Prosperity Theology and Greed in Action
Prosperity theology is a religious philosophy that promises wealth and health to those who tithe a 10th of their income to the church. And one of the biggest beneficiaries of this theology is Creflo Dollar, the spiritual leader and CEO of the 30,000 member World Changers Church International in Atlanta Georgia.
Reverend Dollar (love the name), who is known for his custom suits, reportedly owns two multimillion dollar homes in Georgia and a 2.5 million dollar apartment in Manhattan. He operates two, not one church and controls various corporate and property interest. In 2006, the Atlanta church alone took in 69 million in contributions. www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/living/creflo-dollar-jet-feat/index.html. With a beautiful wife and a thong of followers, this is a man who conceivably has it all.
Yet, we are lead to believe that Reverend Dollar is a little short of cash. And he is not requesting mere pocket change. He instead requires a donation of 60 millions dollars.
Interestingly enough, the cash will not be used to pay for the necessities of life like food, shelter or clothing. Nor are the funds designed to provide educational, medicinal, or human services to the members of his church. Rather, the good rocking Rev is asking 200,000 people to give him $300 or more in order to purchase the 65 million dollar Gulfstream G650 jet.
This modern marvel of aviation technology “seats up to 14 passengers with berthing for six and comes with two Rolls Royce engines, high-speed internet and two multichannel satellites. And it is so fast; so advanced as to allow for a 2 and 1/2 hour commute from New York to Los Angeles. www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/living/creflo-dollar-jet-feat/index.html.
According to Pastor Dollar, buying the jet is absolutely necessary in order to “comfortably allow the ministry to make its way around the world, thereby permitting both he, his family and his associates to continue reaching a lost and dying world for the Lord Jesus Christ.” Apparently the old jet no longer serves this purpose as it has experienced if true, serious mechanical failures. Pastor Reverend Dollar therefore reasons that “it is time to begin God for a new airplane.” http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/living/creflo-dollar-jet-feat/.
We profess no expertise in theology or aviation. However, faith is not advanced by the purchase of material goods. And the spread of Christianity for the last 2,000 years stands in stark contrast to the Pastor’s claim. We are therefore reasonably persuaded that the faith will do just fine without the purchase of a multimillion dollar airplane.
Moreover, with the advancements in technology the good Reverend can “reach and interact with a lost and dying world”, in real-time without leaving the comfort of his living room. Even if a personal appearance is required, a plane can be leased, his old plane can be repaired, he can purchase a more reasonable aircraft or he can fly commercial like everyone else. He might also consider spending his own money on a plane, especially since the aircraft is for his sole and exclusive use.
Sadly, Creflo Dollar is not alone and his example of faith related manipulation and abuse of authority is not unique. According to Sarah Posner, contributing writer to Religious Dispatches and author of “God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, this is but the latest chapter in a sordid history of televangelist exploiting their churches’ tax exempt status – and their congregants – to line their own pockets. Creflo Dollar’ Gulfstream for God, www.cnn.com/2015/03/16/opinions/posner-creflo-dollar-gulfstream/index.html.
But perhaps this illustration of unchecked hubris and greed is bigger than just the “Pimp-or” versus the “Pimp-ee”? Maybe the real problem is the codependent relationship between manipulative church leaders and those who are all too willing to be manipulated?
“A learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another, co-dependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.” http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/co-dependency.
It is therefore no surprise that many see nothing wrong with the Creflo Dollar situation while others caution against letting the bad acts of what they believe to be a few ministers, deter us from believing. We respectfully disagree.
We first note the sage advice of knowing a tree by the fruit it bears. Furthermore, it is more than reasonable to judge an organization by those who lead it. And while there are certainly more important things in the world, for this or any other faith leader to exploit religion for pecuniary gain is more than wrong. It is instead a case of naked avarice, one of the seven deadly sins.
Consider for a moment the number of medical facilities, schools, housing and other infrastructure improvements that can be accomplished with 65 million dollars. And ponder the organizational and individual capacity building initiatives that can be undertaken with a mere fraction of this money.
In conclusion, many of us are desperately seeking faith. We count ourselves in this growing number. But all that is accomplished by yet another wealthy minister begging for even more money from those who can ill afford to give it, is to give religion another black eye and to drive us further from the church.
To be a Christian is to be Christ like. Unlike Pastor Dollar, Christ did not base his ministry on material possessions and did ask his followers to contribute untold drachmas so that he could buy a 65 million dollar chariot. The Gulfstream for God is a sad but all too familiar example of not faith, but unmitigated greed in action.
Leo Barron Hicks, CEO and Founder
Blackacre Policy Forum