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Creflo Dollar's Prosperity Gospel finds followers and critics
June 10th, 2012
07:22 AM ET

Creflo Dollar's Prosperity Gospel finds followers and critics

By Melissa Gray, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - The arrest of Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar brought renewed attention to his message of the Prosperity Gospel, controversial to some and faith-fulfilling to its followers.

Dollar, who was arrested last week after allegedly assaulting his teenage daughter, is the founder and pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta.

It claims about 30,000 members and has a multimillion-dollar sanctuary that resembles a golden-domed spaceship atop a hill.

Dollar said in a statement he would never harm his children and that the facts in the case would be handled privately.

Prosperity ministers preach that God rewards the faithful with wealth and spiritual gifts. Pastors such as T.D. Jakes, Dollar, and Joel Osteen have become the Prosperity Gospel's most well known preachers, building megachurches and business empires with a message equating piety with prosperity.

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While popular in the black church, it is not a solely black phenomenon, as seen in the ministry of Osteen, a best-selling author and megapastor at Lakewood Church in Houston. The church website says it is considered to be the largest church in America, with more than 38,000 attendees.

The Prosperity Gospel is a form of evangelical Christianity that largely grew out of the booming economy of postwar America, says Jonathan Walton, a professor of Christian Morals at Harvard and author of "Watch This! Televangelism and African American Religious Culture."

The theology's emphasis is on God's promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. If God loves us, it teaches, then God will reward us with a new home, a good job, or good health, Walton says. God wants us to be prosperous.

Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar on his daughter: 'She was not punched'

One of the problems that conservatives tend to have with prosperity theology is its focus on material prosperity, says Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston.

"The Prosperity Gospel tends to mask the greatest need that any individual has, and that's to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ," Phillips says.

"The point is that God is the ultimate good," he continues. "Knowing Him, being in a relationship with Him ... in which He is God and we are His creatures, that is where joy is found."

Believers may argue, however, that material wealth is evidence of being in covenant with God, says Michael Long, a teacher of religious studies at Elizabethtown College and editor of the book, "I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters."

Those believers might say material goods are a side effect of believing in God and Christ, he says. "The focus is on getting right with God, but you know that when you get right with God, you're going to get something for it."

While the theology may attract more followers in a time of economic boom, the fact that it focuses so much on the individual and controlling one's own heart is a comfort in tough economic times as well, Long says.

Tom Brown, senior pastor of the Word of Life Church in El Paso, Texas, says wealth and prosperity are what God desires for us.

"Just as any parent enjoys watching their kids have fun, God delights in watching His children enjoy what money can buy," Brown writes on the website for his ministry. "I believe God is love and He desires the best life we can have."

Believers must then use their wealth to help others, Brown says - and that to have money for its own sake is pointless.

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Phillips says it's true that the Bible teaches Christians to care for the poor, sick and needy, "but the Bible also teaches that God uses and permits suffering in the lives of people for His own ends and purposes."

He points to the Book of James, which says we must value the trials in our life because they shape our character.

"Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation - since they will pass away like a wild flower," it says in James 1:9-10.

Critics may say prosperity followers are wrong, but believers say they are sincere, Walton says. The pastors may be pop culture celebrities, but it doesn't mean their congregations don't find fulfillment in the message.

The pastors' wealth, derided by some as evidence of hypocrisy, could also simply be seen as evidence of their faith, Walton says.

"The wealth is part of their authority," he says.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (598 Responses)
  1. Kindness

    People with the holy spirit...see the truth with prosperity and people who live in excess.
    Imitate christ.

    For you.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    June 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Maybe you can explain this to me since you are so in tune with the holy spirit. Ok, God is Jesus, Jesus is God. God wanted (needed?) to have a physical manifestation of himself on Earth and though he created the heavens and the Earth, Adam and Eve, he couldn't manage a “Jesus” so he knocked up a virgin by proxy who then gave birth to Himself and then he waited for himself to grow up so that he could preach the "truth" to those who would listen.

      Then he set up his own death (suicide) so that he could suffer on a pole to "die" (even thought he can't die) for the sins of all the many billions of people who would be born who had not yet committed any sins but for whom he has a plan and that plan includes sinning for some unknown reason so he needed to die for them. Then he becomes a ghost, takes a little trip to Hades to hang with the red guy and then he "rises" and walks about frightening people and then disappears after telling everyone he would return (an apparent lie) and never shows his face again.

      So my question would be, why?

      And I would offer up this counter possibility. Mary got knocked up by the blacksmith. Jesus was a cult leader. Jesus broke the law and was punished and died.

      June 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • EagleEye2

      Hey alien. Just because your mom got knocked yup by a black man named Smith doesn't give you right to bash anyone's religion. Have faith dude, you'll see your daddy some day. Probably in a mug shot though.

