Apostle of Prosperity

The Interreligious Theological Center, a consortium of six predominantly black seminaries in Georgia, has chosen a controversial commencement speaker according to John Blake’s story in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

Bishop Eddie Long “preaches what is known as prosperity gospel, that God rewards the faithful with financial success. He declared in a 2005 interview that Jesus wasn’t poor. In 2003 Long told a meeting of civil rights veterans in Atlanta that blacks must “forget racism” because they had already reached the promised land,” Blake writes.

“In 2004 Long led a march — while carrying a torch lit at King’s crypt — where he called for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.”

His invitation has caused theologian James Cone, who was to receive an honorary degree, to boycott the ceremony.

“Cone is a King scholar whose influential books argue that Jesus identified with the poor and the oppressed, not the prosperous,” Blake writes. “A professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he is considered the intellectual mentor for a generation of black pastors who came of age in the post-civil rights era.

He won’t attend the commencement, he said, because he doesn’t want to appear to condone Long’s ministry.

“King devoted his life to the least of these,” Cone said. “King could have been just like Bishop Long with all the millions he has, but he chose to die poor. He would not use his own message or his own movement to promote himself.”

In a written statement, Long said he was a “firm supporter” of the seminary’s mission and was honored by the invitation.

“Free speech, spirited debate and dialogue are the hallmarks of all great institutions of higher learning,” Long said in the statement.

Leaving aside the political issues that undergird this dust-up, let me ask if anybody out there, liberal or conservative, thinks the “prosperity gospel” has an ounce of legitimacy.

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