Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Michael Gerson right on the Prosperity Gospel worng on a lot of other things

Last week, Michael Gerson had an interesting editorial in the Washington Post about the Prosperity Gospel movement in American protestant Christianity. Gerson's piece is rather moving and I pretty much agree with everything he says. It's rather remarkable that an eloquent critique of mega-ministers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen could find its way to the editorial page of a major American newspaper. Usually religion is ignored completely on such pages, and if there is anything said on the subject it is only in regards to how religion intersects with politics.

I recommend Gerson's column, but it left me wondering about him. Gerson is an avowed evangelical Christian who worked in the George W. Bush administration as a speech writer. On the one hand, in this column he offers a powerful critique of an understanding of Christianity that stresses personal gain over sacrificial love. He praises suffering on behalf of helping others and notes that "Christianity has always dealt in hard truths." On the other hand, Gerson helped script some of the Bush administrations justification for preemptive war and participated in giving Bush imagery from Christian scripture and hymns in order to describe American power in terms that originally referred to God's power. I'm just not sure how Gerson can now quote Henri Nouwen and Grahm Greene on the one hand and when on the other hand he wrjote speeches that describe America in idolatrous terms. (Of course, how much of what Bush said was actually written by Gerson is up for debate.)

A fair critique of evangelical Christianity in America is that it emphasizes individual moral actions at the cost of ignoring societal sins such as poverty, war, prejudice, etc. I don't know enough about Gerson to say if this is the case for him or not.

The column is worth reading, but how this fits in with Gerson's career as a political speech writer, I can't say.

Grace and Peace,


No comments: