up in front of them.”

    None of her critics seems to rile Meyer. She says her material success is a reflection of her commitment to God.

    As she puts it: “The whole Bible really has one message: ‘Obey me and do what I tell you to do, and you’ll be blessed.’”

  7. Gid will definitely bless and reward those who ‘sow into his kingdom’. Jesus did promise this.

    What the penty’s do not understand is that these rewards are decoupled from this temporal world,

    That s wahy Jesus warned us not to lay up treasures in this world that will rust, decay and be moth-eaten.

  8. You might want to download this pdf by R. Christopher Whalen, ‘The Subprime Crisis: Cause, Effect and Consequences’, whihc gives a run down of factors involved in the collapse of the US market.

    I don’t see that prosperity teaching had very much to do with it, frankly. Maybe on a small scale churches and pastors took advantage of an opportunity to raise the lifestyle of their parishioners, but in the middle of the build-up not many people were aware of the financial implications, especially as the boom-bust bubble was on the rise, when speculators are at their most speculative, and the opportunities at their most tempting if cash is made available and risk taking is greater.

    Community activists, unionists and liberal politicians seem to be at the heart of the push for low income families to be able to enter a housing market which was beyond their reach and starting to provide an equity market for owners, but they were not the prime movers. Some church leaders could have been amongst the activists pushing the envelope, but they would have been more in the social justice crowd and the liberation theology mob than prosperity teachers. There were also many other factors involved, s I’ll let Whalen give his perspective:

    ‘The collapse of the subprime market is attributable to many factors, but three basic issues seem to be at the root of the problem.
    • First, an odious public policy partnership — the National Homeownership Strategy — spawned in Washington and comprising hundreds of companies, banks, associations and government agencies — to enhance the availability of “affordable housing” via the use of “creative financing techniques.”ii
    • Second, active encouragement by the SEC and federal bank regulators of the rapid growth of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives and securities by all types of financial institutions, leading to a breakdown in safety and soundness at banks and securities dealers.
    Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1113888
    Dr. Anna Schwartz
    The Sunday Telegraph
    January 14, 2008
    3
    • And third, the related embrace by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) of “fair value accounting,” an ill- advised change in reporting standards for all public companies that is arguably driving much of the current panic on Wall Street.
    Affordable Housing
    The partnership for affordable housing was the creation of the real estate, home building and GSEs lobbies, relying upon legal mandates such as the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”) to “encourage” the banking industry to target increased home ownership in the U.S.. It began after the real estate collapse of the late 1980s, when the savings and loans (S&L) industry was almost entirely de-capitalized and real estate prices in many parts of the U.S. saw double digit declines. The housing GSEs were effectively insolvent by 1991, but the implicit guarantee by the U.S. Treasury enabled them to survive and expand their activities.
    The methods used by the partnership to garner political support were, not surprisingly, similar to those employed by GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Capitol Hill. Support for “affordable housing” became a key part of local and national politics, aided by copious “donations” from the GSEs to members of Congress, a fact that lenders and real estate developers used to great advantage.
    Banks, for their part, saw the affordable housing push as a way to placate and/or gratify politicians and community activists, and also to meet visibly CRA requirements for making credit available to minorities. CRA loans, let us not forget, have 100% loss rates and are functionally equivalent to political campaign contributions.
    By the early part of the 21st century, nearly every mortgage lender in the U.S. incorporated the twin messages of “affordable housing” and “creative financing” into marketing, credit approval and product development efforts. The home builders and realtors were also an important part of the affordable housing push, exerting political influence to gain government support for housing going pack three decades to the 1970s. Then as now, boosting home ownership and home building was seen as a way to stimulate a sluggish economy.’

    There’s far more in his paper which gives his take on the situation. To me the whole issue was a typical boom-bust cycle exasperated by unusual political activism whereby the normal bust time of the cycle was lifted for an excessive number of years, and overconfidence and greed by all investment sectors carelessly allowed the boom to persist beyond its possibilities allowing for a crash of devastating proportions.

    What the dingleberry a Joyce Meyer article form 2003 has to do with any of this is beyond me. The whole issue was a major case of political and social mismanagement.

    The churches, particularly any which were conned by speculators into persuading parishioners to invest (and they would have included evangelical, episcopalian, baptist, methodist and catholic church leaders and congregants), would have been minor players in this three trillion dollar collapse, but don;t let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

  9. This paper is really fascinating reading, and, in view of the post here, I recommend reading through it to get an overall view of what was , and is actually happening to our world today.

    ‘During the past two decades, the proliferation of off exchange-traded derivatives and the use of off-balance-sheet entities (à la Enron) have been actively encouraged by the Congress, the Federal Reserve Board staff in Washington and other global regulators. The combination of OTC derivatives, risk-based capital requirements authorized by Congress in 1991 and favorable accounting rules blessed by the SEC and the FASB, enabled Wall Street to create a de facto assembly line for purchasing, packaging and selling unregistered securities, such as subprime collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), to a wide variety of institutional investors. viii
    European observers aptly describe the literally thousands of CDOs and other types of structured investment vehicles (SIVs) created during the past decade as a “shadow banking system,” but few in the U.S. appreciate that this deliberately opaque pseudo market came into existence and grew with the direct approval and active encouragement of Greenspan, and other senior bank regulators in the U.S. and EU. Moreover, all of this occurred with the encouragement and approval of the academic research community. Regulators even issued cautionary guidance to help the dealer firms manage the quite apparent operational risks from dealing in complex structured assets, but did nothing to stop the financial services industry from creating this huge unregulated securities market.ix
    Seen from the perspective of regulatory inaction, the true lesson of the subprime crisis has less to do with the use of subprime mortgages as collateral in the SIVs and much more with how these inferior assets were packaged and sold outside the bounds of established regulatory controls. Not only did regulators allow the creation of new, unregistered assets classes which have caused investors grievous losses, but the use of structured finance by banks for reasons of funding introduced a new element of volatility and instability into the model of many U.S. banking institutions.
    The growth in the “markets” for OTC asset classes and related phenomena represents a reversal of nearly a century of regulatory and prudential practices in the U.S..
    Following the financial market crises of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. Congress substituted personal market discipline for regulation.x The U.S. put in place legal strictures and market guidelines that required virtually all financial instruments to be traded on exchanges, with price discovery and counterparty credit risk issues exposed to the full light of public scrutiny and, thus, market discipline. However, with the “Big Bang” of decimalization in March 2001, the sell-side consensus surrounding the exchange-traded model, which already was under pressure, completely unraveled.xi

    Did you catch what he said?

