Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Donald and Prosperity Theology

Many are completely unable to believe the popularity of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.  He says absolutely ludicrous things and takes positions that logical, reasonable people recognize are insane.  The Creator of Dilbert cartoons, Scott Adams, has argued persuasively  on his blog that the Donald is simply playing the public, the media, and his opponents like a fiddle.  He gives the example of Trump's call for a wall bordering Mexico and his insistence that he'll deport all Hispanics.  Scott argues Trump knows full well he won't deport million's of Hispanics to Mexico, he's simply starting the negotiation high, as any good business person would and prepared to negotiate down.  The powers of persuasion are all the rage in self-helpish kind of business books, we can apparently read all about his tactics in Trump's own book - The Art of the Deal.

Given that this blog is primarily interesting in the "who's pulling your strings" question, this idea of persuasion is one I'm sure I'll come back to at some point.  But, here's the actual piece of the Donald phenomenon that has me squirming at the moment.  I think there is some chance he'll win the presidency because quite a few people, primarily Christians, whether they acknowledge it or not believe in Prosperity Theology - according to wikipedia;
 "a religious belief among some Christians that financial blessing is the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations (possibly to Christian ministries) will increase one's material wealth." 
In religious circles, I would argue it's been this way forever.  Oh, that person has wealth, god loves them and they deserve it.  We should all do what they do and believe what they believe.  As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out in her book Bright-sided, many believe positive mental attitude can get you what you want, no matter your religion.  We hear lot's of new-ager's talking about Think and Grow Rich and promoting positive energy and positive vibes.  

And the growth of this is what scares me... the pull yourself up by your bootstraps crowd have always been narcissist and prosperity theorist, who created their own myths that hard work and blessings from the supernatural alone led to their success.  Now though we appear to have others floating around similar notions. And it's not far from there to believe that if you've got a billion, well, then you've been thinking really well, god loves you and blessed you, and we should do what you say.

Scott Adams may well be right that Trump is simply using his hard earned, and well practiced, powers of persuasion on the public.  But, perhaps it's not to much to wish for that the idiocy that is The Donald could lead to a real conversation, where the public faces the reality that the rich are most often nothing more than lucky.