Right-wing evangelical leaders often make grand displays of piety and sympathy for those in the path of deadly weather events like Hurricane Dorian. But as Rewire.News' Tony Keddie noted in an opinion column, those who preach the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" are in fact bringing further harm to these victims.
"In between advertising her own books and promoting her rock star husband’s albums, Trump’s Prosperity Gospel confidant, Paula White-Cain, took a moment to acknowledge those affected by Hurricane Dorian," wrote Keddie. "White-Cain tweeted a link to the evangelical pastor Greg Laurie’s Fox News article defending 'prayer' as a legitimate response to mass shootings and hurricanes ... This is surprising because Laurie has criticized Prosperity Gospel preachers like White-Cain for glorifying the human will more than the divine will and prayer can often be a point of contention in these debates."
"Whereas Laurie stresses 'the power of the one we are praying to,' White-Cain stresses the power of the one who is praying," wrote Keddie. "This is a subtle theological distinction that enables Prosperity Gospel preachers to insist that believers should bootstrap their way to physical and financial prosperity. Shortly after tweeting out Laurie’s article, White-Cain used a Prosperity Gospel keyword, 'favor': 'I pray open doors that no man can shut, favor, promotion, divine opportunities and connections for you to fulfill the purpose of God in the name of Jesus!'"
The upshot, Keddie wrote, is that evangelists like White-Cain are preaching that God wills people to be self-sufficient and individualistic — and that they, like Republican political ideology generally, oppose government intervention to help the destitute. Another example of this, he wrote, is Joel Osteen, the Houston megachurch pastor who did not open his doors to Hurricane Harvey victims until considerable public backlash.
"Laurie and White-Cain present two prevalent views of free will that are often used to support Republican opposition to what they call 'Big Government,'" wrote Keddie. "Whether believers are supposed to rely more on God or themselves as a hurricane destroys their homes, they are not supposed to rely on the government. Sure, Christian relief organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Convoy of Hope might offer some aid, but their role in disbursing federal funds is also an indictment against government institutions of relief, as Inderpal Grewal observes in Saving the Security State, and they often come with strings attached."
"When we hear conservatives using the language of 'prayers' and 'favor' as a disaster strikes, it’s important to recognize that this pious rhetoric conceals neoliberal politics that impede the work of government institutions of disaster management," concluded Keddie.