John Blake reports for CNN:
Each Christmas, Christians tell stories about the poor baby Jesus born in a lowly manger because there was no room in the inn.
But the Rev. C. Thomas Anderson, senior pastor of the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona, preaches a version of the Christmas story that says baby Jesus wasn’t so poor after all.
Anderson says Jesus couldn’t have been poor because he received lucrative gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh — at birth. Jesus had to be wealthy because the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for his expensive undergarments. Even Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, lived and traveled in style, he says.
“Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey,” says Anderson. “Poor people ate their donkey. Only the wealthy used it as transportation.”
Many Christians see Jesus as the poor, itinerant preacher who had “no place to lay his head.” But as Christians gather around the globe this year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, another group of Christians are insisting that Jesus’ beginnings weren’t so humble.
They say that Jesus was never poor — and neither should his followers be. Their claim is embedded in the doctrine known as the prosperity gospel, which holds that God rewards the faithful with financial prosperity and spiritual gifts.
A clash of gospels?
The prosperity gospel has attracted plenty of critics. But popular televangelists such as the late Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin and, today, Creflo Dollar have built megachurches and a global audience by equating piety with prosperity.
The prosperity gospel, however, clashes with the traditional depictions of Jesus as poor. That’s because the traditional image of Jesus as destitute is wrong, says the Rev. Tom Brown, senior pastor of the Word of Life Church in El Paso, Texas…
[continues at CNN]