Prosperity Gospel-Preachers and Hip Hop Artists: Is There a Common Impact on Urban Communities?

By: Antipas Harris
Thursday, April 8th, 2010

As a musician and theologian, lover of all styles of music and proponent of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have been thinking a lot about the impact of music and sermons on urban communities. There seems to be an ideological comparison between the popularized message of “Kingdom Success” by materialistic (or prosperity) measures that many of today’s top-ranking celebrity preachers teach and the message of materialism (or prosperity) advanced by most of today’s top-ranking Hip Hop artists (i.e., Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, P-Diddy, Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne). There is no wonder that urban communities are falling apart! The rappers and the preachers are not helping like they should. Albeit a provocative comment, rappers will admit that they are about the “cake,” or “that green stuff.” However, many of the preachers would deny that their message is of similar ideological categories as the Hip Hop artists.

Yet, I argue that a message about “Kingdom Success” that is in any way associated with glitz, glamor, and lavish living is a subscription to an erroneous Christianized version of the same message of materialism perpetuated among Hip Hop artists. Pastors that subscribe to a highly materialistic (or the prosperity) gospel are often blinded by the money-oriented lens through which they see the world. They sanctify that lens as they tend to theologize their conclusions through strange scriptural proof-texting. An increased number of contemporary pastors seem to judge their message differently than the Hip Hop artists based on the medium through which the message is presented rather than the message itself. Using the Bible and preaching materialism rather than rapping it with profanity does not make the message better. In fact, it convolutes the message that Jesus intends. Careful analysis of the messages of both rap songs about money and sermons about prosperity seem to render similar conclusions that success is defined by lavish living and material assets—both venues that promote this practical conclusion promote unhealthy individualism and erroneous measures for holistic success by a barometer of materialistic measures. One wonders if the message of materialism highly propagated through the aforementioned mediums have assisted in people’s poor financial choices.

It should be appalling that the gospel of prosperity emphasizes material gain over holistic transformation and promotes self-interests that trumps community building. The Bible is full of passages and teachings that emphasize the need for holistic transformation rather than material prosperity as litmus test for “right standing with God” or “Kingdom Success.” Also, the Bible promotes a Christianity of community and community building with several metaphors, images and concepts that promote community rather than self-interest (i.e. “the Body of Christ,” “the Household of God,” and “they had all things in common,” “the Church”). When are we going to get back to an authentic Biblical understanding of Church? Of will we ever? If so, what would it look like? How would it change our communities?

Tags: , , , ,

Antipas Harris
This entry was posted by on Thursday, April 8th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Church Ministry, Faith & Culture, Holistic Formation, Renewal Studies, Theology, Urban Renewal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “Prosperity Gospel-Preachers and Hip Hop Artists: Is There a Common Impact on Urban Communities?”

  1. One of the major challenges I have with the Prosperity movment is that lack of emphasis on stewardship. Because of this lack many have bought into the lie that giving is a means to prosperity. If church in the Western world is going to regain its credibility and begin to influence culture the way God intented for her to we must discredit this lie. In my studies of the Bible (nearly 10 years and 2 degrees) I have yet to find a passage that teaches that giving is a means prosperity. Those who claim that giving is means to prosperity are forced to adandon the universally accepted rules of hermeneutics. The New Testament does not address propserity outside the context of stewardship. Thus, the Biblical approach should view giving as an expression of the good stewardship over what God has given to us and not a means to accumulate wealth. Sadly, as the article points out many leaders in the church act like owners, making decisions based on the return of renevue, instead of managers of what they have been given by God.

  2. Blessing C. says:

    I never thought about it that way. Thinking back now I do know how some pastor’s just empahzie on the riches that we can get on earth and that we will get even more when we get to heaven. Where it so be that all out richest be based in heaven and if we do get blessed on earth, we should use that to become a blessing. My question then is this, how do we tred that line bewteen success and materialism?

  3. Marva says:

    This was fantastic! I praise God that my Pastor does not preach like this but I have been subject to those who have preached like this. Once I was blessed supernaturally with a car through a caring family. Now mind you it wasn’t straight off the showroom floor but it was still a huge blessing to me!! I went to church after that and the Pastor preached that if you are driving a “Hoopty” you are an embarassment to Christ. I was crushed. From that point on I went and maxed my credit cards so I could atleast dress in a way that wouldn’t bring embarassment to Christ and a rebuke to me. God in His goodness showed me a more excellent way…He showed me in His Word the truth that contentment with godliness is GREAT gain. We need to
    to preach Jesus and the Kingdom and teach people to say to the LORD anyway You bless me I’ll be satisfied.

    • In Christ says:

      It is interesting to note that Jesus, who owns everything came into Jerusalem on a donkey and a colt. He did not come into Jerusalem on an Arabian horse or in a golden chariot. However, some of the so called “modern day churches” would rewrite that if they had the opportunity because “they can’t allow their Jesus to “roll” like that. Unfortunately, the Church who is supposed to be the standard and influencing the world has relegated itself to being conformed to the world. We wholeheartedly accept the “American Dream” as the standard for being a Christian. The church also comes to the conclusion that the message is not the problem it is the delivery.

      They come against the delivery of materialism because it involves cursing and fornication, so they change the delivery but they have the same message. Money is not evil, but the love of it is. If we only desire money to consume it on our own lusts, we have forgotten the sacrifice of Christ and the idea that it is better to give than to receive. Money is not for us to get a Hummer & a house, but to be able to help the world.

  4. Towera Nyirenda says:

    Dr. Harris:

    I believe that this problem is not just a western problem, but a world problem. I have been home for 5 months and I cannot begin to express my frustration and disbelief at what is going on in God’s kingdom in the name of prosperity-and the sad thing is this….we let it happen!! We currently have preachers who will not pray for the sick until the sow seed money into their ministry! They will live in luxury while their parishioners suffer-all because God wants them to prosper. Suffice it to say, it is a sad state of affairs. My prayer is that we remain true to who God is and what His message is all about!!

    • Antipas Harris Dr. A says:

      Dr. T, this is very interesting. We must do something about this materialism pandemic in the name of God.

      Dr. A

  5. TAD says:

    Dr. Harris,
    You argue, “Yet, I argue that a message about “Kingdom Success” that is in any way associated with glitz, glamor, and lavish living is a subscription to an erroneous Christianized version of the same message of materialism perpetuated among Hip Hop artists.”
    I must agree. I have heard so many twists and turns on scripture in order to lure money from the people that it is like a circus sometimes. One teleevangist even equated the seed to a chapter and verse in the Bible. How misleading since the orginal writings never even had such divisions. Also, they entrap people by making it conditional. ‘If, then’ How ridiculous. Instead of feeding into the vulnerability of people and seducing them out of monies for unrealized promises of material gain, they should use their influence over that person to freely give what has been given to them. I am of a mindset that people will sew into people freely; and many ‘Christian’ shows have become a den to lodge theives. Your questions: When are we going to get back to an authentic Biblical
    understanding of Church? Of will we ever?–Yes we will– If so, what would it look like? How would it change our communities?–All have not bowed down. However, the churches landscape will become very different. It seems to be shaping itself into the form of this young generation that is worshiping in the beauty of holiness and who dress in jeans and tshirts and use bikes and motorcyles and are willing suffer for the cause of Christ. This is just one aspect of the new landscape.