    Seen from the perspective of regulatory inaction, the true lesson of the subprime crisis has less to do with the use of subprime mortgages as collateral in the SIVs and much more with how these inferior assets were packaged and sold outside the bounds of established regulatory controls.

    This, in part explains how and why the European banks, lending agencies, insurance and superannuating funds, and even councils and, worse, government agencies jumped on the bank-wagon to lock into what they saw as easy money during the boom times, but missed the boat when the bust hit, causing nations to crumble.

    Ireland has bitten the dust, after having one of the most vibrant economies, the Italians are on the edge, the Spanish on the brink, Greece is all but gone, Iceland, of course, sank like the Titanic from the outset, The French are devalued, the Euro is on the wobble and likely to disintegrate unless the Germans are willing to bale it out, and the UK, which thankfully still trades in pounds, just went over the trillion pound debt threshold.

    But you claim these things have happened because of prosperity teaching in Pentecostal churches.

    Insane!

  10. Further light reading:

    Ten Myths about Subprime Mortgages

    Yuliya Demyanyk

    On close inspection many of the most popular explanations for the subprime crisis turn out to be myths. Empirical research shows that the causes of the subprime mortgage crisis and its magnitude were more complicated than mortgage interest rate resets, declining underwriting standards, or declining home values. Nor were its causes unlike other crises of the past. The subprime crisis was building for years before showing any signs and was fed by lending, securitization, leveraging, and housing booms.

    Subprime mortgages have been getting a lot of attention in the United States since 2000, when the number of subprime loans being originated and refinanced shot up rapidly. The attention intensified in 2007, when defaults on subprime loans began to skyrocket. Researchers, policymakers, and the public have tried to identify the factors that explained these defaults.

    Unfortunately, many of the most popular explanations that have emerged for the subprime crisis are, to a large extent, myths. On close inspection, these explanations are not supported by empirical research.

    Myth 1: Subprime mortgages went only
    to borrowers with impaired credit
    Subprime mortgages went to all kinds of borrowers, not only to those with impaired credit. A loan can be labeled subprime not only because of the characteristics of the borrower it was originated for, but also because of the type of lender that originated it, features of the mortgage product itself, or how it was securitized.

    Specifically, if a loan was given to a borrower with a low credit score or a history of delinquency or bankruptcy, lenders would most likely label it subprime. But mortgages could also be labeled subprime if they were originated by a lender specializing in high-cost loans—although not all high-cost loans are subprime. Also, unusual types of mortgages generally not available in the prime market, such as “2/28 hybrids,” which switch to an adjustable interest rate after only two years of a fixed rate, would be labeled subprime even if they were given to borrowers with credit scores that were sufficiently high to qualify for prime mortgage loans.

    The process of securitizing a loan could also affect its subprime designation. Many subprime mortgages were securitized and sold on the secondary market. Securitizers rank ordered pools of mortgages from the most to the least risky at the time of securitization, basing the ranking on a combination of several risk factors, such as credit score, loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios, etc. The most risky pools would become a part of a subprime security. All the loans in that security would be labeled subprime, regardless of the borrowers’ credit scores.

    The myth that subprime loans went only to those with bad credit arises from overlooking the complexity of the subprime mortgage market and the fact that subprime mortgages are defined in a number of ways—not just by the credit quality of borrowers. One of the myth’s byproducts is that examples of borrowers with good credit and subprime loans have been seen as evidence of foul play, generating accusations that such borrowers must have been steered unfairly and sometimes fraudulently into the subprime market.

    Myth 2: Subprime mortgages promoted homeownership
    The availability of subprime mortgages in the United States did not facilitate increased homeownership. Between 2000 and 2006, approximately one million borrowers took subprime mortgages to finance the purchase of their first home. These subprime loans did contribute to an increased level of homeownership in the country—at the time of mortgage origination. Unfortunately, many homebuyers with subprime loans defaulted within a couple of years of origination. The number of such defaults outweighs the number of first-time homebuyers with subprime mortgages.

    Given that there were more defaults among all (not just first-time) homebuyers with subprime loans than there were first-time homebuyers with subprime loans, it is impossible to conclude that subprime mortgages promoted homeownership.

    Myth 3: Declines in home values caused
    the subprime crisis in the United States
    Researchers, policymakers, and the general public have noticed that a large number of mortgage defaults and foreclosures followed the decline in house prices. This observation resulted in a general belief that the crisis occurred because of declining home values.

    The decline in home values only revealed the problems with subprime mortgages; it did not cause the defaults. Research shows that the quality of newly originated mortgages was worsening every year between 2001 and 2007; the crisis was brewing for many years before house prices even started slowing down. But because the housing boom allowed homeowners to refinance even the worst mortgages, we did not see this negative trend in loan quality for years preceding the crisis.

    Myth 4: Declines in mortgage underwriting standards
    triggered the subprime crisis
    An analysis of subprime mortgages shows that within the first year of origination, approximately 10 percent of the mortgages originated between 2001 and 2005 were delinquent or in default, and approximately 20 percent of the mortgages originated in 2006 and 2007 were delinquent or in default. This rapid jump in default rates was among the first signs of the beginning crisis.

    If deteriorating underwriting standards explain this phenomenon, we would be able to observe a substantial loosening of the underwriting criteria between 2001–2005 and 2006–2007, periods between which the default rates doubled. The data, however, show no such change in standards.

