Dialing back the prosperity gospel

While watching gospel star Kirk Franklin discuss his new book The Blueprint: Living Above Life’s Storms with Tavis Smiley yesterday, I heard something that I hadn’t considered.
Smiley asked Franklin about the resentment some were feeling towards the so-called prosperity preachers in the wake of the economic downturn. I’m paraphrasing Smiley who suggested that many had purchased homes beyond their means in response to sermons implying that they would see blessings materially for following a certain set of spiritual practices.
Franklin quickly replied that was not the tenor taken by his new book.
The question is more interesting than the answer. For about a decade, African-Americans had their greatest economic growth ever, and in many places, it was reflected in new church buildings. And often, the message was a variation of Rev. Ike’s philosophy.
If Smiley is correct, perhaps one of the reasons why many African-Americans inexplicably fell prey to predatory mortgages is the belief that they had blessings on the way.
However, there is a role for churches to play in financial literacy, not to encourage ostentatious shows of imaginary wealth, but to reinforce the traditional values of black families and their churches — saving, investment in people and sharing.
Back in 2003, I began giving a series of lectures at churches around the country called “God’s credit card.” Without any particular claim to prophecy, I suggested that they that waited on Visa and Mastercard, would find themselves marooned on the shores of bankruptcy.
Like many on Wall Street, some pastors forgot that good times don’t last forever. The earliest black churches were founded by men and women who understood that a community of faith is the best protection against life’s vicissitudes.
My suggestion of “God’s credit card” was the instinct to walk past the brand new item on the showroom floor, to buy in bulk or with others to get discounts and to wait to purchase items after the funds are available instead of paying exorbitant interest.
My own testimony is that the Creator may not come when one wants, but, as the gospel song says, “he’s always on time.”

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