Vatican-OK’d journal strikes out again at US evangelicals

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Vatican-approved journal has dismissed “prosperity gospel” as a pseudo theology dangerously tied up with the American Dream and President Donald Trump’s politics, launching its second major critique of American evangelicals in as many years.

Two of Pope Francis’ top communications advisers — an Italian Jesuit and an Argentine Protestant pastor — penned “The Prosperity Gospel: Dangerous and Different” for the current issue of the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, published Wednesday.

In the article, the authors note that the “prosperity gospel” and its belief that God wants his followers to be wealthy and healthy has spread throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Asia, thanks to its charismatic proponents’ effective use of TV and media.

But they point to its origins in the U.S. and its underpinning of the American Dream, and say its vision of faith is in direct contrast to true Christian teaching and Pope Francis’ emphasis on the poor, social justice and salvation.

“In truth, one of the serious problems that the prosperity gospel brings is its perverse effects on the poor,” wrote the authors, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa.

“In fact, it not only exasperates individualism and knocks down the sense of solidarity, but it pushes people to adopt a miracle-centered outlook because faith alone — not social or political commitment — can procure prosperity.”

While “popularity gospel” is widely popular, many Christians consider it heretical. Ministers in the tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that their teachings work.

Trump campaigned in part on his record as a wealthy real estate developer and businessman, and “prosperity gospel” preacher Paula White is a key Trump adviser. She and another prosperity preacher, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, were among the religious leaders selected to offer prayers at Trump’s swearing-in.

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