Tamaki’s Ps91 Policy won’t prevent Covid: How Prosperity Gospel is driving vaccine hesitancy / A.J. Hendry

In the early days of the pandemic Brian Tamaki told his followers that they if were faithful, if they were “a blood-bought born-again, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Holy Ghost-filled, tithe-paying believer,” that they would be protected from the plague of the Covid19 pandemic.

He called it the Psalm-91 Protection Policy.

Psalm 91 is an ancient Psalm (which is sort of like a poem or song) in which the writer is expressing his love for his God and his belief that God will protect him. It fits very well into the context of the day it was written, and also the world view and understanding that ancient people had about the world and about the gods they served.

But, essentially it’s a piece of art.

What has happened in this context however, is that this psalm, this poem, has been interpreted as not just a promise from bygone days, but a Divine decree that has eternal power and significance.

Now, before we go further, I know it’s probably easy to just write Brian off as someone after a quick buck, using fear in order to exploit a worldwide pandemic for his own gain.

But again I will say, I am certain he genuinely believes this stuff.

This whole idea, the Psalm-91 Protection Policy, the idea that if you have faith, if you hold firm on your church communities interpretation of the scriptures, if you believe, and put your trust in God, than God will bless you, protect you, keep you safe, it all comes from this thing, this theology we call the Prosperity Gospel.

I’ve spoken more about this here but it’s basically the idea that God wants all his followers to be rich, happy and healthy. Often, within this theology, these blessing’s can only be unlocked through having faith, planting seeds (giving tithes and offerings to the church), and being obedient to those God has put in authority over you (often the Man of God who leads your church – again, I’ve written about this further here).

Now this sort of theology is not just limited to Brian Tamaki and Destiny church, it’s fairly common within these large Pentecostal mega-churches, and it is also a staple within the teaching of Peter Mortlock and City Impact Church. And when you just look at it, it’s easy to see this whole thing, the prosperity gospel, the psalm 91 protection policy, Brian’s claims of supernatural protection, as a manipulative and dangerous ruse, however it is important – I think – to recognize that those who hold this belief, and teach this theology, such as Brian Tamaki and yes, also Peter Mortlock, actually believe that this stuff works.

And that is the danger. These men believe, and teach, that if you tithe, if you give above and beyond, if you serve at their church, or wash their cars, that you will be blessed, both spiritually, financially and physically. That God will protect you. And for those who claim the psalm 91 protection policy, that you will be safe from Covid19.

But, is this really what God is like?

Is the Divine really the sort of being that grants blessings to those who are faithful, while ignoring the pleas and the plight of those who aren’t? What does that even say about the sort of being God is?

And what happens when a person is faithful, when they tithe, when they serve at their church, when they obey the teachings of their Man of God, read their scriptures, pray every day, and they still get sick, they still suffer, they still struggle financially? What then?

Is their faith not strong enough? Do they just need to believe more? Give more?

It’s a vicious cycle. And for those that never see the blessings promised, it can be both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually destructive.

I know people who though expierencing poverty themselves, have taken out loans to give to the church, because they were taught, and believed, that was their pathway to wealth.

I know others that believed that if they just had enough faith, gave enough of themselves, that God would heal them, heal their friends, and yet even the faithful get sick, even the most devout still die.

And yet, here we are, in the midst of a global pandemic, and we have a faith leader, teaching his people that if only they have faith, if only they believe, they will be protected from Covid19.

This form of theology is not just dangerous, it is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus never promised us absolute protection from sickness or disease, he never promised us wealth or prosperity. In fact those who follow the Way of Love are warned that on this path you must be willing to lose your life, if you are ever to have a hope of finding it.

Jesus’ followers were beaten, tortured, killed, exiled, some lived in poverty, many pushed to the margins of their society. They believed the Gospel, they had faith that the Divine’s Dream was coming on earth as it was already in Heaven, but this did not protect them from how messed up this world is.

In some cases following the Way of Love meant persecution, it meant being willing to be in solidarity with the poor, to sell what you have, because what you have has come from exploiting your neighbor. In fact, our tupuna, the ones who wrote our scriptures, and who first proclaimed the Good News which Tamaki and Peter claim to preach, did not live lives of health and prosperity. Tradition says that matua Peter was crucified, matua John was exiled, and matua Paul was a homeless wanderer, moving from place to place, constantly beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and abused, and eventually executed; the cost of the message he proclaimed.

These men did not experience the blessing that City Impact and Destiny preach.

They may have trusted in the Lord, but they were not saved from the messed up, and broken, reality of this life. Unable to name or claim their way out of the hardships of this world.

We need to be clear.

When lifted up against the light of the Gospel that Jesus preached, the Psalm 91 Protection Policy, and the Prosperity Gospel it comes out of, is a heresy.

This message of prosperity that Brian and Peter preach is in direct violation of our most fundamental command. That of Love for our neighbor.

 For when you tell someone in poverty that if you only give more, that you will be freed, you place a burden on their shoulder’s that is not theirs to carry. And when you tell someone who is sick, that if only they have faith, if only they believe, if only they name and claim their healing, and they do, yet their sickness still persists, you cause not just mental and emotional harm, but spiritual trauma as well.

And when you tell people, in the midst of a pandemic, that God will protect them from a deadly disease if only they have faith, and then those people choose not to follow the advice, and access the technology that could keep them safe, than you are responsible – in part – for the suffering and death that may result.

When examining any theology, movement, or organization, we have to ask ourselves, who benefits?

Who benefits from the message that these men preach?

Is it the poor, the vulnerable, the weak, and the those who may die if the Freedom they advocate for is achieved?

Or is it themselves? Their status within their church communities? Their personal wealth, and the wealth of their church communities?

Now, I wish to be clear here. These men, and the movements they lead are not all one thing. There is good in their movements, there are people who have had their lives changed, and I sincerely believe that on a level they think that what their preaching is for the good of others.

But, another truth can also exist alongside that. That the message they preach is dangerous. That it causes harm to the poor and the vulnerable. That it allows the rich to continue exploiting the poor, ignoring the sinfulness and destruction of capitalism, by both embracing it, and obscuring it’s effect on the inequality and injustice that plagues this world.

Love is the Way.

And though we must acknowledge the humanity of both Brian and Peter, they are human beings, and should not be dehumanized, for those who are being harmed, who have been made vulnerable to this disease as a result of the message they preach, we must also name the inherent ungodliness that exist within it.

Jesus has called his followers to forsake wealth, power, and personal freedom and liberty for the sake of those who suffer. We are called to be a people who are willing to sacrifice our own lives, in order to honor and protect the lives of the vulnerable.

The Psalm 91 Protection Policy may not protect the vulnerable from Covid19, but God still can. Through you. Through me. Through us, as we make the choice to lay down our own fears, our own desires, our own freedoms, and instead, vaccinate, lockdown, and mask-up, in Love for those God has called us to serve.

The question though is still yet to be answered.

And it’s simple really.

Will you allow yourself to be used by God?

A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also a an advocate working collectively to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.

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