The cable network known for such programming fare as Love Games: Bad Girls Need Love Too, My Big Fat Revenge, Girls Behaving Badly and Too Young to Marry? premiered a new “reality” show last Wednesday that has some Christians upset at how it presents their faith.
Okay, so The Oxygen Network, created in 1998 and co-founded by Oprah Winfrey — though now owned by NBCUniversal — isn’t exactly PBS, or even HBO. There is not much on the channel likely to inspire the devoted following and highbrow analysis of, say, The Wire, Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey. But the latest Oxygen series, Preachers of L.A., seems to tell viewers that the real aim of Christianity is to make as much money as possible — and then flaunt it like a hip-hop star.
The series follows the daily antics of six Los Angeles-based Christian ministers who practice the “Prosperity Gospel,” the idea that getting rich is a holy act. The best known current advocate of the Prosperity gospel is televangelist Joel Osteen. But the preachers on the Oxygen show take the doctrine that you can, in fact, serve both God and mammon to a new extreme.
“P. Diddy, Jay Z. They’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in nice houses,” said Ron GIbson, one of the preachers featured in the show.
In case the unthinkable happened and you missed the show's premiere last week, we've got you covered. View the episode in full below.
The show features the six preachers, five of whom are African-American, riding around in expensive cars, hanging out in their Beverly Hills mansions, flashing gaudy jewelry and perhaps most important for the show’s “reality” format, fighting with their wives.
Those of them that have wives, that is. Two of the preachers are divorced and one admits getting another woman pregnant while he was still married.
"I knew it was going to look scandalous because here I have a young lady pregnant, out of wedlock, when my divorce is not final," says Deitrick Haddon, who is also a Grammy-nominated gospel singer.”I absolutely did fall from grace."
The super-rich men of the cloth who let Oxygen’s cameras into their lives are Haddon, Bishop Ron Gibson, Pastor Jay Haizlip, Bishop Clarence McClendon, Pastor Wayne Chaney and Bishop Noel Jones.
Their wives and girlfriends also take a prominent role in the drama.
The “Prosperity Gospel” has long been the object of criticism from Christians who say that focusing on material wealth obscures the true purpose of the religion, which as one theologian said is “to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.”
The Washington Post recently included the Prosperity Gospel in its series titled, “The Worst Ideas of the Decade.”
Those critics would likely include Jesus himself, who once said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
SOURCES: CNN, Newark Star-Ledger, Marketplace, Washington Post (2), Bible Hub, Wikipedia