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Prosperity Politics

Even when I disagree with John Oliver’s politics (which is quite frequently), he makes me laugh.  (A steady offering of humor prompts me to forgive lots of sins.)  My son, Thomas, and I roared with laughter yesterday morning as we watched Oliver’s recent smack-down of televangelists who preach something called “the Prosperity Gospel.”  (Warning: Adult language.)  

Until watching Oliver’s video, I was only vaguely aware of this sub-species of scam-artists.  But as I watched this video I kept thinking to myself “These people – these scamming televangelists – remind me of something.  What?  Who?  What???  Who????”  Then it hit me: Politicians!

Most Americans (myself included) – and, most assuredly, all Americans to the left of Mike Huckabee – understandably both laugh at the antics of these televangelical slime balls and shake our heads with a mixture of sorrow and befuddlement that fellow human beings fall prey to their idiotic dupery.  But without claiming that there is a one-to-one correspondence between cosmetics-caked preachers of the Prosperity Gospel and typical politicians crawling the corridors of Washington, DC., I submit that the overlap and similarities between these two types of public pleaders are far greater than most respectable Americans are willing to admit.

According to the Prosperity Gospel (or so I gather), sending money to one of its preachers will, by some mystical force, eventually result in more material prosperity redounding to the benefit of those who heed the call to send money to these con artists.  Of course, the people who send their money to these swindlers are convinced that these swindlers are sincere oracles of a higher power – oracles who tell of a genuinely reliable means of both pleasing the higher power and being rewarded materially for doing so.

Naturally, the only people becoming more materially prosperous through this scam are the swindlers and their entourages.  The poor suckers who fall for the swindlers’ schemes are drained of wealth.  And it is the rare and cold-hearted person who asserts that, because the swindled people should have been smart enough to see through the deceits and illogic of the swindlers, the swindlers aren’t blameworthy.

The parallels between government and these televangelical swindlers are numerous; they’re too numerous even to list in a single blog post.  I’ll content myself here to point out only some of these ominous parallels, which include the notions that:

– sending your money off to other people will result in that money being spent in ways that promote your long-term well-being better than your long-term well-being would be promoted had you spent your money yourself;

– telegenic people speaking into the camera while alluding to mysterious doctrines – and claiming to have special understanding of those mysterious doctrines – are motived chiefly by your best interest as they plead for your money;

– these telegenic people must, of course, fly about in private jets and live luxuriously, for they – unlike you – are tasked with a special responsibility to work for a Higher Good;

– these telegenic swindlers are expert not only at feigning sincere concern for strangers, but also at spinning lies and deceits to explain away the constant failures of their prophesies.


One significant difference that notably separates the Prosperity Gospel swindlers from what we might call the Prosperity Politics swindlers is that only the latter have the power to grab the money of people who don’t fall for their deceits.  If the Prosperity Politics swindlers manage to dupe 50% +1 of the voters into falling for their scam, the Prosperity Politics swindlers get to grab the money of not only the people who naively fall for their dupery but also the money of those of us who see such dupery for what it is.

It should at least give pause to those who are enthusiastic about substituting the ‘will of the majority’ for the freedom of each individual to choose to lead his or her life as he or she will to reflect on the fact that the world has no shortage of people who fall for the Prosperity Gospel fraudsters.  Democracy – as opposed to individual freedom – allows people who fall for the Prosperity Gospel to have a say in your life and in the lives of everyone who understands that the Prosperity Gospel is the work of Satan.


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