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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. Get Real

    The first things we read about Jesus life is that he became a wealthy kid, when wise men from the East brought him Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. very expensive gifts. And forget the little cute figurines you see. They traveled by caravan and had camel loaded with the stuff. Jesus ministry was so well financed that his Treasurer (Judas) could steal from him and not hurt his ministry. See even Jesus knew that "Yes I can perform miracles"....but people need to develop a giving heart and spirit to sustain the earthly work presented by him."

    The haters need to back down just a bit when they call Pastor Dollar a money hungered man. The Pope has a bullet proof car, Gold encrusted rode, Diamond studded hat and lives in his own city/state on the Italian Riviera. Is he a money hungered baron also.

    Housing is not free, Food is not free...Traveling to inspire others is not free.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  2. GAW

    Will a bit of effort and creativity you can make the Bible say anything anything you want it to say. Just ask Creflo Dollar.

    June 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  3. H

    TBN – DAYSTAR
    Those stations ring a bell CNN, those are the PROSPERITY gospel tv stations, YET, you write an article about Creflo Dollar & prosperity gospel !!!!!

    U people no longer ever bother to hide ur bias, u just rub it in Blacks faces daily don't ya?

    June 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  4. Bootyfunk

    jesus was a commie. he wouldn't have approved of amassing wealth. if jesus came back today, he would join the Occupy movement in a heart beat.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  5. JB

    This article treats the prosperity message fairly and accurately. What you don't often see written is the cost and the Christian depth required for the prosperity message to really work. This thing doesn't work for the casual Christian, you have to really work it and prove yourself through works. I know salvation is by faith, but to reap materially you must have sown materially. Besides that you must really be doing the work of the ministry.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  6. Reality

    One more time:

    Money wasted as the "Dollar nut case" will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      could not agree more.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  7. jchuber

    If you are religious, the word says you will know them by their fruit.

    These fools beleive that because they are rich, there every action is blessed by God. Even a simpleton can see, this is a lie. Are they gonna be surprised. " Every man did what was right in their own eyes."

    June 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  8. Thinkstr8

    False prophet!

    June 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  9. AverageJoe76

    As I get older and notice how humans constantly make an attempt manipulate anything to suit their needs, it's not surprising that those who pursue wealth will find what they can to support their goals in any situation. People are frequently hypocritical too. I bet their strongly against gay marriage. I don't remember Jesus quoting specifically against ho_mos_exuality, but MANY PEOPLE can dig up quotes of Jesus being against greed. Funny that there's no gigantic push against greed, huh? So go directly against what your sensi says, with a chunk of his flock, and you think there will be no reprecussions...... ? THIS and countless other reasons is why being agnostic is the way to go!! Release that burden.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  10. vultures_R_you

    The vultures continue to circle....

    Why attacking this man makes anyone better than him?

    Can't we all just get along. No one is perfect. No not one.

    Read John 3:16 through 21.

    What will you do with this great gift, that none of have earned or deserved?

    For our non GOD folks... We still love you. GOD does too. This gift is your too. You are not perfect either.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • W.G.

      Jesus isn´t a Genie in a bottle . That brings you automatically cars and gold ! Are you saying that the poor are not good
      Christians ? Sure God blesses us but Creflo has Rolls Royces and jets ! things that Jesus never had . I bet Jesus would
      have flown "Coach" !

      June 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • JWT

      I may not be perfect but I am a damn sight more perfect than some people's version of god.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Vultures arent us

      And all this from a someone who calls us vultures.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Real100

      Thumb ups!! DITO!!

      June 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  11. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Jesus had a bad weekend for your sins.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No, Satan had a bad weekend. Jesus overcame the world.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, he had a bad weekend.

      June 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  12. Doc Vestibule

    "The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man. But it is a lovely work if you can stomach it."

    "I contend that the disgusting behavior of many of their alleged 'holy men' relieves us of any intellectual obligation to take the stuff seriously. No amount of sanctimonious rationalization can make such behavior anything but pathological."

