The Gospel of Prosperity:
Hip-hop soul legend Mary J. Blige has always let it be known that
God was an important part of her life and upbringing. From vignettes
on her album to her oft-present cross, the born-again Christian
insists that God wants her to have nice things. In a
recent 'Blender' magazine article, the sometimes downtrodden diva
"My God is a God who wants me to have things. He wants me to bling.
He wants me to be the hottest thing on the block. I don't know what
kind of God the rest of y'all are serving, but the God I serve
says, 'Mary, you need to be the hottest thing this year, and I'm
gonna make sure you're doing that.'"
Could Mary J. be a proponent of what many term ''The Gospel of
Though not an organized religion, the prosperity gospel is an
increasingly-popular view commonly found in televangelical
preachings and in Pentecostal churches; it claims God wants
Christians to be successful in every way, especially in their
finances. Given face by African-American television minsters such as
Creflo Dollar and Rev. Frederick K.C. Price (real names), prosperity
proponents state that the true Christian has only to ask for
material wealth and it will be granted.
Yet, if a Christian is not enjoying these benefits, then it's
because they either have not asked for them or because they have
some blockage in their lives which is preventing God from blessing
them. Furthermore, some critics of these individual preachers and
the movement itself say the only ones becoming prosperous are the
"It's materialism, it's the marketplace, it's also about the black
middle class trying to alleviate its conscience about dealing with
those who are less fortunate," says minister, author and professor
for Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Michael Eric
Dyson. "Why didn't we have the Gospel of Prosperity during King's
day? All of a sudden, we can track it. The expansion of the black
middle class has also created the necessity for a theology that will
justify our status."
Creflo A. Dollar, 41, who is not obligated to disclose his finances
because his church is tax-exempt, appears to be financially fit. His
World Changers megachurch, founded in Atlanta in 1986, now has over
25,000 members with an annual operating budget of over $80 million.
Dollar, who has a multi-million dollar mansion in Atlanta and two
Rolls Royces, flies on his private jet every Saturday to New York
City, where in October 2004, he started a congregation.
He owns a $2.5 million Manhattan apartment in the exclusive Time
Warner Center, and collects over $345,000 a month for the New York
church, which he says stays there to build it. Before making the
physical move to New York, the city was Dollar's largest television
Packed to the rafters with people of all ages and races, Rev.
Dollar's World Changers New York fills Madison Square Garden's
Theater each week. Dollar's affable manner, clever witticisms ("I'ma
preach a wig off your head tonight!") and clear rules for living
based on the Bible make for good television and an even larger
To be broke means you lack," shouts Dollar from the stage, filled
with a modern choir and five-piece band, including violinist.
Overhead hangs a huge "World Changers" banner with people of all
colors looking fulfilled. There is also a translator for the hearing
Dollar always qualifies prosperity as not just material things, but
also love, relationships and health. "I'll never be broke another
day in my life," he commands the audience to say. "Turn to two
people and say it."
Two offerings are taken before the reverend began his main sermon,
the audience reflecting an almost game-show like atmosphere, as
Dollar asked those who experienced "increase this week" to bring up
their offerings. Hundreds of blue envelopes flood the air as people
wave them madly. "If you have experienced increase this week, and
would like to make a first offering, we rejoice."
Richard "Ricke" Williams, 24, a film producer from Patterson, New
Jersey has been attending World Changers New York services since
September, 2005. "I joined that day," says Williams. "It's been
great. I've grown a lot as an individual; I'm a different person."
"Prosperity is key, but not necessarily financial prosperity,"
continues Williams. "[Rev. Dollar] gets in trouble with the media
about this, but he wants us to prosper in our soul, health, family;
mentally and spiritually. You can have a million dollars but your
family is in disarray. You can have money and not be prosperous.
Finances is just one part of it."