Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Slams Prosperity Gospel and Creflo Dollar; Says Spiritual Leaders Are 'Flying the Heavens Like Self-Anointed Angels'

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks as Clyde Drexler looks during the 2014 NBA All-Game Legends Brunch at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 16, 2014. | (Photo: Bob Donnan/USA Today)

Using Creflo Dollar's $65 million Gulfstream jet as one example of exploiting the poor, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slammed prosperity gospel advocates, comparing them to indulgence peddlers made famous during the Church's Reformation era.

"Like the professional pardoners of the Middle Ages who pedaled indulgences to the highest bidders, they pervert teachings for profit. These are the people that the word shame was invented to describe," Abdul-Jabbar asserted.

His comments are disseminated in his Time magazine op-ed published last week titled, "Prosperity Gospel is War on the Poor."

Abdul-Jabbar, a Muslim convert, inferred that Dollar and like-minded religious leaders are "flying the heavens like self-anointed angels." He accused pastors such as Dollar of perverting "Christ's teaching to fill their silk-lined pockets."

The Christian Post reported earlier this month that Dollar will get his $70 million Gulfstream jet, having been approved by the church's board, backtracking on its decision once public outrage over the high-priced expenditure dissipated.

Abdul-Jabbar broadened his criticism to lotteries for preying on the poor and a "fame-mongering, social-media-driven-culture." He decried the vanishing American dream while declared those expounding materialism are teaching the opposite of Jesus.

Quoting Matthew 5:40, from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Abdul-Jabbar said: "Tend to what is permanent (the soul) over what is temporary (material goods).

"To expect an earthly reward other than purity of mind would be against these teachings," he continued. "Yet, those pimping the prosperity gospel are preaching the opposite."

He went on to compare prosperity gospel advocates to "snake-oil salesmen," adding, "their product has a greasy stench to it that cures nothing but a salesmen's own greed."

The former NBA star and former Roman Catholic noted that there are different strains of prosperity gospel in the Church and defined the teaching in general terms as a belief that, "The more money you give to a church, the more God will financially reward you.

"According to the purveyors of prosperity gospel," he noted, "your friends and neighbors will know how righteous you are by the size of your bank account and the make of your car."

In his column, he also criticizes spiritual leaders for preying on the hopes and ambitions of the poor.

"Without faith in the government to help lift the poor out of poverty or prevent the middle class from slipping away, desperate and frightened people seek help in the supernatural of religion or in the supernatural odds of the lottery (odds of winning a single ticket are 1 in 175 million)," he said, adding, "it's hard not to be sympathetic."

The former NBA star further noted that he's "in awe of most religious leaders because they dedicate their lives to helping others achieve spiritual fulfillment." But he lashed out at leaders within the prosperity gospel movement, arguing that they are "pretending to be spiritual leaders" but are instead motivated by "greed."

Abdul-Jabbar said that evangelicals, along with the poor, less educated, and African-Americans, are more susceptible to prosperity gospel teachings.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has offered similar views about perversion of the gospel by prosperity theology.

"The prosperity gospel isn't just another brand of evangelicalism," declared Moore. "It isn't "evangelical" at all because it's rooted in a different gospel from the one preached and embodied by Jesus Christ.

We shouldn't be that hard on the secular world for failing to see the difference between the prosperity gospel and the Gospel," he added, "but we should certainly expect the church to know the difference, and to say so."

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