Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An American Heresy

Russ Douthat, commenting on Jody Bottum's essay on American Protestantism in the latest First Things, writes:

The people who read Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer and The Prayer of Jabez may be more politically conservative then the people who read A Wing and a Prayer, and read certain passages of Genesis and Leviticus more literally, but the theology they’re imbibing is roughly the same sort of therapeutic mush. Indeed, the big difference between the prosperity gospel that Osteen and his ilk are peddling and Schori’s liberal Episcopalianism has less to do with any theological principle and more to do with what aspect of American life they want God to validate. And this difference, I suspect, has a great deal to do with social class. Osteen and Co.’s God wants us to pursue financial fulfillment because they’re largely preaching to entrepreneurial, upwardly-mobile members of the middle class, whereas Schori’s God wants us to pursue a more personal fulfillment - sexually, emotionally, philanthropically - because she’s preaching to a demographic that, financially speaking, has already got it made. (Which, in turn, is why it isn’t a surprise that as American evangelicals grow more prosperous, they’re starting to discover their God’s Dag Hammarskj√∂ld side as well.)

[HT: Nathaniel Peters @ First Things]