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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. Kia

    Psalms 69:33 says "God is listening to the poor ones" at Luke 4:18 Jesus said" he came to declare the Good News to the poor ones" and Preachers such as Mr. Dollar are as Matthew 7:15 says " be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in Sheeps covering but inside they are Ravenous Wolves... We all should know better than to believe that Faith brings Wealth...especially when Jesus being as Great and Perfect as he was...was Poor. Stop Playing People and wake up!

    June 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  2. Bill Deacon

    TPN51: Church is not required to have God, correct. Church is a place to gather with others to share life together. Struggles, victories, doubt, faith, wealth, need, gifts, service, worship, community. You know, together. It's nice.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  3. sleepytime

    If this prosperity gospel is true, why is it that the richest man in America is an atheist?

    June 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  4. pattyo27

    Ironic that someone who preaches the gospels of Jesus doesn't acknowledge Jesus' opposition to wealth. This isn't about religion, people. This is about money. If you follow this guy, then you're just as evil as he is. And, for the record, this isn't the first "devoutly reigious" man to beat his child. In fact, the more religious the household, the more common the occurance of physical abuse is. You rarely find Atheists that use that method. WE are the peaceful, love-your-neighbor type. Not people like this guy. Sheep, you are.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  5. Patric a

    Sometimes I wonder what kind of creature created Humans.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      One beyond our comprehension but not beyond our experience.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • rdeleys

      We weren't created. We evolved.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      No creature created humans. We evolved from more primative primates.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  6. AK

    If the guy is innocent, why is he seeking privacy???

    June 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Why is your blog name anonymous? What are you hiding?

      June 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  7. rdeleys

    If god is so powerful, why is he always broke, and why are these churches always begging for donations?

    June 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Mark in California

      Because they are tax-exempt and make great bundles of money from people too stupid to thinkin for themselves. Giving to a church is not charity. It like giving to the Homeless as they woud be homeless if you didn't give.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  8. Beam

    James 1:9
    Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. (wonder how that got into the bible!?)

    Does CNN really need to keep doing article after article on this guy when there are more pressing, urgent news stories out there?

    June 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  9. rdeleys

    I'd be willing to bet the people who give this charlatan their money are the ones who can least afford it.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  10. Rich

    If CNN is going to bring up someones weird spiritual beliefs, why do they never bring up Romney's Mormon beliefs...now that's weird!

    June 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • pattyo27

      AGREED! "Marriage is between one man and one woman! ...unless we're referring to my grandfather..."

      June 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Really ???

      Romney's beliefs are no stranger than any other ones. Mythology is mythology. It's all strange.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Jomoma

    Ah, the rich and selfish inventing justifications for their bad behavior. As is diefying the aggressively evil Ayn Rand wasn't enough, now you have to ignore everything Jeus actually says and instead do what he "meant", as inferred from tiny subtles in scripture by very rich, selfish and self-righteous ministers. Of course, the worst thing about this particular philosphy is that, by extension, it infers that poor people are deserving of their poverty and misery, because if they were good and loved Jesus, they would be rich! And this is the exact opposite of what Christ taught! I'm not even Christian, but this school of Christianity just reeks of the anti-Christ.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  12. Raptor Jesus

    Prosperity gospel? That is in direct disrobement of Jesus' teachings! How can Christians subscribe to this sh•t? All these mega churches are the definition of blasphemy. Just goes to show you can twist religion to fit your lifestyle and walk around as if your version of religion is the best. Disgusting. No god.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  13. LouAZ

    Long-haired preachers come out every night
    To tell you what's wrong and what's right
    But when asked about something to eat
    They will answer in voices so sweet
    You will eat bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky.
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

    Ha Ha Ha Has Ha ! ! !

    June 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  14. Stella333

    This parasitic "belief system" is created so narcissistic megalomaniacs can suck loads of money off of the weak minded. Slimy, slimy scheme.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Raptor Jesus

      Praise tha lawd! Put ya monies in da tray. The lawd neeeds ya to give! Good gawd bleeeesss ya!

      June 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Valerie

      I agree with you Stella.As a Christian I find these "Megachurches" disgusting. I do.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  15. Valerie

    When the rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to follow him Jesus told him to give up everything he owned. When the rich man asked him "you mean give up everything, including all that my father slaved for?" Jesus replied, "Everything. You can't serve two masters, God and money".

    June 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  16. nubes

    just reading these posts proves something Ive always known.....This planet is full of ignorant clueless people!!!!

    June 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  17. ItSOnLyME

    "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

    June 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Valerie

      Amen.

      June 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  18. pooflingingmonkey

    Creflo has faith that his moronic believers will bring him wealth. He's right.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  19. Jim Bakker

    The problem with this type of preaching is that if you believe faith brings wealth, then a lack of wealth would then show a lack of faith. While following the principles in the Bible may help bring wealth, it doesn't necessarily mean it will. Jesus promised peace, an abundant life and eternal life as a reward for following him and being obedient to his teachings. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to serve and think of others, not to see what is in it for ourselves. The focus should be outward and not inward.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • chris

      Jim Bakker,

      Unless you mis-spoke, you are clearly teaching a works-for-salvation gospel, which is the gospel of Satan.
      Mr. Dollar's gospel (salvation thru simple faith in the Savior) is infinitely superior to yours. Even with the leaven of 'name-it-claim-it" thrown in.

      Eternal life is not a reward. That is Satan's gospel. He preaches works-for-salvation.
      Eternal life is a free gift, given to all who simply trust the Savior.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • TPN51

      But are we really doing this. People are inherently greedy, self loathing and weak at best. It doesn't take much to get a following if your a goof psychologist and know how to pray on the weak. Churches today are good at that. You don't need a church to have God or Jesus in your heart. If you think you do, you deluding yourself.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • dsaf

      Chris,
      You misunderstood Jim and you are also looking at the "works-for-salvation" idea backwards. If you are truly saved you will automatically serve and think of others and when you don't you will be ashamed will ask God for forgiveness.

      In other words, they are not doing the work to be saved – they are compelled through the Holy Spirit to do the work because they have already been saved.

      Any "saved" person who does not serve and think of others while hiding behind the "works-for-salvation" misconception is lying to themselves about being saved and is truly doing the work of satan.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  20. LT Fang

    If faith yields wealth, then logically it follows that poor people are infidels.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • David

      It's just another bit of snake oil to make people think it's okay to be greedy and ignore the poor, because it's their fault. All part of Karma, the Secret, and the Prosperity Gospel. It pretends that if bad things happen to others, they deserve it – and that if good things happen to you, you deserve it over others.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:09 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.