    Actually, the criteria that are associated with larger default rates, such as debt-to-income or loan-to-value ratios, were, on average, worsening a bit every year from 2001 to 2007, but the changes between the 2001–2005 and 2006–2007 periods were not sufficiently high to explain the near 100 percent increase in default rates for loans originated in these years.

    Myth 5: Subprime mortgages failed
    because people used homes as ATMs
    Rising house prices and falling mortgage interest rates before 2006 gave many homeowners an opportunity to refinance their mortgages and extract cash. The cash extracted from home equity could be spent for home improvements, bill payments, or general goods and services. Among subprime mortgages that were securitized, more than half were originated to refinance existing mortgages into larger ones and to take cash out of home equity.

    While this option was popular throughout the subprime years (2001–2007), it was not a primary factor in causing the massive defaults and foreclosures that occurred after both home prices and interest rates reversed their paths. Mortgages that were originated for refinancing actually performed better than mortgages originated solely to buy a home (comparing mortgages of the same age and origination year). The rates of default for cash-out refinance mortgages within one year of origination were 17 percent for mortgages originated in 2006 and 20 percent for those originated in 2007. In contrast, the rates of default within one year of origination for mortgages originated to buy a home were 23 percent and 27 percent for the origination years 2006 and 2007, respectively.

    Read the other five myths @
    http://www.clevelandfed.org/research/commentary/2009/0509.cfm

  11. Thanks for the detailed posts Steve and Bones, I just don’t have the time to pore over them. The bottom line is, surely, that any Christian who lives in Babylon will get consumed by Babylon. Rev 18 describes the rapacious system that runs this world (and has done for centuries), and its eventual downfall. Just as Lot (although called ‘righteous’ by Peter) escaped Sodom’s moral corruption, he needed Abraham’s assistance;

    If believers want to walk the world’s wide road, it leads one way – down, and the deeper they’re in, the greater the rescue package will have to be. We ‘come out from’ many things as Christians: sin, death, and worship of mammon, for example.

  12. Well, I’m not surprised the usual suspect is here to defend the opulence and greed of his fellow pastors. Many churches use teachers like Meyer and Jakes to push their doctrine home. (If you want to be blessed- start tithing – gives you a guaranteed teaching gig and video resource for all Pentecostal churches) How Meyer’s excesses are any different to Copeland’s is beyond me. She’s more likeable I suppose.

    Also we were very quick to jump all over Dr Rowan Williams but when it comes to pastors of your ilk, it’s very much “don’t touch the Lord’s Anointed”.

    I think it’s fair to say prosperity teachers had a low, maybe insignificant, impact OVER ALL. However for those who were conned into the lifestyle of success and covetousness (as promoted in these churches), the impact was huge.

    Lol at blaming the unions and social justice groups. Like it was the unions ripping off the poor.

  13. Yikes, Bones, where did I defend anyone?

    Did you actually read the material on the sub-prime disaster I put up?

    If you want to put together a separate post on Meyer go for it, but don’t try to confuse the issue with a totally unrelated accusation. What you put up has nothing whatsoever to do with the post. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

    I think, by what you’ve put up, she lives in a la-la-land of excess and needs to get back to basics, but please don’t make the claim that it’s anything to do with the subject in hand.

    My point is that the sub-prime crime was evidently more to do with allowing the major Mammonic corporations free range to devise their own lending packages rather than the grass roots providers who were conned into drawing people who could never have the wherewithal to get through a drop in the economy without financial collapse. Greedy bankers thought the value in housing was enough of a risk to set up dodgy schemes so intricately woven around shonky ethical practices that they placed entire nations at risk of becoming basket cases.

    This dopey idea that prosperity teaching in any way cause the crash of economies is so off the wall that if someone doesn’t say something to refute it on this blog it will become the laughingstock of the blogisphere.

    The financial woes of the global economy was caused by sub-primates with lies bigger than their bellies who make Meyer’s millions look like peanuts.

    Get a grip!

  14. Well that is such a steaming mess of hyperbole and mis-direction that I feel I have to respond.

    This ‘dopey idea’ was put forward by a Harvard professor of religion – someone specialising in Pentecostal and Evangelical studies, and reported on in Time magazine. It was also reported on extensively in the Atlantic.

    To say it is so off the wall that the blog will become a laughing-stock is a statement so ridiculous and self-serving that I wonder whether you are just a troll or if you really believe the outlandish statements you are making.

    I sincerely hope that you do not believe them, as I feel you are getting further and further away from reality.

  15. If you read what I wrote properly you’d note that I said the social activists played a role in the political atmosphere of the time, but it was minor compared to Washington and the major financial players.

    I merely pointed out that the unions and social activists, including some church groups, were at the cutting edge of the grass-roots lobby with trended up the idea of housing loans for those who could not afford them in a time when there was greater potential for gaining equity quickly.

    It was a disaster waiting to happen, but very few people, including you and I, picked it at the time, so we live in a retrospective accusative era and should be careful who we blame for a problem which was endemic to the prevailing economic winds of the time.

    We had one finance guy in our church who saw it all coming and was warning of impending disaster for the US and the world at least 18 months before it all broke, so it sharpened our awareness somewhat, but I couldn’t say we understood it as well as we can in retrospect.

    And Barnaby Joyce was ridiculed and forced out of his position as Shadow Finance Minister for naming the US as a basket-case which was about to go under over a year before it all happened.

    Makes you think, eh!

  16. Well, wazza, Philip Powell reports on Pentecostal and charismatic studies, as does Lance White, but I don’t have to take them seriously just because one is a former AOG Superintendent and the other is a News Reader on radio.

    Being professor of theology or religion at Yale or Harvard doesn’t seem to mean that much these days, especially when you can be a gay Yale professor of theology.

    I have given enough of other US expert’s analysis which doesn’t once mention churches let alone Pentecostals as the cause of the problem.

