If I could walk that way I wouldn’t need the talcum powder

If I could walk that way I wouldn’t need the talcum powder July 30, 2019


Benny Hinn’s nephew used to be in the family business — bilking the pious and trying to become richer than God. He’s since repented of and been saved from the ugly, greedy sham of the “prosperity gospel”:

I grew up in the prosperity gospel. I lived it, believed it and bankrolled it. My family was at the center of it, with Uncle Benny leading the charge, until eventually my eyes opened to the exploitation and abuse of it. I can’t speak for everyone but I can offer some insight into why it might be so believable.

The younger Hinn pegs the attractiveness of this Gospel of Mammon to three key points: 1) It made us rich; 2) it made us powerful; 3) it made us prominent. We probably didn’t need an insider to reveal such obvious points, but it’s still good to see that stated so bluntly.

Related: Katelyn Beaty on “Joshua Harris and the sexual prosperity gospel.”

Prosperity teaching makes obedience a means to an end — worth pursuing so long as we humans get some kind of kickback.

It is ironic, then, that Christians who denounce the prosperity gospel have in recent years touted its sexier, if subtler, form: the sexual prosperity gospel. This is my term for a core teaching of the purity culture that erupted in the 1990s, telling young evangelicals that True Love Waits. It holds that God will reward premarital chastity with a good Christian spouse, great sex and perpetual marital fulfillment.

… The giveaway of any prosperity teaching is an “if/then” formula: If you do this, then you will get this. If you put a $100 bill in the offering plate, then you will get tenfold back. If you stay chaste now, then you will later be blessed by marriage and children.

Like all powerful myths, it offers the illusion of control in an unpredictable world. We are most tempted to adopt prosperity teachings for our greatest areas of vulnerability. This is why health and wealth teachings typically attract the financially struggling, and why the promise of sexual and marital fulfillment attracted so many sexually frustrated Christian teenagers.

Wikimedia photo by Carwil Bjork-James

• “Galicia is by no means an isolated case. U.S. citizens are often mistakenly detained and targeted for deportation. As a 2018 investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed, there have been hundreds of instances in immigration courts where U.S. citizens had to prove they were Americans, sometimes after being detained for months or even years.”

I take the moderate, centrist position advocating for the end of ICE after it’s short, ignominious run as a 16-year failed experiment.

• When Trumpists send candidates for Congress, they’re not sending their best: “Pro-Trump Republican aiming to unseat Ilhan Omar charged with felony theft.”

Danielle Stella was arrested twice this year in Minneapolis suburbs over allegations that she shoplifted items worth more than $2,300 from a Target and goods valued at $40 from a grocery store. She said she denied the allegations.

Stella, a 31-year-old special education teacher, was reported this week to be a supporter of the baseless “QAnon” conspiracy theory about Donald Trump battling a global cabal of elite liberal pedophiles.

This week Stella also described Minneapolis as “the crime capital of our country”. She has in the past complained that local police were “overworked and overburdened” and said that, if elected, she would work to reduce crime. …

Stella is accused of stealing 279 items valued at $2,327.97 from a Target store in Edina, to the south-west of Minneapolis, on 8 January this year. She was arrested for the alleged theft after security staff called the police.

A criminal complaint filed to Hennepin county district court alleged Stella was seen leaving the store without paying for most of her haul, after “scanning only a few other items” that were valued at about $50.

It seems likely that Ms. Stella is unwell and that she has latched onto Trumpism and QAnon as the vocabulary for expressing that. But it’s also possible that she’s just a small-time grifter who’s found an angle to exploit that may be more vulnerable and lucrative than the self-checkout counter at the Edina Target. She’s already gained national exposure and support from pro-Trump Republican media such as Fox Nation and InfoWars, and running against Rep. Omar — the president’s favorite target for invective and slander — opens the door to astonishing amounts of campaign funds and dark money donations.

So here’s my pitch for an HBO or FX miniseries: A small-time criminal reinvents herself as a far-right MAGA candidate — a Michele Bachmann/Christine O’Donnell/Danielle Stella type — spouting partisan vitriol she doesn’t believe because she’s convinced herself she doesn’t believe anything. It’s just an amoral scheme to cash in on the right-wing money machine. But then she wins the election and, confronted with the consequences of this hateful politics, her long-suppressed conscience awakens.

It’d be more Elmore Leonard than Aaron Sorkin because, well, it’s 2019.

• This article is from the Abu Dhabi-based The National, and reflects that perspective, which may be jarring for American readers accustomed to reading an opposite perspective (or, one might say, an opposite bias) on Middle Eastern news. But in any case, it’s a fascinating look at white-evangelical “biblical archaeology” and the way it is harnessed in service of the sometimes complementary, sometimes competing, political agendas of nationalist Israeli politics and Christian nationalist American politics: “Digging in the Holy Land: Evangelicals are excavating occupied soil to help their cause, and Israel’s.”

The main dig site discussed here seems like something of a scam — a pretext for charging thousands of dollars for package deals in which devoutly naive American Christians pay for the chance to work for free doing archaeological tourism. But it also seems to be the kind of scam in which some of those running it don’t quite realize that’s what they’re doing.

• Damon Linker offers a helpful summary of “How the intellectual right is talking itself into tearing down American democracy.”

Much of that essay concerns First Things, which Linker describes as “the most intellectually rigorous outlet of the religious right” — a phrase akin to “the tallest mountain in Delaware” or to “the most responsible residents of Delta Tau Chi.”

Linker notes that First Things “is also a journal where I once worked and about which I wrote a highly critical book back during the second term of the Bush administration,” and he seems determined to assure readers that it wasn’t always this bad. Except it has been. Linker’s effort to praise Richard John Neuhaus as someone who wasn’t always a partisan hack winds up pushing back further and further into the past for a glimpse of pre-hackery Neuhaus back before Obama’s election … or, OK, back before the 2000 election … or wait, maybe it was back before the Clinton administration, or maybe … Nope. It’s impossible to trace that magazine’s descent into partisan hackery because it’s partisan hackery all the way down.

The dirty little secret here is that First Things has always been intellectually prestigious among those who were trying very hard to be perceived as intellectually prestigious, and that this has always been exactly as convincing as presenting oneself as the arbiter of cool for people who are trying very hard to seem cool.

Josh Marshall has more on this topic, with a distressingly long roundup of links: “The American Right Gets Tired of Democracy.” He notes that a lot of this stuff sounds like a reaffirmation of the Spanish model eventually rejected by Vatican II and by Dignitatis Humanae. But it’s also not really that new for the “intellectual” right. Just think of how, say, William F. Buckley and his National Review responded to efforts to extend voting rights to non-whites in the 1960s. They’ve never been big fans of democracy.

"Ah dang. Oh well."

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