Ken Connor
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"Prosperity theology is a false theology. . . . TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades." R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

It's a drama fit for reality television: Larger than life characters, familial infighting, private jets, mansions, pink poodles, and of course contentious litigation. Sadly, it's not the Real Housewives of Orange County or the Shahs of Sunset at the center of this drama, but the first family of Trinity Broadcasting Network. Brittany Koper, granddaughter of TBN founders Paul and Janice Crouch, alleges that her grandparents are scamming the public with their prosperity gospel message and using the contributions of their viewers to sustain a lavish lifestyle that would make a hip hop mogul blush. Mama and Papa Crouch counter that granddaughter Brittany is merely attempting to distract attention from her own wrongdoing. They've accused her of misappropriating ministry funds while she served as finance director for the organization.

While the truth of the various allegations is yet to be determined, one thing that's indisputable is that the Crouches opulent living makes the extravagancies of our congressmen and women look like child's play. As advocates of the "prosperity gospel" the Couches teach that the more you give to God, the more you get. And of course, since they are self-proclaimed agents of God's kingdom they would suggest that the best way to "give to God" is to give to them. According to a recent article in the New York Times this message is working quite out nicely for the pair, whose TBN brought in $93 million in donations in 2010.

A key question that the Times article doesn't address is whether the so-called prosperity gospel (which is closely bound up with the gospel of "health and wealth" trumpeted by so many televangelists) bears any resemblance to the Gospel taught by Jesus Chris as recorded in the New Testament. Jesus' Gospel teaches that there is good news for sinners living under the weight of condemnation for their sins. Through Jesus' life of obedience to the Father and His sacrificial death on a Roman cross, the gap that exists between sinful man and the one holy God is bridged, and reconciliation is possible. Faith in Christ and in his "finished" work is all that is required for eternal life. And, lest we deceive ourselves, even that saving faith is a divine gift; it is not something we conjure up for ourselves.

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Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.