    – Robert Heinlein

    June 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • CathEngineer-2

      BEST POST I'VE SEEN SO FAR !!
      EXCELLENT QUOTE.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Senator

      Doc, obviously you don't know scriptures. The tribe of Levite were the priest of the 12 tribes of Israel. The other 11 tribes had to provide for all their needs. The Levies were only to serve the temple and the people and not to "work" a 9 to 5.

      June 18, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  13. elb1999

    who says pimpin ain't easy?

    June 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  14. John316

    Creflo "Dollar's" gospel of wealth and success is a lot of garbage and is pure blasphemy. He's simply one of a long line of phonies who misinterpret the Gospel of Christ for their own purposes and agrandizement. It is sad that so many people allow themselves to be brainwashed by demagogues who should be selling snake oil or used cars. Perhaps he needs to spend some good time behind bars.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      Do you suggest, though, that their is a god who cares about his children, but does not care enough to guide them away from those who pass themselves off as false prophets or are true blasphemers? Why does this god not care enough to show his children they are being guided away from his teachings by someone who misrepresents him? Either this god sees this occurring and does not care, he cannot actually do anything to help, or he does not exist.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      "there is"

      June 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Science Soma: Always presuming a genuine question here, I would direct you to "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis. he gives his typically well reasoned and logic essay on the question you ask; which if I may paraphrase -"If there is a God, why is there pain?"

      June 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Science Soma: I would direct you to "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis. He gives his typically well reasoned and logical essay on the question you ask; which if I may paraphrase -"If there is a God, why is there pain?"

      June 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      If there is a god who cares, why doesn't he care enough to clear up all the confusion over his existence and nature? You'd think he'd take an interest in the thousands of religions and cults and heresies that profess to know him but teach falsehood. I can't bring myself to believe in such an apathetic deity.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  15. Pokydoke

    What a load of nonsense, why do people believe in these con men? Organized religion is a con game from beginning to end and I am always amazed by the number of people that eagerly buy into it and then warn you about going to hell if you don't jump off a bridge like they have. No surprise the Republican party has cornered the market on them, they just don't practice critical thinking.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  16. Kia

    no wonder why the Apostle paul warned at Acts 20:30 that men would rise up in the christian congregation and speak twisted things...Perfect Example.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Annette Shannon Smith, CRNA

      Amen sister! Prosperity can be either material or spiritual, If I had to choose only one, I'd choose spiritual!!! "Store up your treasures in heaven"!!! Jesus himself was poor, a servant, meek and humble. I'd rather eat a meal of vegetables and be fat on spirituality than have a lavish meal with no authentic relationship with my LORD.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  17. peter out

    There are so many preachers out there who are flim-flam men. Marjoe and his hyjinks live on.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      At least Marjoe had a conscience and filmed it all to help others recognize how they are being fooled. These people know what they are doing and feel no remorse at taking advantage of these peoples' hope.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  18. peter out

    The teaching that Christianity brings wealth is a perfect example of people adjusting Chrisianity to fit their lives rather than adjusting their lives to fit Christianity. If one were to be like Jesus, as Jesus himself asked his followers to do, one would live in poverty and off of the generosity of others. This is how Jesus lived during his ministry.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • atroy

      Well, Mr. Dollar is CERTAINLY living off of the generosity of others.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Since your entire religion is based off of a work of fiction I wouldnt really take it to heart that much.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • CathEngineer-2

      So you're saying that there has to be others who are wealthy enough to support the "christians", and these "others" cannot be christians because of their prosperity.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • vultures_R_you

      @Peter'd out....

      And how much money did Obama make off his book? How much of your hard earn money is he using for putting out his message? How much of your hard earned money did he spend on his wife and children's vacations ( many vacations)? How much of your hard earned money did you give in taxes, used to bail out the Unions, GM, Solar companies, and political buddies back in Chicago and San Fran? And let us not forget how he manages your tax dollars, like the US economy.

      Wow, that telephone pole size log in your eye is getting bigger and bigger. Not sure how you can even see the spec in Dollar's eye.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • peter out

      @Vultures_R_you, What in H**L are you talking about? Try to stay on subject.
      @ CathEngineer-2, no I'm not sayinjg that. I'm saying that one shouldn't expect riches simply for being faithful. Riches on Earth are not something Jesus promised his followers. And by the way, poor people can still be charitable. In fact, I believe the charitable poor person is more rightous than the charitable rich person. Remember the woman in the New Testament who gave very little, but it was all she had? Yeah.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • vultures_R_you

      @Peter'd out

      on point exactly. You choose to bash our GOD and our faith.

