My only problem with the idea of a social gospel, a prosperity gospel or even an imperial gospel is simply this: they aren’t in the Gospel.
I wanted to just end the article there, but for those brave souls who doubt me, or who think it’s gotta be more nuanced than that (the classic Large groups of people just can’t be that stupid objection)…
My main thesis, the inescapable result of reading the gospels contained in the Christendom canon (not to mention some newly discovered ones), is that the Gospel or “positive message” (euangelion/εὐαγγέλιον in Greek) is at every turn esoteric, mystical and spiritual. Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Jesus’s main message is very direct, personal, and transcendental. Hence I think the main problem all these assorted “Christian scenes” have in common is that they debase the teachings of Jesus, turning something heavenly to something grounded in the flesh, fear, the world and in matter. But note that I don’t just criticize the twentieth-century trends of social and prosperity gospel (which are acquiescences to wider movements rather than being rooted in the Bible, much less the gospels); I put the imperial gospel of Constantine in this same category. The Roman Catholic West has taken Constantine’s essentially heresies of Churchianity even further by discussing incarnation and transsubstantiation (or what I like to call “the downward things”) far more than resurrection and ascension (“the mysterious things”). These examples of just bad theology are sure signs that organized religion has taken what was spiritual or mystical and hijacked it to political ends. All of these movements are part of wider (often Pagan and even Jewish) movements, and quite often a new false gospel will come along as a reaction to the inherent problems of an older false gospel. So for example, empire creates inequity, so shallow thinkers might advance socialist ideas by dressing them up as a valid (if aneurism-inducingly shallow) interpretation of the Gospel. But then socialism creates economic stagnation, so shallow thinkers might advance materialist ideas with a Gospel veneer for their simple-minded congregations. And on and on and on it goes.
Now I want to speak to the root objection that I refer to above, namely the anti-misanthropic objection (that is never rooted in experience but in brainwash and vanity, you know who you are). Are people morons? No, but society is. This sounds harsh, but you take a good hard look at the species homo sapiens. Individually, they have had the most wonderful ideas. But in committee all their genius/juno fails them. Individually, we’re fairly decent, but like dogs in a pack we commit Klan-like atrocities. As the suffragette refrain goes, “Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.” And this holds true for women as well. That is, to the extent that people form what may be called groups and not mere hierarchies.