      June 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  2. Alien Orifice

    Human walks by worm and does not notice it. Even if human does notice it, the two have no way to communicate.

    Human walks by worm but worm but does not even recognize the human’s presence.

    Human and Worm share 98% DNA.

    In that 2% that is different, we are rendered completely alien to each other.

    Consider how this might affect other forms of life, aliens, even “God” relative to our meager faculties to comprehend reality.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.
    Carl Sagan

    June 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  3. Alien Orifice

    Da man's gotta keep his pimp hand strong!

    June 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  4. Nude Nuns with Big Guns

    Dam man, where dat mu-fukin' Dolla be at? I am jones'n like a mofo and can't find my man!

    June 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  5. Love you in your skin

    I am not a member of his church, but you should listen to his side of the story before you judge. Can this 15 year old come live with you? Please call the Children Protective Service in the morning and they open at 8:00am and the telephone is (770) 473-2300.

    June 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Drew

      That's for the judge and jury to take care of

      June 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • leah

      WHAT?

      June 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Love you in your skin –

      That is one creepy handle. "It rubs the lotion on its skin..."
      Buffalo Bill

      June 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • fintastic

      Correction.... that's "Buffalo Bob" not Bill

      June 11, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  6. Erika

    I have raised three children and have not hit them. They have argued back as they have grown into adults and struggled with new independence. I would not hit them as I would not hit thy neighbour. I am smarter than my child and can find ways to guide them that does not include defiling them, like I do in every day life with the people I meet and interact with. I feel very sad for his daughters. They are learning now that their parents love of money and power is more important than them. The parents are not standing by the truth but twisting it...or abdicating. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE...Dollar's. Daughters know that you are worthy. Know that you are standing up against abuse. This road is an important road but it will show you things that are wrong, like your parents hiding the truth to protect their own reputation not their children. Sad.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • chris

      Pat yourself on the back all you want. But, you've got it exactly wrong.
      You have doomed your children. You spared the rod because you loved something more than you loved them. I don't know what it is that you loved more than your kids...maybe it was Dr. Spock, or psychology, or your own "understanding". It doesn't really matter. They are a bomb that will self-destruct. Probably while you're still congratulation yourself and throwing stones at folks who do actually love their kids enough to beat them when necessary.

      June 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  7. Joe public1

    If you are foolish enough to send this man money, then you deserve what you get!

    June 10, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Bob

      Joe knows.

      June 10, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • chris

      Agreed.

      June 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If I send him money (or any other preacher), that is between me and my conscience. What they do with it is between them and their conscience.

      June 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • just sayin

      God Inc. thrives on the ignorance of its followers

      June 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  8. WubWubStep

    If you have read Christianity in Crisis for the 21st century written by Hank Hannagraph he calls a lot of the prosperity gospel preachers out on point. I do agree that God does want good for us but also there will be tough times just like my family is going through.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Bob

      How can you claim that god wants good for you, when the bible has god demanding horrid violence and despicable acts from you at almost every turn of the page of that book of horrors?

      June 10, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • WubWubStep

      its tough but you need to trust in God's goodness.

      June 10, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  9. deano

    No, it is not just the African-American preachers fleecing the flock. Ever witnessed Paul Crouch and his cronies hold a telethon, Jerry Lewis-style, to raise money? This one has actually told the truth at one time, saying he personally does not need the money, but admonishes his followers to give exorbitant amounts in order to recieve the grace and blessings promised true believers in the bible. According to some of his guest preachers, giving up your money to them is the only true way to God and His mercy. It really bothers me when these thieves show pictures and video of starving poor children in third world countries to pull at the heartstrings of thier followers, when facts would show how little of the donations would actually end up in the bellies of the needy. If these liars would sell a jet or two, or just drive a Chevy instead of a Rolls, maybe they could(not that they would) donate the lions share of the mony they seem to be able to generate "in the name of God". I think these guys don't worship the right God.......

    June 10, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • leah

      No it's not only the african american preachers it 's all of them including joel osteen and all the others, joyce meyer another crook. They all use faith to make themselves rich. When judgement day comes they will be in for a big suprise.

      June 10, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  10. Iceman6161

    God didn't mean for pastors to have so much, remember you were supposed to build your wealth in heaven not on earth were men can still it. They are crooks stating that God will give you all of this. The people of the way "aka christians" never lived like this they shared everything. I do not believe in 90% of the bible, i was a christians until my dumbazz opened my eyes and started using my brain. There are to many people who needs their money to throw it away thinking it's going to God, They never want to see me i would love to debate them.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Visman

      Iceman, I hope it's a verbal debate you're seeking. If it's a written debate, you've already lost!

