Three out of four of the Largest churches in the U.S. preach the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ – these are megachurches which preach the idea that God is a spiritual source which individuals can call upon to ‘enrich’ their lives – popular buzzwords include ‘hope, destiny and bounty’, and the sermons are filled with optimism, with the Christian themes of guilt, shame, sin and penance hardly ever being mentioned.
These mega churches are attended by 10s of thousands and watched by millions, and it’s estimated that one in five Americans now follow the ‘Prosperity Gospel’, which is a sort of cross between Pentacostalism and Faith healing and run by celebrity mega preachers such as Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland.
Joel Osteen’s sermons draw in a massive 7 million viewers a week, and more on Satellite radio. Apparently he practices his sermons for hours, until he gets them exactly right, totally polished.
Osteen’s Church is the ostentatious Lakewood in Texas, and it brought in an income of $89 million in 2017, the same year it failed to open its doors to those driven to homelessness by Hurricane Harvey, at least until a social media backlash forced it to do so!
Osteen himself has a personal fortune of around $60 million and speaks broadly for the broken middle classes of America. He is a fan of Positive Thinking, as is Donald Trump.
Underlying both Trump’s and Osteen’s idea is a belief that God underwrites the justice of the marketplace – or put another way, the market rewards those who work hard!
Sociological Perspectives on Lakewood
The best fit perspective here seems to be Marxism – this seems to be a modern day version of the religious/ ideological justification for wealth and inequality in America.
Although a deeper question from this perspective is why so many people are stupid enough to believe this?!?
Perhaps it’s because it’s just too hard to accept the truth that it’s neoliberalism which has made so many people rich at the expense of so many others being relatively or absolutely poor.
Or perhaps it’s simply because it fits in with the neoliberal ideology, and the widespread acceptance of the prosperity gospel in the states is a sign of how far gone so many of the population are!
Adapted from The Week 18 May 2019