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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Jesus Condemns Wealth: Reza Aslan Slams ‘Charlatan’ Prosperity Gospel Leaders

Last month at the 2014 Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver, religious scholar Reza Aslan slammed leaders of prosperity gospel - a growing movement among Protestant evangelicals in America that promotes the idea of God making blessings of material wealth to those he favors.
During a Q&A about his book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of NazarethAslan was questioned about how Jesus is portrayed in films. He revealed that the Jesus from 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was his favorite portrayal of the religious figure and replied:
“I love all fictional presentations of Jesus. I think they are fantastic, whether it is the Last Temptation of Christ or The Passion — both of which are fiction. But — sorry about that, did I break that to you? — but again for me what is fascinating about those is it is just a representation of what I have been talking about all along, which is the incredible malleability of the Christ story, the way that it can become whatever you want it to become.” [source]
Aslan, who is also a University of California at Riverside professor then went on to criticize prosperity gospel and its celebrity pastors.
“The fastest growing Protestant movement in North America is this movement that is referred to as the prosperity gospel. This is the gospel preached by people like Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes — and when I say people, I mean charlatans. The argument of the prosperity gospel, if I can put it flippantly, is that Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. That is basically what the argument is. That what Jesus wants for you is material prosperity, and that if you literally give, you will literally be given tenfold. That’s not a metaphor, as it is in most churches. It is literal. You give me $10 and Jesus will give you $100.
This is as profoundly an unscriptural interpretation of Jesus that exists. I mean, if there is one thing that is just so clear cut and just not open to interpretation at all of any kind when it comes to Jesus’s message, it is his condemnation of wealth.” [source]
Aslan isn’t exaggerating what these prosperity gospel leaders are preaching. Joel Osteen, who leads the Lakewood Church in Houston, has a TV ministry with millions of followers, and has authored “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” which has sold millions of copies. In a 2005 statement to his followers, Osteen said:
 “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.”[source]
This differs greatly with a Luke 6:20-26 Bible citation that Aslan referenced during his speech. Most notably, the passage reads:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.” [source]
To that passage, Aslan stated that Jesus endorsed the
“absolute reversal of the social order, in which those on the top and those on the bottom will switch places.” [source]
Aslan concluded his criticism of prosperity gospel and its skewed interpretation of the Bible with:
And yet, not only does this version of Christianity exist, as I say, it is honestly the fastest growing version of Protestant evangelical Christianity in North America. That’s because Jesus can be whatever you want him to be, and the Christian message can be whatever you want it to be.” [source]
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