Politicians and the Prosperity Gospel

I’m thinking of televangelists and pitchmen, even though my television is seldom powered on.

Some years ago, in Nashville, I tuned in and couldn’t believe what I was seeing—Jan and Paul Crouch, founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The duo hosted a show, “Praise the Lord,” preaching “prosperity gospel,” the religious belief that those who are favored by God will be blessed with material wealth and good health. Of course, viewers didn’t get something for nothing; they were encouraged to not just spread the word but, also, to send a donation to the Crouches’ ministry. Paul once requested $1,000 from each adherent, even those who couldn’t afford it. He assured them, during a “Praise-a-thon,” that the Lord would repay the amount “many times over.”

The Crouches lived lavishly, then, and still do. Jan cried rivers, on air. One almost expected her tears to run gold. Or at least to reflect the garish décor of the set. At some point, the couple took TBN global.

Jan and Paul were, and may continue to be, religious pitchmen, like the guys on television who demonstrate something—spot remover or a tool you can’t live without—after which they yell, “But wait … there’s more.” The “more” is for those who call within a certain period of time, like 15 minutes, to receive, perhaps, two of the items and some extras for additional shipping and handling.

On September 30, 2010 when I received a mass email (did you read yours?) from Vice President Joe Biden, I was reminded of the Crouches and of the late Billy Mays, who hawked, among other products, OxiClean. This is an excerpt from the VP’s message:

I’m still confident that we’ll maintain our House Majorityas long as we pull together in the final days. The political strategists at the DCCC have prepared a smart and aggressive campaign plan based on a highly targeted media strategy and a state-of-the-art voter contact strategy. Now, they need your help to fully fund it.

This sounds so Jan and Paul. I can almost hear the crying. “As long as we (we, wee, weep) pull together in the final (weep) days.”

And, then, a “But wait, there’s more.” Not really. I just added that because, well, it is so pitch perfect. And so is this:

Contribute before Midnight Tonight and help the DCCC raise the final $62,981 they need to fully fund their media campaign and voter contact plan. Every dollar you contribute will be matched 2 – to – 1 by a group of committed Democrats, tripling the impact of your support.

Pleas from politicians should be called “prosperity gospel.” After all, we’re told by each of the mainstream parties that only one of them can deliver us from the evil of the other, so that we can be “saved.”

Send money to the Democrats or the Republicans will push an “extreme” agenda on Americans.

Send money to the Republicans or the Democrats will “socialize” EVERYTHING.

The truth is enough to make us turn on our television sets and watch Bristol “The Pistol” shake her booty on “Dancing With the Stars.” And that’s exactly what so many Americans are doing.

Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and poor widens. The number of people on Medicaid continues to climb. The jobless rate is still 9.6 percent. One in ten families is receiving government aid. And more than one in five children—15.5 million—live in poverty.

Thinking of sending a check to the Democratic or Republican Party? Even if you can’t afford it? Because, maybe, just maybe, you believe that one of these loathsome alliances will reward you “many times over.” Remember, both parties represent Big Money. Not you.

But wait, there’s more. This just in (really) from Rep. Ron Klein:

Enter for a chance to win a trip to Miami (airfare and hotel included). You and your guest will be my guests at a dinner with President Obama on October 11th.

Klein says he’s counting on me. He shouldn’t.

MISSY BEATTIE lives in Baltimore, Maryland, but she’s considering other locations. Reach her at missybeat@gmail.com.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com