Grassley and the 'Prosperity Gospel'

February 01, 2008

After speaking this morning at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley held a press conference. Nearly all of the questions were about his recent requests for financial information from six ministries often called part of the "prosperity gospel" movement. Some of the questions seemed to show an incredible lack of knowledge about the highly publicized conflict between him and the ministries that have so far refused to cooperate. He noted that he was not targeting ministries but treating them the same as he has all other non-profits, which is how they are viewed under the law. He is surprised that he is getting so much opposition from the organizations. He explained:

Except for Jack Abramoff and his nonprofits--and he is in prison now--every time I asked nonprofits for information, I got it.
Toward the end, I asked a question hoping to get more to the topic of his excellent address this morning on feeding the world. In order to transition to that, I asked if he would offer some personal reflections about the "prosperity gospel" movement (where preachers live lavishly off ministry contributions) in light of his speech about how Christians must act to help those who are dying from starvation. At first, he did not want to talk about the doctrine since his investigation is all about tax law and he did not want people to think he was taking action for any doctrinal reason. However, he did offer some interesting thoughts. He stated:
The term 'prosperity gospel' ... doesn't mean anything to me. ... They can call their gospel anything they want to. For me, the gospel is the gospel. That's the good news of Jesus Christ. It doesn't have to be hyphenated with something.
He then told about someone in his own church who said to him that since the prosperity gospel puts down those who are poor, how are we supposed to get them to become Christians. After that, another reporter asked a follow-up about his home church. He then went into very personal detail about his religious background, and made some jokes about modern worship styles. He ended that answer by talking about how much the church had grown and was reaching people with the gospel and so he would sing the "7-11" songs he did not like because it was working.

Even though Grassley would not go that far, I find the complaints and lavish lifestyles of the "prosperity preachers" sadly ironic when contrasted to the literally life-and-death plight of people around the world. I like his idea of not giving them a claim on the gospel because there is nothing in the true gospel of Jesus that can justify such gluttonous lifestyles.

You can watch the press conference here (my question starts at about 24:15).

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