I know I’ve shared in the past some of my deep aversion for Prosperity theology, but let me relate the other side of this. Back in 1988 I was living near a little town in mid Missouri. I had just been really turned on to Jesus, with a serious salvation experience and some radical in-filling experiences with the Holy Spirit. My dad told me I nursed my Bible at the time like it was a teddy bear. He caught me running through the tall grass in front of our house, dancing in the Spirit, high on Jesus. When I came inside he asked me what I’d been doing. He said it was an embarrassment to him as he was sure the neighbors were watching. I’m sure he doesn’t remember any of this now. Anyway. . . .
With some friends I began a music video TV show on NLEC’s Christian TV station. One of the coolest music videos was from this band called Mylon and Broken Heart. Beginning with an interest in the videos I started buying Mylon albums every time they came out. Now you have to understand that when I listen to music I get nutso about it. That started here as a teenager. I memorized every note, every riff of the Mylon albums. (As I did with a ton of CCM music at the time. Keith Green had 24 hour nonstop play in my head. I got all his music on cassette for “whatever I could afford”— which was nothing. I wore every tape out to where they wouldn’t play anymore. My girlfriend’s dad made the remark that I could have easily started a local chapter for a KG cult!)
But Mylon was more than music to me. I subscribed to his letters. I was very lonely at 16 and a real struggler. So I wrote to Mylon Lefevre. And the wild thing was that he answered me personally. At first I couldn’t believe it was really him. I thought it was a stamp there instead of his signature. So I made each letter personal and asked specific questions. And he wrote back with specific answers. When Mylon and Broken Heart came to Columbia and Jefferson City, I made it to the concerts. Now Mylon was a real preacher in his concerts and he gave altar calls. So it was after a concert there in Jeff City that I went forward to recommit my life to Jesus again. I prayed with Mylon personally and just poured out my soul and asked all kinds of questions about what to do with my life and how to know if I was really following God’s will—questions nobody could possibly know given the circumstances. But in a wonderfully personable way Mylon very patiently prayed for me.
A few years later Mylon got out of Rock n Roll. You can read about it on his website. He did a mellow solo album which I don’t remember buying. I just read on a tribute site that while struggling with his heart condition he met up with Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. For over fifteen years now he’s been hooked up with the Copeland family and has been teaching from Kenneth Hagin. That really pains me. So there you have a little connection between me and prosperity theology. I actually feel caught in tandem between these polar worlds of religious liberal and conservativism. Its an epidemic with Bible teachers. It’s never enough to relate the words of Jesus. The audience must be drawn into a Kingdom here and now. Among Liberation theologians Jesus is the “yes” to a new civilization here and now. Among Prosperity teachers he is the “yes” to healing and wealth here and now. While Liberation theologians are content to “imagine” the new realities and act toward a future, prosperity teachers tell the poor that God hates their poverty and wants them wealthy now! Either way the identification with felt need is there. Trouble comes with the realization that God is much more than economics, medicine, and politics. Spirituality that focuses on these is less concerned with God’s person than with what God gives. The question that should be looming in the subconscious is “What do we have when we get what we want?” Is there no more need for God? I feel suspicious of any lifestyle that needs a religio-philosophy to justify its’ existence. As though its not enough to live, we need the heavens to resound “Yes, thatta boy!”
On the plus side, I do feel that Liberation theology highlights a political reading of the Bible that is intended. I don’t feel it needs to be quite so forced, often times the textual criticism involved begins with a bias against history. With prosperity teachers I find it particularly inconvenient that there is a lot of evangelistic witness going on. Yes, many prosperity teachers are less prosperity than they are soul-winners, I must admit. And while I personally have spent so much time in (what felt like) manipulative spiritual meetings, I have to be honest and say that as far as I can tell the gospel is preached. It ticks me off to say that. I get angry at God that he uses people who turn around and malign the very gospel they preach. But its a human problem! I can’t think of a preacher who doesn’t fall under the weight of the gospel he/she preaches!
Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you” is alone enough to humble anyone who takes him seriously.