    Tell me why the UK has gone into a tailspin financially. Was it the prosperity gospel which has sent the nation into a potential double-dip recession with debts over a trillion pounds, apparently as a result of this global downturn?

    US commentators tend to be one eyed when it comes to this kind of research. They don’t see beyond the US of A. That’s why I included a more global analysis of what happened.

    That’s not trolling. It’s presenting alternative facts with substance by experts who know what they’re talking about rather than sensationalists who speculate, but have never understood what Pentecost is.

  17. Could have sworn I wrote this:

    think it’s fair to say prosperity teachers had a low, maybe insignificant, impact OVER ALL. However for those who were conned into the lifestyle of success and covetousness (as promoted in these churches), the impact was huge.

    Yep I did.

  18. Yes, Bones you did, and I acknowledge that, and agree with the first part of it, but will have to pass on the rest of it because, like the post, it is pure speculation. Wazza evidently doesn’t agree with you, however.

  19. Wazza, n the other thread you claimed you were posting evidence that prosperity gospel (so-called) had cause the GFC. That’s what I base my criticism on. Have you changed your mind?

  20. There is definite evidence of collusion and financial kickbacks given to pastors. Financiers used the gullibility of their congregations to promote and sell their product.

    To most Christians none of that is surprising, given the nature of the health and wealth gospel.

  21. No one said that the Prosperity Gospel caused the crash – not even the original article. It said that the Prosperity Gospel turned its adherants into willing victims of it. It was one factor that interacted with the crisis.

    If you want to know what sub-prime means, I suggest you look at a reliable source like wikipedia.

    That you discount a Harvard Professor of Religion as being a laughing-stock but take the utterances of Barnaby Joyce seriously says more about you than all of your ravings on this blog so far.

  22. I’ll post this but some won’t like it.

    http://gaminc.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/christian-prosperity-crisis/

    Moreover, Prosperity Theology does not even pass the test of common sense. If the promises of Prosperity Theology were legitimate and observable, then it should be discovered that its adherents indeed would be wealthier than the general population. Yet, the opposite is true.

    According to the surveys of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life2, the average income level of all Christians is less than that of other faiths. For instance, the percentage of protestant Christians with incomes over $100,000 per annum is 15%. This is less than Muslims (16%), Jews (46%), Buddhists (43%) and Hindus (43%).

    Drilling down into comparisons between Christian denominations themselves, the same non-confirmation is evident. If one assumes that prosperity teaching is to be most prevalent in evangelical Pentecostal sects, the falsehood of this teaching is found to be most fraudulent. The Pentecostal demographic is the poorest of all, with the exception of Baptists in the Historically Black Tradition.3 48% of Pentecostals have incomes less than $30,000; only 7% greater than $100,000 per annum. That compares to 31% and 18% in the Christian population overall, respectively.

    Clearly, the promises of Prosperity Theology are a hoax. Much worse allegations could be made. It would be considered a financial sham were its promoters to be seen to be preying on the hopelessness of its congregants. In that sense, it would not be much different than the consumer credit business. Just which demographic has historically proven to be the most profitable credit market for financial institutions … at least up until the Global Financial Crisis (GFC)? The poor. It is these people that are made to pay high loan fees and interest rates and tend to run high balances on their credit cards with exorbitant charges. This gospel is certainly not “releasing the oppressed” as was Christ’s mission. (Luke 4:18)

    Why is it that Christians are so gullible? It may be for the same reason that the thickest complaint file of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in America is the category of religiously-associated fraud. When con artists or teachers imply a relationship with God or make a purported scriptural reference promising prosperity, the wallets are opened unthinkingly. Charismatic churches time and again have proven themselves most vulnerable to the flimsiest of Ponzi schemes. It is simply astounding.

  23. Steve: “Wazza, n the other thread you claimed you were posting evidence that prosperity gospel (so-called) had cause the GFC. That’s what I base my criticism on. Have you changed your mind?”

    I never claimed that. This is what I wrote on the other thread:

    “I’m going to put up an article about how Christian prosperity thinking contributed to the sub-prime loans debacle and hence the GFC. Some of the pastors who encouraged migrants and poor people to get $300K homes were also the ones that provided the loan-broking service to them.”

  24. Being professor of theology or religion at Yale or Harvard doesn’t seem to mean that much these days, especially when you can be a gay Yale professor of theology.

    So you cant be gay and a professor of theology? Being gay somehow hinders your understanding of the Bible or your ability to discern the things of God?

    You can be gay and lead a Pentecostal/Evangelical church or ministry, look at Frank Houston, Anthony Venn-Brown and many others.

    Or did you mean you cant be openly gay and be a professor of theology.

  25. Okay, you’ll really think I’m crazy when I say this ….

    Credit, borrowing, loans etc are obviously the reason for the wealth of many individuals and companies. I realize that of course.

    But …I don’t believe in debt. If people waited until they could pay cash for things, the world would obviously be a different place.
    And yeah, I know, then most people couldn’t buy their own homes.
    But, there’s nothing wrong with renting. Paul did it, many people have done it. And if there wasn’t so much speculation on capital gains then real estate would be lower and people could rent, save money, and later buy land/house when they could.

    Yeah, I know, I will be attacked by everyone. But regardless of the intricacies of what you both Bones and Steve posted, the bottom line is that people borrowed money to buy/pay for what they never had on the BELIEF that they would always be able to pay the money back. but they couldn’t.

    And it’s happening on a national level.. countries spend money they don’t have.

    As for sub-prime, it’s true that many people who took out loans for houses would never have qualified unless rules were changed and banks were pressured to lend. Also, the financial packages that were sold further up the line were so complicated that many high finance guys didn’t even understand them.

    So, the little people were beyond their means and understanding, but so were a lot of so called clever people.

    And the world is in a mess.
    But I still believe in “prosperity”. 🙂

  26. Wazza, I think what Steve is simply saying is that University Professors are not without personal opinions, biases, and their own theologies.

    So, I’m another one who doesn’t necessarily ooh and aah at the latest study from someone from Harvard.

