Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Prosperity Gospel and Its Malcontents

That's the title of a book I'm going to write someday. Here's the outline: Section I details what is contained in the teachings of the prosperity gospel. Section II shows how this attitude is embraced by the typical Mormon. Section III spells out how the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ contradicts the prosperity gospel. Section IV is about the harm done by believing the prosperity gospel, especially the self-harm done to those who would be defined by the world as less successful. Section V would give advice on how to keep yourself from falling into this false worldview.

That said, a lot of good information about all these points is in this blog post by Max Wilson. This is a common problem I face: I come up with a good idea, and then while I continue to not do it, someone else does it, better than I could. Like how many plot elements from my second novel became plot elements of the movie The Adjustment Bureau.

One issue I will need to address in Section IV is how rejection of the prosperity gospel looks like sour grapes (and often is). When my local nemesis referenced his cousin losing "both his houses," I guffawed at the idea of feeling sorry for a guy who had two houses, but a lot of that is only because I don't have two houses. When I get my second house, then I will realize that it's a serious problem.

Our local unit of the church functions quite poorly because everyone who is rich enough spends large portions of the year at the American home, and everyone who is phenomenally rich enough lives in a tiny gated enclave with its own church unit. Everyone who doesn't abandon their callings for six weeks at a time knows that church is terrible because of the lifestyles of these rich church members, but as soon as someone joins the ranks of the rich church members, he stops criticizing them and starts going "home" for Christmas in October.

Our daughter's Young Women group wants to take a youth temple trip that will cost us hundreds of dollars and "ideally" won't involve our daughter being alone in a sleeper compartment with strangers on an overnight train. Why do I have to be the bad guy who says, "I have a two-part response: no, and hell no"? And the whole time the idea is hanging over us: if you'd been a little more righteous, A Random Stranger, you could afford for your daughter to have this nice thing.

Last week I heard two branch members discussing the anti-Mormon sentiment they feel at work from non-Mormons who are defensive about the high concentration of Mormons at their organization. One of them said, "They think everyone's getting hired and promoted because they're Mormon, but they don't know that the idea of 'the Mormon mafia' is overblown. The connection doesn't matter as much as they think it does."

In my experience, this is true. Mormons don't hire other Mormons; in fact, they often actively avoid doing so. (I've written about this before.) But another issue is that Mormons who subscribe to the prosperity gospel care more about the success of the business than the success of an individual fellow Mormon. This is why Mormons get along in business so well; you don't have to worry about what will happen if your Mormon hiring manager becomes his ward's employment specialist. You'd only end up with the farcical situation of a guy leaving his job looking for workers to go to his church calling which he understands to be telling unemployed men, "You should try praying more."

Again, probably sour grapes. Until I'm in a position to hire someone, we'll never know. The thing about the prosperity gospel is that everyone believes it, only some people can't afford to live it (yet).

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