The Black Church: How Corporate Media & the Prosperity Gospel Make Legions of Ready Dupes

by Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

News reports are surfacing of more fraudulent financial advisors operating from the pulpits of black and white prosperity gospel megachurches. Federal lawmen are investigating, corporate news reporters and commentators bloviating. But are they asking the real questions, or missing the real story?

Why are prosperity gospel churches such a fertile ground for retail financial fraud?”

Corporate media like ABC’s Nightline this week briefly focused on an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a shady character that prosperity gospel churches foisted upon their credulous members as a “financial advisor” on a ministry that was called the “Building Wealth Tour.” In an all too common story, the so-called “wealth-building ministry” was a Ponzi scheme, a Bernie Madoff swindle in miniature…


The Osteens: Successful millionaires in a great business scam,

The Nightline news report consisted of interviews with a couple of families who entrusted the financial advisor with their life savings, and saw them disappear. It included footage of the charlatan’s employee, who recounted how he locked his office doors and hid from the church people whose money he took, and finally a statement from the crook’s lawyer, interspersed with clips of complicit black and white prosperity gospel mega-preachers Joel Osteen and Bishop Eddie Long. The case is much mentioned too, in what passes for black sites on the internet, but the focus on Creflo Dollar style flashy pimp preachers and the rotating cast of crooks they allow to access their pulpits fails to ask what ought to be the real questions of the hour.

Why are prosperity gospel churches such a fertile ground for retail financial fraud? Why doesn’t this kind of thing happen more often in non-prosperity gospel churches, or in other self-governing organizations like community groups, sororities or labor unions?

As long as our media, our leaders and our preachers educate us to be sheep, we will be preyed on by wolves…”

The obvious answer is that the peculiar kind of magical thinking embraced by these kinds of churches, and in lots of other places, like in the universe of Oprah, constantly maintains and manufacture a vast and ready supply of credulous marks and hopeful dupes, wooly headed little sheep eager to be sheared. Millions of us have been instructed, and now teach each other to “visualize” wealth, happiness and material comfort and that the power of this visualization will make them real, will bring them into being. Preachers of the prosperity gospel contrive various ways to award divine sanction to this nonsense, while advocates of the Oprah-style “secret” take their superstition straight with no chaser.

And that’s the real story. Bernie Madoff was able to steal tens of billions over 20 years because investors and the general public all believed that financial magicians made profits out of hot air. Bernie Madoff is gone now, but there are still millions who still have faith in the magic, faith reinforced by the teachings of corporate media hucksters like Oprah, and shored up every Sunday by prosperity gospel preachers, black and white, across the country.

The African American church, which likes to imagine and promote itself as the leading institution in black America, is deeply infested with the disease of the prosperity gospel. As long as our media, our leaders and our preachers educate us to be sheep, we will be preyed on by wolves. It’s really that simple.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at [5].

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, and is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this web site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

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2 thoughts on “The Black Church: How Corporate Media & the Prosperity Gospel Make Legions of Ready Dupes

  1. Ever notice how the
    beverly – 05/09/2012 – 22:55

    Ever notice how the prosperity only seems to flow to these preachers and Queen Oprah? Instead of spending time under the influence of the prosperity pimps, folks would be better off doing good works out in their community. Even buying a lottery ticket would give one a better chance at riches (or at least paying a few bills) than giving money a mega-preacher or listening to Oprah’s pithy drivel.

  2. A second, excellent comment from the original thread at BAR:

    A Gentle Criticism of Religion
    Dosamuno – 05/09/2012 – 23:17

    Evolution has proven that the Abrahamic religions are pure bullshit. Ovid’s Metamorphosis makes more sense than the bible; and it’s much more entertaining. I like Athena better than the Virgin Bitch.

    Evolution is solid. As Dawkins shows in The Ancestor’s Tale, it is proven by the fossil record, DNA, and triangulation. So there was no Eden, no Adam, no Eve, no Fall, no original sin. No reason for God to spawn a bastard son, and for that bastard son to die for anyone’s sins. Sins don’t exist. God doesn’t exist.

    The whole concept of sin is lame as is the concept of a soul. The soul is the mind. And the mind is what the brain does, as Stephen Pinker observes.

    Black Churches, White Churches, Synogogues, Mosques are all sewers which contaminate the world with ignorance–with fairy tales from the Bronze Age; from a time when people knew nothing of microbes, cells, atoms, or molecules; from a time when people believed that everything was composed of the 4 elements–air, water, earth, and fire. From a time when people believed a flat earth was the center of the universe.

    Fuck all churches. Fuck religion. Fuck God, his son, his prophet, and his ignorant disciples.

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