    My professor thought you were an idiot if you believed in heaven.

  27. I’m not saying we should believe him, just because he’s a Professor of Theology specialising in the area.

    What I’m saying is that the article is not based on a “dopey idea” that is a laughing stock – as Steve tried to label it. It is based on research and on thoughtful and educated opinion, you are free to disagree but disagree by arguing against it.

  28. Bones, I don’t agree with the way Meyers uses ministry money. But, it’s her ministry, and I don’t have to give to her. If people are glad to give to her and are happy with how she lives, then what is that to me?

    Secondly, you’ll probably find that most of her income is from book royalties. (If you give an offering you get her free book – but the ministry probably pays her or her company for the books). It’s a funky kind of system. That way people can give offerings for all sorts of things – orphanages etc, and she gets to be a best selling author, and also gets to be independently wealthy.

    But orphanages also get built which otherwise wouldn’t….

    As for me, I’m the type of guy who feels thankful to God for all the abundance I have – but I am renting, would rather buy a vase for 2 bucks if it looks good, and buy cheap second hand cars. But I have all the food I want, warmth in winter, enough clothes (too many because I also have a washing machine), and a babe wife and cute kids.

    But if I wanted to …I believe that I could get “richer”. And so could many people who complain about being poor.

  29. The OT talks about people being blessed who were basically businessmen. It talks about opening up windows of heaven in Malachi – which I simply take to be rain. So I would encourage people to be diligent in business. Daniel was blessed, but I believe he studied. God also have promises of health – but there were also diet/sanitary laws.

    I don’t believe God wants people sick and in lack,lonely etc.
    That’s why we feed the poor, give a cup of water to one who has none, why Jesus talked about visiting people in prison.
    There is no blessing in having no food, water, shelter, and having nobody visit you in prison.

    But….thought the fig tree does not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vine…etc yet will I rejoice in the Lord.
    (But while you rejoice in that time, and don’t curse God, you don’t have to want to stay like that until you die and think it’s God’s will – because I don’t believe it is.)

    PS. I would love to see a person like Joyce give most of that money away, and save money on ministry buildings.

    But I also happen to think that private schools with beautiful swimming pools don’t need govt funding either.

    So, I’m probably in no man’s land in my theology and philosophy.

  30. Wazza, I understand the point of the article. I think there’s a good point. There were obviously many people caught up in the “You deserve the best”, Christians should be blessed and show the world they are prospering, “he the head and not the tail”, so I can definitely imagine that there were many people for whom WISDOM would suggest that entering into a loan for a house bigger and grander than what they needed was not a good decision.

    I don’t take out loans based on future prosperity.

    But Steve strikes me as someone who would give wise financial advice if asked.

    But again, it wasn’t just prosperity people who were caught.

    I have less anger towards someone who preaches about tithing than I do for guys working in banks making millions who can crash and burn an economy, get bailed out by the govt, then be back on millions again, while the rest have to pay off the national debt for decades. That’s what you should be mad at.

  31. Yeah, I am mad at them and the governments from Clinton on who deregulated and set the conditions for this to flourish. I’m mad at Obama who has let them get off scott-free and let them back into the house to burn it down again.

    But this is a religion blog and the subject is the Prosperity gospel and the GFC.

  32. Seems to me if you want to be prosperous, SM, you’re in the wrong business, as it were. You’d be better to have a literal sacred cow (than the metaphorical one of money).

    Maybe we’re on the wrong side.

    For instance, the percentage of protestant Christians with incomes over $100,000 per annum is 15%. This is less than Muslims (16%), Jews (46%), Buddhists (43%) and Hindus (43%).

  33. I have no problems with Christians being wealthy through hard work, good stewardship, good and ethical business practices, shrewd investments.

    However telling poor people they can be rich through giving is like taking a hungry person’s piece of bread with the promise that God will provide a banquet out of the sky.

    The hungry person will give their last piece of bread if it means dying of starvation.

    It’s just evil.

  34. There is of course one difference between the wealthy Old Testament figures and us. If they were getting low on resources, they had a simple solution. Invade your nearest neighbour and pillage and plunder.

    Not quite sure how that fits in with now days. I mean if I’m broke I can’t just go and invade the next door neighbour’s house. Well I could but he won’t like it. And I don’t think I’ll be blessed.

    I’m sure someone will come and give us a spiritual lesson on pillaging and plundering in the Spirit.

  35. I have less anger towards someone who preaches about tithing than I do for guys working in banks making millions who can crash and burn an economy, get bailed out by the govt, then be back on millions again, while the rest have to pay off the national debt for decades. That’s what you should be mad at.

    Preach that brother. When the revolution comes bankers and all those with their snouts in the trough had better look out.

    http://rt.com/usa/news/george-soros-class-war-619/

    George Soros predicts riots, police state and class war for America
    Billionaire investor George Soros has a new prediction for America. While it might be as dire as it gets for the financial wiz, this bet concerns more than just the value of the buck. According to Soros, there’s about to be an all-out class war.

    Soros, 81, previously bet against the British pound in the early 90s and made $1 billion off its collapse. In the years since, he’s remained active in investing, but also in advocacy. He’s helped keep Wikipedia afloat thanks to impressive contributions and through donations to the Tides Center, has indirectly funded Adbusters, the Canadian anti-capitalist magazine that put Occupy Wall Street on the map. Speaking to Newsweek recently, Soros neglected to acknowledge his past successes, but instead offered a word of warning: a period of “evil” is coming to the western world.

    “I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”

    Soros goes on to compare the current state of the western world with what the Soviet Union was facing as communism crumbled. Although he would think that history would have taught the globe a thing or two about noticing trends, Soros says that, despite past events providing a perfect example of what is to come, the end of an empire seems imminent.

    “The collapse of the Soviet system was a pretty extraordinary event, and we are currently experiencing something similar in the developed world, without fully realizing what’s happening,” adds Soros.