      June 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  11. Freedom Fighter

    Creflo Do$$ar is a fraud. He has duped so many for so long.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • sam stone

      Sheep are there to be fleeced

      June 10, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  12. leah

    I don't think it was God's plan for him to drive a $300,000 Rolls Royce Phantom, while his followers have to ride the bus. I heard God has a plan for all the televangelists.

    June 10, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Everett Wallace

      GOD has no plan for the wicked, they knew they were condemed from the start.

      June 10, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • leah

      You're right. I just wish more people could see what these "men of god" really are.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Felicia Conley

      I am so tired of people like you, Creflo Dollar is a very smart educated man of God, he is an author, music producer, and a very savvy business man. His books are best sellers, If you spend as much time reinventing yourself, you too just may become rich, and no I am not a member of his church, I live in PA; although, I am from Atlanta. People like you just need to shut it up. Its okay for Creflo to gain wealth, and if people support him by buying his books and his music, that is alright. SHUT IT UP!!!!!!

      June 10, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • JWT

      he is a sad excuse for a human-being.

      June 10, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • sam stone

      felicia: he is a huckster taking advantage of chumps

      June 10, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Felicia, your hero has feet of clay.

      June 10, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Really-O?

      @Felicia Conley –
      Hmm...but what about this quote from your magic book?

      No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
      Matthew 6:24

      ...or are you going to provide a "context" argument?

      June 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  13. Everett Wallace

    creflo had thirty thousand members nation wide and now he has none. I went to his church and the people knew me then and they know me now, so there eddie long done, creflo dollar done so jakes and others you are done. Just because I went to those specific churches new mercies and jesse curney 3 done the FATHER sent me HIS personal chaffeur there to save the people not the church and its leadership deacons and elders are stuck and going to the pit, everyone else if you left a penny on the floor go get it and do not go back once you leave. ask any preacher even benedict if they have power over the elements for example TORNADOES!

    June 10, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Felicia Conley

      What ! What are you talking about ! I did not undertand a word you wrote. Are you sure you are awake? LOL.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  14. Confused

    How in the world does Pastor Dollar's doctrinal beliefs have anything to do with this situation. This is yet ANOTHER in for media to discredit men of God. (shaking my head)

    June 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Everett Wallace

      creflo dollar and the other preachers are broke and been broke since they started, who bought the houses, planes and cars not the people because it was not that many followers like that any way, the saudis had been supporting them. People are smart they know you got to show me before I give money away and these preachers never did show, if you were "blessed" like they said they were, your home would not be in shambles.

      June 10, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • sam stone

      Right, confused, it is the media who got this "man of god" to assault his daughter. Apparently Creflo counts on sycophants like you to suck up everything he puts out. And it works. Now, get back on your knees

      June 10, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  15. Eliza Ruth

    Creflo you have been warned. You need to heed what was said in the letter,or it will get much worse.

    June 10, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • legallychi

      Warned by who and what? You sound like you need much prayer!!!

      June 10, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • deano

      The letter to the church in Laodicea, the church in the final state of apostasy. Revelations, chapter2.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  16. james conner

    What in the world do Joel Osteen and TD Jakes have to do with the story of Creflo Dollar diciplineing his hard headed teen? I think it's a shame how the media go on a attack on the christian churches.

    June 10, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • legallychi

      It really is!!

      June 10, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • sam stone

      Aww, jimmy boy, feeling a bit put upon?

      June 10, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • FSM

      I think your grammar is the real shame in this whole tragedy. It saddens me to see so many illiterate troglodytes attempting to put together a coherent sentence.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  17. MuyGuapo

    What about all of the poor Christians living in shanty towns around the world. Shouldn't all the wealthy Christians be sharing their riches with them???

    June 10, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  18. MuyGuapo

    He should change his name from Pastor Dollar to Pastor Million Dollar.

    June 10, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  19. ML

    So you took an opportunity to resurrect the "prosperity gospel" idea to try & discredit Pastor Dollar?

    June 10, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Oppz

      No, you clueless piece of cheese, this pastor preaches a prosperity gospel. They didn't need to do anything but state what the guy preaches. He's like Joel Osteen and hundreds of other preachers who preach that God wants you to be greedy.

      June 10, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • legallychi

      Really Ml its so pathetic!! Oopz that's a perfect name..perhaps prior to making such a foolish comment you should take the time to maybe Listen to 1 of the pastors. Guess that would make to much sense.

      June 10, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Confused

      Oppz while you are downing Pastor Dollar you should go read your scriptures on walking in love because calling names because someone (ML) makes a statement is far cry from it. Get the plank out of your own eye first. Praying for you!

      June 10, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 10, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~.

      June 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Stupidity is not healthy for children and other living things

      I am your god now, pray to me or I shall cast you down with the Sodomites!

      June 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.