Friday, 28 June 2013

Are prosperity preachers just misunderstood?

Here's a radical thought. What if there is nothing wrong with the prosperity preachers? What if they really believe what they preach and preach what they really believe? What if they are truly sincere in helping everybody to secure the hundred fold blessings from God in return for unquestioned donations to their already prosperous ministry? What if they are just misunderstood or vilified by envious church leaders who are less successful than them or stigmatized as commercial vultures for the flimsiest of reasons? Because if you see their life, their trappings of wealth, the mansions and the fat swiss bank accounts, you can't say that they don't walk the talk and talk the walk. Their industry (hard work) has paid off. They are a resounding success to be emulated. And unless they evade taxes or embezzle funds, they are no criminals in the eyes of the law. 

Have you ever seen any popular prosperity preacher being poor, deprived and begging on the street? If so, shouldn't they be rightfully called the poverty preachers instead? Maybe there's really power in confession. Scripturally, it's called the power of the tongue. You confess wealth, you get it. You confess health, you get it. You confess promotion, you get it. You get what you confess and you enjoy what you get. So what's wrong with a tongue that speaks things as if they were not and commands health and wealth to flow endlessly like a broken dam?

Are prosperity preachers really fleecing from their congregation? Is it really a pyramid scheme or some kind of multi-level marketing where the down lines are the unfortunate ones who get the short end of the stick? Is it a fraud perpetuated in the likes and style of the legendary crook, Bernie Madoff? I can't outrightly say it is. Can you? But why? 

Because stripped of the shenanigans, the lights, the camera and the action, aren't they all selling a product just like any secular salesman are selling a product? Aren't the congregation who swarm into their sanctuary of hope no different from the long queue of people you normally see when they are eagerly waiting to buy that papered hope of one day striking the big lottery jackpot? Whilst madoff was selling a product he didn't believe in and was crookedly discreet about it, these prosperity preachers are selling one that they believe in and are openly flagrant about it. So go figure.

Many will no doubt accuse them of peddling false hope, deceiving the gullible and taking advantage of the vulnerable. Some would even label them as blasphemous for using the Lord's name in vain and for self-profitting. Still many will call them con-artists and hypocrites. Basically, they are Madoffs of the religious world, so the vitriol goes.

But then, for every one who criticizes them, there is always another who will stand by them. The more vociferous the attack, the more tenacious the defence. It's the application of Newton's third physical law to the behavioral rule of social mobs: "When one body exerts a force on a second body, the latter exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body." So good luck turning the tide against them. The efforts, though noble, is as effective as trying to drown a fish in water. 

You can say that they are blind, stoned or brainless for supporting such outright crooks, greedy swindlers and shameless cheats. But then, wherever they go, these prosperity preachers will still attract a sympathetic, hungry and even desperate audience who will readily throw their life savings and even their life at them in earnest pursuit of the gospel carrot that the prosperity preachers dangle before their eyes, that is, the hope of prosperity, however remote.

Now here's a truism one should never forget. Hope is the elixir of existence, the panacea of what is deliverance from one's immediate misery, and the chicken soup for the vacant soul. So, if you build it, they will come. If you preach it, they will flock over. And if you bait it, they will bite. Dare I rock their boat? Dare I douse their fire? Dare I make light of their ethereal charm? Dare I go against the grain of self deception and unsatiable greed?

I am not saying that our effort to discredit these fraudsters will be in vain. We know that it will not be so. Because for every evil that raises its standard against us, God will raise a generation to overcome it. But still, I sometimes wonder, in a fallen world, the balance of good and evil will tilt in favor of one for a season and the other for another season. But it will not completely topple over until and unless the perfect comes. So, in the meantime, the tilting will go on like the proverbial giant seesaw, each having its go at the top and at the bottom. Each will take his turn as the wheel of fame and shame spins round and round.

As I end here, these words of the Prince of Preachers hit the nail right on its head: "The old covenant was a covenant of prosperity. The new covenant is a covenant of adversity whereby we are being weaned from this present world and made meet for the world to come." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon).

However much I want to be prosperous in the Lord, to own big cars and mansions, to gain fame and lead an easy life, I guess I do not want to lose my soul along the way. True, there have been some who are rich in the Lord, both spiritually and materially. But theirs is a high wire act that requires constant balancing, sheer force of steel will and a heart of complete obedience. It is no less a treacherous road that many have fallen on the wayside. At most time, the temptation of this world  can take over and assert full control. No one is spared from this fate. And no one can boast that he is untouchable. Indeed, once we go on our knees in submission to our tempter, we are promised riches beyond our wildest imagination. It's all an exchange that is too good to resist. Yet, at the same time, it's too good to be true. Cheerz.

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