    Soros goes on to say that as the crisis in the Eurozone only worsens, the American financial system will continue to be hit hard. On the way to a full-blown collapse, he cautions, Americans should expect society to alter accordingly. Riots will hit the streets, says Soros, and as a result, “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.”

    The recent adoption of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 and the proposed Enemy Expatriation Act, if approved, have already very well paved the way for such a society. Under the NDAA, the US government is allowed to indefinitely detain and torture American citizens suspected of terror crimes without ever bringing them to trial. Should lawmakers Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA) get their Enemy Expatriation Act through Congress, the US will also be able to simply revoke citizenship without trial, essentially removing constitutional rights from anyone deemed a threat.

    Others have cautioned that, as inequality becomes more rampant in America, the country’s citizens are becoming increasingly agitated with those on the other side of the extreme. In a recent survey released by the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of the adults studied believe that either “very strong” or “strong” conflicts exist between America’s elite and the impoverished, a statistic that has skyrocketed in recent years. Between 2009 and 20011, the proportion of those that sense conflicts exist as such between the class groups grew by 19 percentage points. While less than half of Americans fearing a fight brewing at the dawn of the Obama administration, today two-out-of-three Americans feel that there is a strong conflict between both extremes of society.

    Addressing the issue of inequality, Soros tells Newsweek that the main issue that will make or break a reelection for US President Barack Obama will be whether or not the rich end up being taxed more. Among the current frontrunners in the Republic Party’s race for the GOP nomination, wealth and taxes have been of the biggest concern of party rivals. The top candidates have made millions off of investments, and at a time of immense inequality, represent what 99 percent of Americans don’t. Taxing the rich to a bigger degree might finally bring a chance, and Soros says, “It shouldn’t be a difficult argument for Obama to make.”

    Soros adds that if the US manages to make it through the troubled times to come, it come allow the nation to enter another golden era. “In the crisis period, the impossible becomes possible. The European Union could regain its luster. I’m hopeful that the United States, as a political entity, will pass a very severe test and actually strengthen the institution,” he tells Newsweek.

    With almost seven percent of Americans living below half of the poverty line, four unemployed Americans for each job, a shrinking middle class and an increasingly overzealous police state, it could very well be a tough road to get there, though.

  36. Oh and an interesting thing re that Joyce Meyer article above.

    Prosperity preachers always preach the necessity to tithe. Yet watch them squirm and wriggle their way out of paying taxes.

  37. I’ll accept that what you were saying fell short of accusing prosperity preachers of causing the crash, wazza. I still think your approach to Pentecostalism is provocative, however.

    I can agree that there may have been churches which were caught up in the sub-prime selling of mortgages to the poorer districts of the US, but the Professors analysis that it was ‘prosperity teaching’ which was the primary source of a low income catchment is totally ridiculous.

    It is quite obvious to anyone with half a brain that it is just as likely that social justice ministries would have seized the opportunity to present the option of loans to people with low incomes as a major triumph for the social activist lobbies which effectively convinced Washington to allow lenders and banks to set up unregulated schemes to plunder the poor and pay the rich.

    This is real Robin Hood stuff, but Friar Tuck was duped into complicity because the Hood was in cohorts with the Sheriff who allowed mass pillage on a Shire-wide scale. It was so clever that the villagers willingly parted with their taxes.

    The Friar simply didn’t grasp the significance of what he was allowing to take place. All he saw was the poor getting good dal from the Sheriff for a change. It was the biggest betrayal of the grass roots communities, including the various types of churches at the coal-face, in the history of finance.

    So I wouldn’t be blaming the churches too much, whether prosperity, social justice, liberal or missional theologists. They were not financiers. As SM points out, even some of the financial warehouses didn’t know what was in the small-print.

    I know what sub-prime means, wazza. I was wondering if you did, because the key to this disaster is understanding what Washington and the financial sector were peddling to the poor.

  38. I’ll accept that what you were saying fell short of accusing prosperity preachers of causing the crash, wazza

    Your apology is accepted.

  39. The idea of reaching out to churches took off quickly, Jacobson recalls. The branch managers figured pastors had a lot of influence with their parishioners and could give the loan officers credibility and new customers. Jacobson remembers a conference call where sales managers discussed the new strategy. The plan was to send officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, $350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans,” Jacobson told me. “They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’”

    I think this financier is being specific about which churches they were targetting.

  40. Well wazza, it works both ways. I take it you have changed you mind about adding the article in your post:

    Another longer and very detailed article on the subject appeared in the Atlantic “Did Christianity cause the Crash?”

  41. Bones, I’m sure churches of all kinds were receiving fancy, well-worded brochures from a number of sources.

    As he says, not a word of sub-prime (which few understood then anyway) was to be mentioned in the large print.

    Do you remember what it’s like in the beginning or middle of a boom? It’s not that far away, is it? Australia is just coming out of it, and hasn’t quite hit the bust downside, but, then, it doesn’t have a sub-prime industry, although the banks, despite being far better regulated, did come awfully close.

    Sub-prime refers to giving higher interest loans to people who, in a well regulated financial industry, would never have the kind of credit rating considered safe or sufficient to repay a mortgage in a downturn.

    Te risk was entirely the banks’ because they assumed the boom cycle would last longer than it did, and didn’t allow for the crash to be so quick and deep. They figured that houses would continue to maintain positive equity even if the sub-prime borrowers defaulted and lost their homes.

    History tells us that on the downside of a boom-bust house prices can fall well below expected valuation and borrowers can go into negative equity for a few years, until the market recovers, that’s if they can sustain the repayments.

    There was so much negative equity and risk capital – three trillion dollars written off – in the US that even the financial lenders crashed. The poor will always be the victims when the rich go down.

    Blaming a handful of grass roots church leaders for anything but ignorance to the facts is overkill.

  42. OK, wazza, then I maintain my stance that the question, ‘Did Christianity cause the crash” is so dopey as to be laughable.

  43. By the way, I didn’t say I hung on every word Barnaby Joyce says. I don’t. I pointed out that he was ridiculed for warning of the US financial crash before it happened.

