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Scholars urge churches to counter "prosperity gospel"

Monday December 7 2015

A pastor holding a bible. Two University of

A pastor holding a bible. Two University of Nairobi scholars have challenged mainstream churches to prepare sermons that counter "prosperity gospel". FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JAMES KARIUKI
By JAMES KARIUKI
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Two University of Nairobi (UoN) scholars have challenged mainstream churches to prepare sermons that counter “falsehoods peddled by prosperity preachers” to fleece Kenyans.

The lecturers conducted a research and published a paper titled, “Blessed Are the Rich and Prosperous For Theirs Is the Kingdom of the World: The Kenyan Challenge.

The UoN’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies Senior Lecturer Dr Constantine Mwikamba and Associate Professor Stephen Akaranga aver that the prosperity gospel revolution “must be countered to reduce exploitation of Kenyans by its proponents”.

“Prosperity gospel preachers arouse the follower’s faith, through their messages, music and dance which often hypnotizes them.

“The typical spiritual aspects of the prosperity gospel are not significant to the followers as there is least emphasis on the biblical teaching of suffering and instead, emphasis is laid on health and wealth acquisition,” the lectures said in the article.

REVOLUTION

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The 142-page article adds that success of the prosperity gospel cannot be wished away and any effort to counter it will be met with resistance from the followers who attend churches “where preachers have repackaged their sermons to be relevant and fitting to the poor”.

“Of course there is an element of exploitation, in these institutions but it is not robbery by violence. But, the Christian fraternity needs to create theories and methodologies to counter the powerful prosperity gospel revolution,” they observed.

The lectures investigated the rapid growth of the prosperity church in Africa and Kenya in particular, the role of the prosperity gospel clergy in their churches, its impact on the faithful and on the growth of Christianity.

The lectures observed that the preachers have taken to television screens with a bang where they appear “highly decorated and flamboyant, boisterous in their style and demeanour, fond of expensive, imported clothes and gadgets, coiffure (hairdo) and meticulous in their approach.

“They adore self-styled titles, real and imagined before their names. They live in palatial homes, drive high class and top of the art vehicles, are very successful and arouse hopefulness to their adherents.

“There is hardly any prosperity church that is without a formidable presence on television where leading bishops (televangelists) compete for space and membership in the open arena for airwave subscription,” the lectures said.

In their research, the lectures distributed questionnaires to 200 faithful of various “modern” churches in Nairobi and Mombasa. They requested them to comment on how they benefit by attending the churches.

The results showed 67.5 per cent respondents said they had a better self-concept, their marital status and family life had improved since they started attending the 'modern’ churches.

HEALTH

Good health and spirituality scored averagely but most of them complained of lack of wealth accumulation and healing.

Most of the respondents said they were attracted to the churches due to the huge and beautiful edifices costing millions of shillings.

The lecturers observed that in their research, they discovered that most of the churches had opened schools and transport businesses.

“Some have even ventured into mainstream businesses, like operating bookshops where they sell both religious and secular literature. There are a few that have joined the lucrative matatu business," the paper stated.