A few days ago, I logged on to Facebook and glanced over to the right where the “News” stories are usually loaded. I was shocked to see a headline that stated some preacher I had never heard of before was claiming that God wanted him to have a $60 million dollar plane. I laughed it off at first, but was curious enough to click on the article and read it. What I found was enough to turn my stomach. Here was a preacher claiming something of a vision through a concept called “prosperity gospel” and he had a congregation willing to shell out the dollars for whatever he wanted. The cry for a jet was only the latest cry of desire from this guy.
::big sigh:: So this hit me from a pair of different angles. First off, what in the Nine Hells was this thing called a “prosperity gospel”? Second….well, let’s deal with the so-called “prosperity gospel” before I move on to the next thought – because that’s really a far more meaty topic.
Wikipedia is where I turned for assistance. A lot of people – particularly at the college I work for – disparage and degrade people who utilize Wikipedia, but I find it a useful STARTING point when trying to find out about something you have never heard of before. However, in this case, it will also be the stopping point here — because this is not the main topic I wanted to get into. Wikipedia defines “prosperity gospel” as:
Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success) is a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth. Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor.
Ok, I get where this is coming from. Shower money on the preacher — and God will shower money on you. Sort of a religious “trickle-down” theory except that the cash has to come from the bottom of the well before it starts to trickle back down. Essentially more like a Ponzi scheme in reverse, if you ask me. But that satisfies my curiosity for the moment…
My second area of thought was “why aren’t there rich Pagans like this around?” You know, people who could INVEST into wonderful things like Book Publishers, LAND, festivals, temples, sanctuaries….all with an eye towards growing the larger Pagan community?? I honestly don’t see a lot of these types of folks within the Pagan community. What I see are people who work their tails off to make a living, and hopefully have a little money leftover for whatever they want. And…
And its here that I feel like I step out of a suburban environment to stare into a wide, empty, desert landscape that goes on forever and forever. Devoid of life. Nothing but dried and dead vegetation, rocks, and reddish sand as far as the eye can see. In short, I am not sure what else to think past this point.
I can speculate on why there doesn’t seem to be that many “rich” Pagans out there. I could speculate on why there’s not that much philanthropy taking place. Or perhaps it is, and it just takes place in a very quiet manner so as not to draw attention. But then, I have to start to try and define what a “rich” Pagan is.
I remember when I was unemployed for nearly two years. It was not that long ago. Just four years into the rearview mirror. I remember what it felt like to get my twice-monthly stipend from the government. How groceries were a carefully planned exercise, balanced against mounting bills, fuel needs, and the constant need to find something at home to do. “Rich” is one of those terms that is very subjective, fluid, and difficult to pin down.
Perhaps a better cut of the grain to try is looking at why this preacher’s situation is not happening within Paganism? Well, a very quick and easy point is that Pagans – for the most part – are very much against a standard form of authority. In short, its difficult for Pagans to hand the reigns of their spiritual lives over to an authoritarian figure such as this. I know that this is true for myself – and yes, I am generalizing to some degree as well. I am not decreeing it a “law” that all Pagans think along these lines…but if you are hammering me over that being a mandate of any sorts…well, you’re making my point for me.
So, what gives? Are Pagans tight-wads? Are our finances just that tight? Do we just not care enough outside of our own personal Spirituality to set dollars aside for some cause or another? Well, the answers do not seem to be that readily available — and watch out here — I don’t think the answer SHOULD be readily available. I just don’t see where that is much of anyone’s business, know what I mean?
What? Then, why am I asking this question? After all, if its no one’s business what you or anyone else spend their money on — why am I asking this question about where all the “rich” and philanthropic Pagans are? Because its food for thought.
See, I am not trying to make you spend your money on ANYTHING. Have you noticed that I have not mentioned any push for money? Not even my own push for finances to help keep the podcast running during my two-years of unemployment (well, that is until now). Because I am not trying to get you to spend your money on ANYTHING. Merely trying to stir up the idea of thinking about what you are PASSIONATE about supporting – without stating it openly (and there I did it again).
Let me try and state this another way. Do you believe in something passionately? Would you be willing to hand over five or ten (dollars, pounds, loonies, euros, whatever) every month or so to make it happen? Even if it didn’t happen in your lifetime? Merely because you believe its something that should happen for the future Pagan generations? After all folks, most of us are on the back-end of the first generation of Pagan folks…the second generation is already here and upon us. The younger twenty-somethings, and teenagers… We’ve talked about leaving them a better planet…a better place. We have managed to do so with our books, our writings, our beliefs, the freedoms and social changes we have scratched so hard for.
Yeah, I get that money is something that we don’t really care much about. We’d rather give our services and goods through trade. But money is what makes things work in mainstream environments. Money is not the root of all evil. However, the root of all evil makes a pretty strong tea….