    Do you remember? Joyce, a former accountant, nailed the US potential financial ‘Armageddon’, warned about Australian investment, and was slated for it. The NSW subsequently Labour government fell because of its financial insecurity.

    I don’t agree with everything he says, but he sure got that one right.

  44. Rubbish, he said the US (government) could default on their loans. They havent so he hasnt been proved right yet.

    In the same report he said that some Australian states could default on their loans.

    There’s no detail at all on the US financial crash – this was a stab in the dark, similar to many Pente prophecies. The ones that have some similarities, however tenuous to events that happened later, get trotted out – while all the others are quietly forgotten.

  45. Steve, also you’ll find that the loans were repackaged and repackaged as that went higher up to other countries. That’s why I admire a smart guy like Warren Buffet who is humble enough to say that some things he doesn’t understand so he doesn’t invest in them.

    It IS of course absurd to say that Christianity was the cause of the crash. Yep, that sounds pretty Neroic to me.

    Depressions come and go. Same with summer and winter. It’s just that the majority of people haven’t lived through hard times.

    We’ve basically had an unprecedented time of high standards of living since WW2

  46. It IS of course absurd to say that Christianity was the cause of the crash. Yep, that sounds pretty Neroic to me.

    Its a good thing that no-one said it then.

  47. I’m sure we’ve discussed the topic this article covers above before.

    It seems obvious that many Christian’s who listen to extreme Prosperity Doctrine teachings (where you give in ‘faith’ so that you may ‘get’, or believe you cannot ‘get’ if you don’t, or believe that you are cursed if you don’t) are also vulnerable to over-mortgaging themselves in ‘faith’. In the pre-GFC environment, prices were going up and doctrines of increase appeared to be easily proven. I agree with J Lee Grady’s comment:

    “It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, ‘If you give this offering, God will give you a house.’ And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy.”

    Pre-GFC, it was common commercial thinking that if you weren’t significantly leveraged, you had a ‘lazy balance sheet.’ So this lax approach to risk – where to have no risk was almost sin – was not confined to churches. Now, you never hear the term ‘lazy balance sheet’. You hear ‘this company has no debt’ when people look at assessing financial health. The attitude to individuals borrowing was similar.

    We have tragic local examples of foolish finance from that time, where people have mortgaged their houses to fund church building ambitions that have later collapsed. (C3 Centrewest had this awful story I think).

    Mega-church Pentecostal congregations have also attracted Amway style networks, developers at times seeking and receiving pastoral sanction (unofficial, but publicising the pastor’s participation) which becomes useful marketing to other congregation members, and many others taking advantage of the positive faith environment. (Not that every congregation member was vulnerable to them.)

    But I wouldn’t say the GFC was the fault of prosperity teaching. It was simply a teaching that thrived in the pre-GFC environment.

    It doesn’t take a Professor to see how this works, but its good to see someone taking a look at some of the damaging effects of the teaching on the more vulnerable people.

  48. I have no problems with Christians being wealthy through hard work, good stewardship, good and ethical business practices, shrewd investments.

    However telling poor people they can be rich through giving is like taking a hungry person’s piece of bread with the promise that God will provide a banquet out of the sky.

    The hungry person will give their last piece of bread if it means dying of starvation.

    It’s just evil.

    – Bones

    I completely agree. That is my essential problem with the teaching.

  49. TWELVE REASONS FOR TITHING from http://www.propheticrevelation.net/tithing.htm

    1. Tithing is scriptural — ordered and approved of God in the Old and New Testaments.

    2. Tithing teaches the true worshippers of the Lord Jesus Christ to put God and His work first.

    3. Tithing teaches us to recognize and acknowledge God’s ownership of our lives.

    4. Tithing is an act of worship.

    5. Tithing gives us more confidence in our prayers to God.

    6. Tithing invokes God’s blessings upon the tithe-giver.

    7. Tithing tends to increase the tithe-giver’s ability to give more than just a tenth of his or her income.

    8. Tithing gives the tithe-givers an opportunity to receive from God His blessings as they give Him their tithes.

    9. Tithing creates a commanding position of stewardship in the lives of Christians.

    10. Tithing increases the tithe-giver’s influence over others to follow his example to practise tithing.

    11. Tithing is giving in a systematic manner rather than an emotional or spasmodic giving.

    12. Tithing causes the tithe-giver to give freely and spontaneously rather than waiting until an appeal is made.

    Lots of scripture mis-used to back up this list in the full article. Points 6 and 8 are easy hooks for preachers to place their bait.

  50. Bones,

    “SM, are you circumcised?”
    That’s a pretty personal question innit? (Feel like I’m in the Life of Brian).

    eh …I’m lost.Is that a pick up line..?

    Or do you not eat beef?
    Never on Fridays..

  51. Think I’ve missed something here… financial crash…prosperity … summer and winter…..then circumcision.

    Yep, you got me there.

    Anyway, you honestly think an upstanding, WASP capitalist like me could possibly be uncircumcised? Man, I’ve been accused of low things before…..

  52. Zeibart, Colonel Sanders tithed. And God blessed him by teaching him those 11 herbs and spices.

    I rest my case!

  53. Well you want to be prosperous. I thought it might be easier for you to change. You might have better luck with someone else.

    For instance, the percentage of protestant Christians with incomes over $100,000 per annum is 15%. This is less than Muslims (16%), Jews (46%), Buddhists (43%) and Hindus (43%).

  54. Wazza2, I seem to remember the US having to find three trillion dollars to avoid what amounted to bankruptcy only a few months ago. In so doing they bailed out the banks which were about to go under. Why? Because they were about to default on their loans. Didn’t they borrow heavily from China? How long will it take them to pay off their debts?

    All this stupid talk of the crash being associated with tithing, TV Evangelists and prosperity teaching is bordering on the absurdly naive.

  55. ”But available funds have never really matched costs. Although the Tongan-Australian community of 20,000 raised $3 million to help fund the construction, the money ran out in the final weeks before its opening in 2008.”

