Monday, March 2, 2009

What is real prosperity?

I'm thinking about how things usually get worse before they get better and how that just flies in the face of the prosperity gospel. In the prosperity-minded churches, (which I happen to think is the very vast majority) your spiritual maturity is measured by how comfortable you are materially and/or how free of problems your life appears-- If you are sick, you are sinning; if your marriage is on the brink, you are sinning; if everything keeps going wrong, you are sinning; if you have little to no money, you aren't right with God; if you are not doing what they are doing, you aren't walking with God; if you don't look so hot, you must be struggling spiritually.... I'll tell you WHAT makes people really struggle-- it's all the damn judgement they get for not "measuring up" to these superficial standards. It gets poor folks wondering, "God, where are you...?" And He is indeed hard to find in this climate.
It's really sick when you think about it. Even most "conservative" churches will say they don't preach such nonsense. Well they may not, but with their practice their words are made completely void. Then, devoted church people wonder why they are anxious and confused. Well, it's because what they are being told doesn't match what they see or experience in any real way, and deep down they know it. And so confusion is bred...
The good thing about it is that as the confusion gets worse, many people start looking for truer answers and really start turning more to God. They stop depending so much on being spoon fed everything and being told what to do. They start wanting to live outside this sick box. And the more they seek truth, the more alienated they will feel from their most devoted fellow church followers and leaders (in this dysfunctional system).
There is a difference between following God and following the church. There really is.
Bottom line, though, is we are a deeply prosperity-minded nation... prosperity is our God and we've neglected our families, our children, our friends, the sick, the elderly, the poor, the down-beaten and our very own souls, all for that all-American dream of comfort and wealth. Yuck. Look at the state we are in. If we were truly a "Christian" nation (and there is no such thing) then we wouldn't be in the state we are in. When will we stop following the stupid dream, that isn't real in any sort of way. When, oh when? Has this kind of "prosperity" brought us any real joy?! No. We are a sick nation. When I first came to live in the US as a 12 yr old from Argentina, I really noticed the difference in how competitive and image oriented everyone was (even as a 12 yr old I saw it in my friends who were way too "grown up" for their age). It definitely seemed a much colder place than back home in so many ways... and it affected me negatively in many ways also.
I don't hate America. I do hate this mentality, though. But for all I know it' s all over the world.... (to one degree or another, I'm sure) I KNOW there are good people out there in this land, but they are usually the "nobodies," the downtrodden, the wounded, the foreigners, the "struggling" ones that are judged to be "not walking with God." God forbid a Jesus-follower should be sad or even confused or seeking a new path. God forbid-- it will make the whole thing look bad. And if these people seek a new path outside the church walls and they are struggling, well it's because they left of course, or because they have no church "home"!! ( I'm completely being sarcastic!!) Unfortunately, I've been guilty of some of this thinking in the past...
Still, I know people do need support and community. But not a cookie cut system where you fill forms and shuffle around like cattle from meeting to meeting with no time to really breathe... no time to really share life together. I don't think this is what Jesus had in mind when he came to save us. He came to save us from this!

What is real prosperity...? Isn't it love, joy, peace.... First it is love; and what is love? Certainly not the charade that is going on these days. We are repeatedly told to settle for this kind of "love." And desperate people take it, thinking it's all there is....Well it's not. God is MORE and He is better than all this and we know it.

I don't want to sound too negative. I believe love is there in the unnoticed kind deeds that go on from person to person, life to life, in the everyday-- time spent; a meal offered; a sincere prayer, a non-judgemental listening ear, a helping hand, a kind note, shared tears... it's in the things that happen tangibly from person to person, eye to eye, hand to hand, soul to soul.

6 comments: said...

Though this is a dynamic I've lived, I'm not sure I'd thought of it in terms of "prosperity" before.

Once in college, I asked Clelia--an exchange student from Peru--what the biggest difference was in this country. She said, "I learned how much of my Christianity was cultural."

Much of our Christianity is cultural too.


Manuela said...

Hi and welcome!
Yeah, it's interesting how where we've come from can shape our perceptions in different ways, definitely. It so eye-opening and good to try to see and understand things from others with different cultural backgrounds and experiences. It's so essential
And yeah, our Christianity here is mostly cultural :(

Sue said...

Yeah, it's a sick box indeed, ain't it? And so hard to see and break away from. Which amazes me that so many have and do and are.

Hooray for being free of all of that! Hip hip, hooray.

I see people saying things like "Come to church, of course we're not perfect." Every time I see someone online lately inviting people to church, that caveat is thrown in. And yeah, like, duh, we know you're not perfect.

But what really frustrates me about that statement is that it doesn't separate the people from the system. The people might not be perfect, and even admit they're not perfect. But then put them in that system and they'll dance the jig just the same as they always have.

It's like, the ohter night I was watching this show on the idiot box that was talking about the "global financial crisis" and the Australian economy and "how can we get people feeling confident again so they will go out and spend more money?" And I was just wanting to rip my hair out because the people's confidence is not the problem, it's what they are contained within that is the problem. And what contains you is what stops you from seeing what is outside the containment lines.


Thanks for this post, Manu. It's not negative at all, just realistic, IMHO :)

Erin said...

Yes yes and yes.

Oh I was sooo in that. OK, maybe not TOTALLY, there were for sure people who were more into it than I. However, I have seen firsthand how it hurts people. It's heartbreaking. And you're right in saying that it's not just churches that outwardly teach this stuff, it's many other churches in their actions and their mentality, if not their words.

Sue, I hate that thing, when people say "we're not perfect, but we're the house of God" or whatever. Thing is, you are right, they can't separate the people out from the system, and judge one without the other. If we complain about the system, people take it personally. And yes, it's true of some people, personally, but many people it's not. It's simple to me: don't play into the system.

And there are churches that have "service to the community days" where everyone pitches in and cleans up the church. What the hell ever kind of service to the community is that?

And there are churches who lay people off but build bigger buildings.

Ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Manuela said...

I know Sue! Uhuggg, We can pull our hair out together :) this that you said is sooo true-- "And what contains you is what stops you from seeing what is outside the containment lines"
It applies to so many things...

and Erin, yeah, and yeah, and yeah...!

Breaking free is so much fun (and really hellish at times too)

lionwoman said...

Manuela, great post! And great comments everyone too. I totally agree, breaking free is great sometimes but hellish others LOL. You put into words very well how I've felt all this time.