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THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL “SEND MONEY NOW”

To say Christianity has had an erratic relationship with money for the past 2,000 years would be like saying kicking a bull Cape buffalo in the groin might end badly for the kicker.

Money followed religion probably the same way that the first hangover followed alcohol — roughly three hours after its discovery.

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Incensed at finding money changers and dove sellers in the temple, Jesus chased them out, saying: “My house shall be a house of prayer but ye have made it a den of thieves,” or so Matthew tells the story.

That didn’t last.

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Once upon a time, piety and poverty were “good” and the pursuit of mammon was “bad” until the prosperity gospel came along and turned everything upside down.

According to this gospel — which, not surprisingly, found its natural home in the US’s booming post-war economy — God wants you to be rich, healthy and happy. To receive these gifts requires a true confession, everlasting faith — oh, and donations to religious causes.

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The doctrine had been around since the 19th century, but it really took off in the great 1950s healing revivals, massive prayer-and-healing campaigns whose star attractions were evangelical preachers Oral Roberts and William Branham.

The two men filled stadiums of people drawn to be forgiven and “healed”. Roberts even held a festival at Wembley stadium in Johannesburg in 1955, an event that attracted 25,000 people and, the Sunday Express noted sourly, clogged the city’s streets with traffic.

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The men – and they were mostly men – driving the prosperity gospel were helped by two things: the US’s rapidly growing middle class and the spread of the greatest opiate of all: television.

The prosperity gospel is all about “investing” money, which will then return to you in abundance. Some call it seed money that you have to sow in order to reap riches.

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Like most televangelists, Todd Coontz of Rockwealth International Ministries is a natty dresser and bursting with natural humility.

“Pastor, evangelist, television host, author, humanitarian, philanthropist, businessman are some words that others use to describe Dr Tom Coontz,” says the About Tom Coontz page on his website.

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Coontz claims God called him as a financial deliverer, according to a recent BBC article. In order for him to deliver, though, you have to invest by buying “seed” for a future harvest.

It’s all nicely spelt out on the website. First you must “sow a seed”, and better yet, in “quality soil”. You must sow “proportionately with expectation” (presumably the more you sow, the more you reap) and sow “with obedience”. Finally, you must also “wait patiently for harvest time”, because waiting is “the proof that you believe in God”.

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If any proof were needed that there is money in religion, look no further than the fleet of luxury cars — including a yellow Lamborgini — reportedly owned by Alleluia Ministries International (AMI) general overseer Alph Lukau. Like Bushiri, Lukau is a televangelist superstar. His church is based in Sandton and has branches across southern Africa. Lukau’s services draw thousands of people, and AMI’s YouTube channel claims 1-million subscribers. The videos — which have titles such as Do Not Worry and What Is It That You Are After — have racked up anything from a couple of thousand to nearly 4-million views.

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