by Yvette Carnell
I’d bet that only a few African-American prosperity gospel Christians have even considered reading Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and fewer than that have read Das Kapital which, regardless of your view of market economies, is one of the most thorough critiques of capitalism ever written. However, most black Christians can tell you that they blessed and highly favored and point to the signs which signal the end times. This is why we can’t have nice things.
As Eddie S. Glaude writes in a New York Times article entitled “Too Many Follow the Gospel of Greed”, prosperity gospel is becoming an increasing theme within churches, especially black churches. The problem, however, is that given what blacks are facing with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action by the Supreme Court, blacks can least afford to entertain this vaudevillian variety of mysticism.
As Glaude notes, not only is it getting worse, it’s disempowering blacks politically:
In black America, this theology overtakes calls for economic empowerment. Freedom dreams are supplanted by the aspiration to wealth, a theology that suits a vision of capitalism that is devastating our communities and country.
This gospel of wealth blunts criticism of durable inequality, precisely because wealth and the aspiration for upward mobility are tied to individual spiritual considerations. Wealth and poverty constitute evidence of God’s blessings or punishment.
Not only do these prosperity pimps preach heaven in heaven. Now they’re preaching heaven on Earth….so long as you pay your tithes. It’s a marketing scheme and it’s working. And if you’re not getting your Mercedes Benz then, according to prosperity preachers, it’s not because of systemic impediments which disenfranchise you, but because you’re not following the Bible’s teachings closely enough. In this sense, prosperity believers adhere to a troubling alternate reality in which they only need to know the word of God, and book learnin’ is for secularists. This should scare anyone who desires to see a meaningful change in Black America since nothing comes to anyone, or any group, without knowledge.