People always think you can tell a prosperity preacher by his thick, luxurious hair or her bejeweled blazers. I have seen America’s most famous televangelist, Joel Osteen, up close and I can confirm that his hair is sort of beautiful and I might have touched it if he weren’t flanked by security. When interviewing prosperity pastors, I’ve frequently broken the ice using a joke about their news anchor mane — “You clearly have the hair for this gospel.” It always lands.
Prosperity preachers are often criticized for being hawkers of good fortune: the more frequently you pray (and tithe – please place your offerings in the golden plate), the wealthier and healthier you will be.
But many of us often fail to acknowledge just how much of this prophetic preaching we absorb within American culture. Televangelists might have crisp coiffures buoyed by congregational giving, but a new kid has arrived on the prosperity block.
Critics beware: the prosperity gospel may be closer than you think…
Do you belong to a Prosperity Gym™?
Sign #1: Everyone behaves as if they are always on the upswing.
No bad days here! Everyone is always chipper and positive, from the front desk attendant to the impossibly toned young mom straight out of a Pantene commercial who regularly proclaims, “Today is a new day!”
Extra Points: “NO EXCUSES!!” is painted on the wall by the squat rack.
Sign #2: The communal “we” is replaced by a satisfying “I”.
Regular visitors learn to take responsibility for the highs and lows of their good fortune and dead lifts.
Extra points: Your locker room has “WEAKNESS IS A CHOICE!!” taped above the sinks.
Sign #3: There’s an aura of expectant supernaturalism.
Not only does your gym promise to change your body, but it also promises to unite all of humanity through muscle gain. Telltale sign: a mural of a culturally diverse fit squad appears somewhere by the treadmills or on the window shades.
Extra Points: The group fitness classes declare, “Don’t use machines. BECOME ONE.”
Sign #4: You reap what you sow.
Personal trainer or prosperity preacher’s tweet? You decide.
“Your only limit is YOU.”
“I already know what giving up feels like. I want to see what happens if I don’t.”
Pass the plate and the protein shake, America. We’re in the pews together.