An article on the front page of my local paper caught my attention the other day. It always amazes me to see the different flavors of Christianity that attracts people to it like flies on … whatever it is flies like to land on. However, this was on the front page of the paper, practically advertising this guy’s form of religion. In fact, the print edition had a large color photo of the billboard referred to in the article. Don’t get me wrong. The news can print anything they want, but the state (the capital of which this paper is published in) is going through a budget crisis, resulting in unpaid state workers for the past two months, Obama is trying to get a national health care package approved, and of course there are still two wars, escalating as we speak, that we are involved in, yet this story is the front page article. This paper’s news prioritizing is one of the reasons I canceled my subscription a few years ago.
The article is about this self-proclaimed evangelical preacher in the city who preaches what is known as the prosperity gospel. He seems to believe that his material wealth, whatever that may be, comes from god. Trust in god, and he’ll make you prosperous. Love god and he’ll give you stuff. Now, in a failing economy, does this sound like a theology that might be attractive to certain people? Say, the poor, or the unemployed? The article starts off almost salivating.
Bishop Larry Harris’ big cuff links sparkle like diamonds as he preaches the promises of heaven, down to the literal dimensions and the pearly gates — along with the promises of wealth right here on earth for the faithful.
“Bishop” 1 Harris believes in prophecy and is a big fan of Benny Hinn Ministries.
As Bishop Harris tells the story, a prophecy came to him two years ago from another evangelist while they sat onstage during a Benny Hinn Miracle Crusade at the Giant Center in Derry Twp.
The prophecy said five Boazes, [not Bozos] wealthy men like Boaz in the Old Testament story, would come into Harris’ life — three to support his ministry and two to support his personal needs.
It was a detailed prophecy. One of the Boazes will buy Harris a car every year, it said, and jets and yachts will be provided for the ministry. (Yachts? Jesus preached from a boat, Harris noted.)
Harris is still waiting for the prophecy to come true…
Oy. I can just hear the gullible when they read this article. “Honey, no need to pick up the Powerball today. Let’s go join Bishop Harris instead.” Is it a wonder that
That expectation of material reward often is packaged with belief in prophecy, faith healing, speaking in tongues and miracles in general.?
Well, of course, people who believe in that for which there is no evidence, will also believe pie in the sky promises of material wealth. “Belief in prophecy, faith healing, speaking in tongues and miracles” have been the tools of flim-flam artists over the centuries, and are still the tools of religion in general. But that’s not all he promises:
“I stop husbands from fighting their wives. I stop wives from fighting their children,” said Harris…
Which is why the county courts have an overflowing Protection from Abuse docket.
He also teaches — in the Pentecostal tradition that defined his childhood in Georgia — that miracles happen today just as described in the Bible.
I can teach that kissing frogs turns them into princes, but it doesn’t make it true. I’d love to see some of the real biblical style miracles he refers to. Grilled cheese artwork doesn’t count. I wonder if he can cause an amputated human limb to spontaneously regenerate? They didn’t even do that in Bible days.
Seriously. Why is a newspaper of general circulation, one that normally reports sober news, and relegates the religious stories to the weekly “faith” section, reporting about this particular scam artist so breathlessly? The reporter’s attempt at even handedness falls flat. The sociologist she obtains a quote from ends up sounding like he endorses this nonsense.
“It really resonates in the context we’re in now, when most folks are concerned about money.”
It really resonates? How about “It really defies intelligent thought”?
And exactly how does this prosperity gospel work in Third World countries, countries that are overwhelmingly religious, yet also conspicuously poor?
Here’s the money quote:
“You’ve got to ask yourself why people are poor,” Harris replied. “What causes poverty? Serving Satan. Sin.”
Close down the welfare office. No need for a national medical insurance plan. Just hunt down Satan and kill him.
He’s probably in a cave in Afghanistan. How hard could it be to find him?
1 It seems his only qualification for being a Bishop is that he is a retired Army sergeant. Apparently a Bishop in the church is the hierarchical equivalent of a sergeant.