(LifeSiteNews) — Perhaps a good deal of us have heard the term “prosperity gospel.” It’s very popular, particularly in the United States, with many prosperity gospel preachers acting as pastors for megachurches. Yet what is it and where does it come from?
My guest today is Dr. Thomas Storck, a convert to the Catholic faith and author of the new book The Prosperity Gospel: How Greed and Bad Philosophy Distorted Christ’s Teachings, joins me on this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show to discuss the prosperity gospel’s origins and what the Church really teaches on economic matters.
According to Storck, the prosperity gospel arose from the belief that religion was a private matter and should not have a part in cultural affairs, a result of the rise of Unitarianism and the waning influence of New England Calvinism in the 19th century. Storck further explains that what we now call the prosperity gospel managed to take root because of the lack of a culturally religious milieu like the one that exists in Europe.
Comparing the cultures of America and Europe, Storck tells me “it was a matter of starting over again, and we could start over again in any way we wanted.”
“And that was one of the keys to where the seedbed of the prosperity gospel originated: this idea that we can start over again, we can do whatever we want,” he continues. “And that coupled with the privatization of religion and the privatization of purpose in general, are the two biggest factors, I think, in providing a background for the prosperity gospel.”
Storck, discussing the differences between Catholic thought and the prosperity gospel, notes that while Catholics seek to act as servants of God, the prosperity gospel preaches a gospel where God acts as one’s own servant, something he sees as a consequence of the “privatization of religion” caused by Unitarianism.
“If you privatize religion, a lot of people are going to use it for whatever is most pressing in their lives, which is going to be often financial, or relational, or familial, or something like that, instead of realizing that we submit to God, even with it’s kind of difficult to do it times,” Storck observes.
Later in the episode, we discuss what the Church teaches on economic issues.
Basing the discussion on the papal social encyclicals, particularly Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII and Quadragesimo Anno of Pius XI, Storck notes that the root of economics in the Catholic mind is the quest to provide all goods and services necessary to live a flourishing human life, not simply as a “means of enrichment.” It thus serves as a “middle way” between Marxist communism and socialism on the one hand, and capitalism on the other.
Using the medieval guild system as an example to demonstrate the encyclicals’ points, Storck says, “The whole economic order was subordinated to the idea of justice. That was the overriding idea … Is everyone who is involved in the economic process, including the consumer, are they getting a fair deal? And that is the criterion that is overriding in medieval thinking.”
Storck goes into further detail, expounding upon Quadragesimo Anno’s condemnation of the idea that free competition would result in an admirable social order. While the document does allow for some free competition in a limited sense, Storck quotes it, saying, “Just as unity of human society cannot be built upon class conflict, so the proper order of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition. From this source, as from a polluted spring, have proceeded all the errors of [individualist economics].”
Closing the episode, Storck offers his opinion on what is necessary for Catholics in the modern world: that the “most important thing [for a Catholic] is to be a Catholic.”
“As Catholics, this is what we should primarily be seeking to do, mold our lives as a Catholic according to the whole traditional teaching of the Church that’s been around, and has been tested, and discussed, and is a powerful way of living our life … even in the modern world,” Storck says.
It is also available in audio format on platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud, and Acast. We are awaiting approval for iTunes and Google Play as well. To subscribe to the audio version on various channels, visit the Acast webpage here.
We’ve created a special email list for the show so that we can notify you every week when we post a new episode. Please sign up now by clicking here. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel, and you’ll be notified by YouTube when there is new content.
You can send me feedback, or ideas for show topics by emailing [email protected].