      I'm just pointing out issues with your god and religion. Obama is your massiah and the government is your religion and you are your own god (little "g").

      Sorry for your guy... He just abuses everyone, man, women or child. And now the great grand children of our future.

      What is his punishment?

      June 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • peter out

      @vultures_R_you Again, what are you talking about? Where in my comment did I claim a God, a religion, or a country of origin. My comment didn't indicate any of these things. I simply pointed out some aspects of Chritianity that are contrary to the beliefs of the person in the article above. Did you read the article? You sound like one of those people who is so focused on being contrary to others' opinions that you forget to actually process the information others are expressing. Try to read things carefully before you comment. By the way, I have no idea what GOD you claim to belive in, so how can I bash him?

      June 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    Bible Fun Facts
    Are you a midget? Or deformed? Or blind? Sorry, God doesn't like you very much. You're not allowed to go to church, according to the bible.

    "For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God." (Leviticus 21:18-21)

    June 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Art

      you are completely distorting what that truly mean. God so Love the world (that means everybody) that he gave his only begotten son.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • onliberty

      Your interpretation is incorrect. If you're actually interested in learning the historicity and meaning of the Bible and the gospel, I would be very happy to have a conversation with you. Even if your only aim is to ridicule, I would suggest you first gain an understanding of that which you seek to undermine; you know, to give yourself some credibility.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Chas W

      Cute diversion, but God wasn't saying those types of people couldn't come to "church"; those were the restrictions for Levite priests who were required to enter the Tabernacle's Holy of Holies to offer the appropriate sacrifices for the sins of the people. When Jesus walked the earth, he noted that his ministry of unconditional love and sacrifice was the "fulfillment of the law", and upon his death and resurrection, ALL people were reconciled to God via His shed blood. Priestly sacrifices and other laws were no longer required. As believers, the acceptance of Christ and His sacrifice "washes" us clean, and we are acceptable in God's sight as His children, and as such, are accepted into the fellowship (and church).

      June 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @Art; Isn't that the juiciest part of the entire story? "God so loved the world
      that he gave HISSELF, posing as his only begotten son." I still don't get this. God still required a 'sacrafice'. What magic binds God to require a sacrafice?!? (C'mon people..... this is BIG here....) Why does an ALL POWERFUL being need a sacrafice?!? Please help me make sense of what seems to be glaringly senseless.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Average Joe. Not a theologian here but I'll take a stab at it. The universe is balanced. God is all good but he is also all just. He cannot abide evil. Man in his heart is evil. Man has the choice to abide with God or not. In order for man and God to commune, man's evil must be eradicated. Otherwise, he cannot be in the presence of God. A price must be paid for the freedom afforded us to choose evil. That price is the sacrifice of Jesus.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      christians always cry foul when you point out something terrible in their book. i'm not misinterpreting anything - you're making excuses for terrible ethics. stop trying to change dogma to fit your more modern world view. read that passage again. how can you claim that is not prejudicial? it specifically says deformed people, blind people, midgets, etc. are not equal.

      "those were the restrictions for Levite priests who were required to enter the Tabernacle's Holy of Holies to offer the appropriate sacrifices for the sins of the people"
      and how does that matter? so his priests couldn't be midgets or blind or deformed, that makes it okay? that's like telling women they can't be leaders simply because they are female.

      try owning up to the bible's prejudice. it just shows it was written in the bronze/iron age when morals/ethics were atrocious compared to today's standards. the book is not divine in any way. it was written by men that were products of their time. stop making excuses.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Bootyfunk,

      Yes... and remember that half of the population back then was of average or below average intelligence (just like now) and the upper half had less information about the Earth and the universe than the average 8 year-old of today. What better way to keep the dolts in line and to increase tribal power than to scare and inspire them with invisible supernatural beings.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  20. YCCB

    Who is really the devil Mr. Dollar? Perhaps when you look within you could ask?

    June 11, 2012 at 2:49 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.