I read an article some months back about the two prosperity gospels that have infected American Churches. I regret that I did not record or save the article so I cannot link to it for you. Essentially however, it said that there are two beliefs that have arisen in American Churches to the detriment of the church.
- That it is God’s will for you to be lead a perfect, privileged, and profitable life.
- That it is God’s will for the United States as a whole to be a perfect, privileged and profitable.
Aside from the many theological objections to both of these statements, I wish to discuss the second in greater detail because it actually runs much deeper than question of privilege and wealth. The second tenet of the prosperity gospel is better understood as asking churches to convert from the Body of Christ to a New Imperial Cult.
Brief history lesson: in order to unify their vast empire, the ancient Romans took a cue from the Egyptians and proclaimed the Roman Emperor to be a god. This made Imperial institutions sacred, and the Roman army, the blessed few who were chosen to defend the faith. This is the nature of the Imperial Cult and we see it in the USA today.
- Respect for the armed forces has grown into veneration that spills into church services
- The symbols of the nation are treated with respect of religious symbols/relics
- The founding fathers are deified
- Politicians who strive to maintain the status quo often have the loudest platform.
A great example of this is the remarkable outrage Colin Kapernick’s National Anthem protest sparked from conservative circles most often associated with the “evangelical right” (aka American Imperial Cult”) compared against the general silence of those same circles when faced with the death of unarmed black teenagers. Protesters certainly saw a connection, but to the zealots of the Imperial Cult there is no connection. The Imperial Cult holds the Anthem and the veneration of it as a key liturgical rite which affirms the identity and role of the cult while the death of a man, any man, at the hands of law enforcement is excusable because such civil authorities have moral and religious authority as well. In other words the police get to decide who they have the legal and moral authority to exercise their profession upon.
That is one example of the influence of the Imperial Cult. It can also be seen by the number of Evangelical churches who promote partisan politics and proclaim with fervor if not outright ecstasy, the divine right/blessing/mandate/anointing that is on a particular political candidate. Even those candidates with whom the churches disagree (such as president Barack Obama) are cast into religious roles and condemned for whatever societal, or economic illness is thought to be relevant. It can be seen on the emphasis placed on prayer meetings at the Capitol Building and the treatment of Gold Star families. There are, however, as many if not more, subtler signs of the cult in most Churches in the USA.
- How many churches have an American flag on, near, or behind the altar? (Not just up front, but actually by the altar?)
- How many churches have a song and dance to celebrate civil holidays? (Memorial day? Veterans Day? The 4th of July?)
- How many churches talk about the USA as “The promise land” or “New Jerusaelm?”
- How many churches lend their voices to the tale of American Exceptionalism?
- How many churches talk about the USA as a “Christian Nation” or national repentence quoting such verses as 2 Chronicles 7:14?
It cannot be said that any one of these things is inherently bad, immoral, or unethical. But nor can it be said that such things make a Christian church. I say that because in the Imperial Cult, the Empire is the most important thing and Jesus is relegated to a secondary role of figurehead of the old order.
There is no mention of Jesus as God or Savior or the Cross or sacrifice or really anything that remotely resembles the important commandment of “love the lord your God.” Instead we have “love your country.”
For more, please read this article from the Huffington Post.