Times of economic crisis in the United States often stimulate fundamentalist religious reaction. For example, the populist crusade of Fr. Coughlin in the 1930‘s combined anti-semitic, nationalist sentiment with anti-capitalist rhetoric. A more contemporary reaction to financial hard times is the prosperity gospel preached by some prominent media evangelists and Protestant fundamentalists in today’s churches.
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the Diocese of Albany has seemingly jumped on the prosperity gospel bandwagon. Christ the King Spiritual Life Center is promoting the “Treasure Hunters for God” seminar on October 22nd. Led by Chrystal Langdon (whose financial credentials are not given, but a web search reveals that she is the founder of Crystal Clear Finances, Inc), the seminar promises to teach how to “capture, cultivate and create wealth”.
The SLC brochure invites attendees to “discover the golden nuggets to help you... relate to money.” Chrystal Langdon offers to “unlock the hidden triggers found within wealth and scarcity mindsets.” She promises her followers that “we will be creating a Treasure Map”.
What happened to Crown Financial Ministries, that last financial anodyne promoted by our diocese?
In essence, prosperity theology says that “a combination of faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always cause an increase in material wealth”. This philosophy gained prominence in the 1980‘s through influence of such well-known televangelists as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. But other prominent evangelists such as Rick Warren and Jerry Falwell have been sharply critical of the movement.
New Testament scholar Scot McKnight characterizes the God of the prosperity gospel as “The Vending Machine God: put in faith and out pops blessings.” But the problems here are in both the Bible and Christian experience. McKnight says:
The God of the Bible is there, watching and waiting for us to trust him. He's with us, through thick and thin. We may or we may not be prosperous; what we are called to be is faithful and loving.
Only there can be found true riches.