Kanye West, Joel Osteen, and the Prosperity Gospel

Kanye_West_-_Jesus_Is_KingWith Kanye West’s recent appearance at Joel Osteen’s megachurch, I think it’s important to recall these words from last Sunday’s readings:

“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!” (Luke 21:8)

To see Kanye West of all people speak about Jesus Christ and release a critically-acclaimed album called Jesus is King is truly a sight to behold. I sincerely pray that he may grow closer to Jesus Christ and come to know His grace and mercy like never before in his life. God can and does do great work through people like Kanye, and if people are led to a deeper knowledge of Jesus because of Kanye, then wonderful!

That said, we need to be careful. We need to be careful because Joel Osteen, and now perhaps Kanye, preach a form of the Gospel that is dangerous. Yes, Sacred Scripture, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, shows that those who follow Jesus Christ will be prosperous beyond their wildest dreams. This prosperity, however, should not be expected in Earthly terms. Rather, this will be heavenly prosperity. Our reward will be great in heaven. Life on Earth, however, will be, well, life. Up, down, rich, poor, and everywhere in between is simply a part of this thing we do here on Earth.

But Father! What about those people who DO have Earthly prosperity when they follow Christ! Surely that’s proof, right?!

Wrong – there is nothing bad with Earthly prosperity, but it should be seen as a blessing, not some sort of confirmation of God’s favor. God is not a gumball machine where you stick in a coin and get something in return. Our Lord is a judge: a judge of justice and a judge of mercy. He does not approach us on our terms or because of anything we do – He approaches us because He loves us and wants to lift us up to Him so that we might have eternal life. Let’s take a look at what Bishop Barron has to say about the prosperity Gospel:

Finally, I think these words from Jonathan Walton of the West Forest Divinity School shine a bit more light on the situation:

“Kanye West and Joel Osteen are a match made in market-driven heaven. Both have baptized their commercial notoriety and their financial gains in Jesus’ name. The communion table has become a merch table.”

Many will come in His name indeed… But there is only one King.

Pax.

Reflection: Can you answer the question?

27 August 2017: Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

questionOne of the primary questions of our lives, whether we are converts or cradle-Catholics, active in our faith or if we haven’t practiced in a while, remains “Who is Jesus Christ?” Or in the words of Jesus Himself, “Who do you say that I am?”[1] Each and every one of us at some point must answer this question! Who do you say Jesus is? What place does He have in your life? Can you answer that question? I imagine that many of us would say something to the effect of, “He is my savior” or “He is the one who redeemed me by taking up the cross.”

Does the question end here with our verbal answer? Sure, we use words to explain our beliefs, to profess our reliance on God and to exclaim the truth and love of Jesus Christ, but at the risk of sounding trite, do you put your money where your mouth is? No amount of words, no matter how eloquent or well-thought, can make up for a lack of action on our part. Yes, we may answer with words, but we must answer with deeds as well. Peter answered this question by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” but he also went out into the world, imperfect as he was, and lived the Gospel message, sometimes failing, but always turning back to Christ. Christ gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven because Peter responded and believed, allowing the Spirit to lead his words and actions to carry the Gospel to the world.

So is Christ a simple teacher or perhaps a just a mystic? Or is He much more that? Is He someone you turn to just when times get tough? Or does He inform your every action? Do you follow the Son of the living God in everything that you say and do? Let us pray that “our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found”[2], in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, because one day, whether it is now or later, you will hear the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

How will you answer?

Questions for reflection:

  • Does my verbal answer to the identity of Christ align with my actions?
  • How can I better reflect Jesus Christ in my words and actions?

References:

  • [1] Matthew 16.15
  • [2] Collect Prayer, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time