    From: http://www.smh.com.au/national/tongas-church-built-in-hope-faith-and-pride-collapses-in-debt-20120127-1qlmv.html#ixzz1kh6QyPjI

    This encapsulates all that is wrong with church-as-business. This deal was seemingly brokered before the Lehmann Brothers collapse and GFC1. Here we have a church body that would not be in the higher echelons of earning demographic burdened at a personal level with trying to salvage the project and its enormous interest payments.

    Certainly other types of church that overtly court the better-off middle class, might have weathered the financial storm, but still at the cost of propping up a building to meet in – that’s not church,

    When the bride is entangled with the harlot, the result is always compromise and worldliness. Sadly, in this case, the accounts of people who need their cash have been plundered, I suspect.

  56. That is a tragic scenario, zeibart, which seems to demonstrate an over ambitious building project and lack of wisdom in carrying it out. The building took precedent over the people.

    I don’t see anything wrong, however, with a group of people, once they grow to a manageable number, pooling together to build a centre for their congregation, and many have successfully put together well managed financial plans for their building.

    Most groups continue to hire schools or function rooms for their general meetings until they have built enough of a congregation and enjoy a financial base to enter a building program. This is always a tricky time for a growing church, but the vast majority have made it through the initial stages and completed their project satisfactorily.

    There has to be a sound management plan and process in place to complete a workable project. It took us several years to pay off our building, but the value of the facility when payment was completed was ten times what we paid for it, so, as we went along, the repayments were more and more manageable, and we never overstretched our budget.

    The result is a purpose built centre which is a gathering point and a focal point for what we wanted to achieve in the community. Hiring schools and hotel function rooms is useful, but it can’t beat having a purpose built facility, which incorporates children’s, adults’s and youth ministries, as well as any other missional works a local church engages in.

    The Tongan church failed, and that is a lesson to those who enter building programs, but there are many projects which have succeeded through sound management.

    Whilst I understand and appreciate, even agree with, some of your reservations, I don’t hold with your understanding that a gathering point for a congregation is unbiblical. I think we are permitted to gather n any way we want, provided we do not place undue hardship or pressure on the congregants.

    The building is not the main issue. People are, so any building will do, but if the people are willing, and the project is sound and not overambitious, a group of people with the desire to succeed will pull off a rewarding enterprise which can help set the church up for many years, and become a focal point for the community they are reaching out to.

    I do hope no one on this blog is doing a Lance and seeking out failures on google to demonstrate how awful building projects, be they domestic or congregant, can be.

  57. My thoughts on this Steve, are the damage that such a project can do to one’s faith when the money-gathering message is tied in to a ‘prosperity-oriented’ drive for cash that then goes belly up (clearly, I don’t know how they preached or used scripture for financial gain in the months leading up to the opening). If ‘pressed down, shaken together and over-flowing ‘ is used to encourage people to give above their means, then a church courts disaster. A focus on money, through the urging of the congregation to be super-generous because they will be blessed back, will shipwreck the church.

    Again, I stress that we cannot say if this has happened, but the sad story seemed to touch on all points expressed in this thread.

  58. Just one point on church buildings – they certainly are convenient and a focal/rallying point for that particular church. Jesus and the apostles sought to build a church without walls however. One that forced the body into the community, not put up a mini-temple and tried to drag them in.

    I do agree that meeting corporately becomes difficult when numbers grow, but just as they used the outer porticos around the Temple, so we have public buildings and spaces that can be similarly utilised. Anyway, we’ve paddled around this buoy recently. I’m off to hoon around a track in a V8 now.

  59. Interestingly, Saddleback Church used school buildings and hired premises until the the congregation reached 20,000.

    Obviously it became expedient to organise a purpose built facility once other premises became too small to hold the numbers, but that is a far more sensible arrangement than entering a building program for a 10,000 seater when you’re church is at 300 members, which may be an exaggeration, but I think some leaders may have had that kind of presumptive ‘faith’ at certain times.

    Projects need to be realistic and manageable.

    The sub-prime debacle certainly wasn’t either realistic or manageable.

    In libe with what zeibart says, the Chinese underground church seems to function amazingly well without purpose built facilities, so this model of house church growth shouldn’t be totally ignored, although their growth is a reflection of the situation the find themselves in.

    Church communities need to be adaptable to their circumstances and flexible with their gathering points. You don’t always have to have a massively expensive building project which taxes the people just because the megachurch down the road has one.

    Saddleback is a good example of how to proceed wisely towards a functional need rather than blindly into a dead end.

  60. I think a key point is one you made, Steve: “Church communities need to be adaptable to their circumstances and flexible with their gathering points.” There is no law against meeting in a building, but churches that commit to buildings need to be realistic about the ongoing expenses of not only buying, but maintaining and refurbishing their premises. It will require that their congregation maintain a critical mass, and a particular level of giving, that can support the church style they become accustomed to.

    Likewise, a church may sensibly meet in a hired hall, and expansion might mean a new church plant, rather than moving to new premises. My ex-church planted at least two new church congregations this way, when it out grew its hall. New pastors, trained in the home church, went out with a significant number of the existing congregation – one time, more than half. The new churches were in nearby suburbs. Many of the people who moved to the new plants, already lived in those areas. It worked very well, and didn’t put the church under financial stress. Tithing was never preached back then, though I know some chose to tithe, but not out of feeling any kind of pressure or coercion. This church had fund raisers every year for equipment needs, or a bus for the youth group, or whatever, and its finances were completely transparent.

    But a church community can also meet in houses, or in parks, or anywhere they agree to meet. There is no law. Some things will suit each community better than others. We haven’t been given a list of requirements about our particular style of meeting. Though Christ did instruct us about communion, and his example took place in a small group setting, not to set a law, but to show us the relational aspect of our gathering, with one another and with Him. I enjoy communion in a small group setting, because the layers of meaning are exemplified so well in that environment.

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