The sneaky variations of prosperity gospels

From my vent session with God this morning:

journal

I’m absolutely positive that most people’s spirituality is formed by personal experience in addition to Scriptural teaching, whether they admit it or not. In that sense, all of our beliefs are biased, and I will admit that it is perhaps a personal bias of mine that “faith healing” is crap. How do you go about refuting real-world experience?

Most people hear the word “prosperity” and probably think of dollar signs. The media paints “prosperity preachers” as those with buckets of money spent on private jets, mansions, and exotic “vacations” disguised as mission trips. Experience has shown me another form of spiritual prosperity: this idea that God chooses to heal some people over others, even if the families and congregations of both the healed and unhealed prayed with equal fervor. I have to say that I find it extraordinarily convenient when someone who was “elected” for healing quips to someone like me with a parent taken by cancer, “We just don’t understand God’s ways sometimes.” No, we certainly don’t.

This is my plea to pastors and other Christians who share these stories of “divine healing”: please be aware that these stories are extremely painful for people like me to hear. They do not encourage me to trust God and believe ever more fervently in miracles; they diminish my trust in a good, compassionate Father who cares about me and the suffering of people I care about. This idea of an uncaring, highly selective God who picks favorites is inadvertently preached between the lines whether that is your intention or not.

I’ve read the story of Jesus saying “Pick up your mat and walk!” to the man who, sure enough, picked up his mat and walked, despite being paralyzed his entire life. But now this story has gotten me thinking of all the things that God has done in both the Old and New testaments that he just doesn’t seem to do anymore. We read story after story of a God who spoke audibly to people on demand, responded to tests and challenges with a wet fleece, and bent the laws of nature so an entire army could escape to safety. Does God still do similar things today?

Would you believe your neighbor today if he told you that God spoke to him through a burning toaster? Who prayed for an amputated limb to grow back, and sure enough, it happened? I’m not sure I would. I’m honestly not sure what to do with these stories that paint a very different picture of God than the one I have experienced, and I suspect I am hardly the only person to have this dilemma.

I am certainly not lacking any blessings in my life: I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, adorable kittens, and a husband who loves me. I am grateful for those things, but if I’m perfectly honest, I’m not sure who to thank for them beyond some cosmic coincidence, because it makes me feel guilty to thank God knowing there are millions of people out there barely subsisting on the resources I take for granted. I am left with the unsavory thought, am I in some way “elected” to be more blessed than Syrian refugees, starving African children, or the homeless man I pass on my way to school? I certainly hope not.

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7 thoughts on “The sneaky variations of prosperity gospels

  1. Crystal says:

    I hope no one minds if I take a shot at answering the question.

    As I understand it, in the times of the Old and New Testaments, God had not finished writing His Word yet; therefore, people still relied on miracles to a certain extent for healing, plus prophecies to lead them back to God’s Will. Now that we have the Bible in its entirety, and medicine, prophets and apostles have generally ceased for this era. Can we pray? Yes. Do miracles of healing occur? Yes. Are certain people anointed to heal others, whether through traditional medicine or through more miraculous means? Yes. But it is best not to expect any miraculous occurrence to become a general habit, otherwise we open ourselves to disappointment and go down a dangerous road, especially as we have the advances of modern medicine to thank for our relatively comfortable lives.

    I do not believe it is wrong to talk about miracles; yet I also think we need to be sensitive to the fact that sometimes God chooses *not* to heal or to keep alive, and we need to address those stories as prayerfully and carefully as possible.

    I seriously hope I am coming across as sensitive and respectful in my replies. If not, feel free to correct me. Also, to all those out there who lost a loved one, I am deeply saddened for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

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