The prosperity gospel may have contributed to the powerfully snowballing subprime mortgage crisis.
Jonathan Walton, a professor of religion at the University of California, was researching a book on televangelism when he realized something. The popular “prosperity gospel” tells the poor that God is intent on giving them material blessings (usually if they pony up to His servants first.) Walton says this distortion of the gospel led some people to reason when they got mortgages they knew they shouldn’t have qualified for, “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house!” Walton says the results “were disastrous because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”
If Walton is right, says renowned religion writer David Van Biema, “the situation offers a look at how a native-born faith built partially on American economic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market.” Van Biema calls it a “symbiosis” because while the prosperity gospel helped erode the country’s financial foundation, Walton says that “the economic boom ‘90s and financial overextensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the Prosperity message.” (Time, 10/3/08)