In Regina Munch’s review of “Chris Lehmann’s The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream”, she remarks that
“Rich or poor, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, Americans are in thrall of the promise of personal fulfillment that this amalgam of therapeutic self-help, financial counseling, and spiritual enlightenment offers. But when enlightenment is instrumentalized for individual advancement, ties between individuals suffer. Surrounded by the language of personal well-being, we are denied the vocabulary of community and solidarity.”
There is much about which to criticise the prosperity gospel, but arguably its obsession with individual advancement is its biggest betrayal of Christianity, as it runs against the concept of Christianity as a collective faith.
As Paul eloquently put it in Romans 12:5,
“so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.”
Capitalism as Religion: How Money Became God
At Marginalia Review of Books, Sarah E. Rollens, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College argues that far from being the product of careful, rational thought, our beliefs are “affected by both our brain chemistry and our social context.” Furthermore, according to a study she cites, there appears to be a specific neurological correlate to people with rigid, inflexible patterns of thought who are resistant to changing beliefs when exposed to evidence that falsifies them.
For a Christian, this should immediately bring to mind Jeremiah 17:9:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
This verse is a favourite proof-text of those who argue that human nature is irredeemably depraved. Given what research in neurophysiology is showing us, this verse should remind us that human thinking itself is anything but foolproof, and we need to inculcate a program of critical thinking and scepticism to ensure that our beliefs are based on evidence, not on emotion. Although speaking about science, the words of physicist Richard Feynman in his memorable 1974 Caltech Commencement address mutatis mutandis apply wonderfully to the Christian:
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.