This month, I've been reading biblical scholar Reza Aslan's fascinating "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth", and highly recommend it. One of the things that really got my attention was how he described the political uproar of Jesus' time, and the deep wish for a political savior. Sounded a lot like the Tea Party!
Aslan said his favorite representation of Jesus was from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, and then pivoted to the issue of the prosperity gospel.
“The fastest growing Protestant movement in North America is this movement that is referred to as the prosperity gospel,” he said. “This is the gospel preached by people like Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes — and when I say people, I mean charlatans. The argument of the prosperity gospel, if I can put it flippantly, is that Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. That is basically what the argument is. That what Jesus wants for you is material prosperity, and that if you literally give, you will literally be given tenfold. That’s not a metaphor, as it is in most churches. It is literal. You give me $10 and Jesus will give you $100.”
“This is as profoundly an unscriptural interpretation of Jesus that exists,” Aslan remarked. “I mean, if there is one thing that is just so clear cut and just not open to interpretation at all of any kind when it comes to Jesus’s message, it is his condemnation of wealth.”
“And yet, not only does this version of Christianity exist, as I say, it is honestly the fastest growing version of Protestant evangelical Christianity in North America. That’s because Jesus can be whatever you want him to be, and the Christian message can be whatever you want it to be.”
Earlier in his speech, Aslan said that Jesus advocated an “absolute reversal of the social order, in which those on the top and those on the bottom will switch places,” citing Luke 6:20-26.