In his NY Times op-ed urging people to have a more sophisticated view of religion, Reza Aslan starts talking about varied perspectives in a religion with these examples of Christianity:
What a member of a suburban megachurch in Texas calls Christianity may be radically different from what an impoverished coffee picker in the hills of Guatemala calls Christianity.I think many Christians who have traveled or otherwise engaged different cultures have seen their faith transcend cultural and socioeconomic barriers. (There are such barriers to be transcended even within a "suburban megachurch.") Given though the centrality of Reza places on "social justice" and a hyper-Marxist "chilling new reality," Guatemala seems like this is a veiled reference to the "liberation theology" advocated or supported by many Jesuits in Latin America.
I was introduced to the historical Jesus at Santa Clara University [in California] by a group of brilliant, academically trained Jesuits. The Jesuits see Jesus through the lens of his preferential option for the poor. Now I also tend to believe that there is really no way to read the Gospels either as a person of faith or as a historian without recognizing Jesus’ preferential option for the poor. But some people — for example, [megachurch pastors] Joel Olsteen and T.D. Jakes, and frankly a great many Republicans in the U.S. Congress — would disagree because they are using the Gospel in an attempt to do away with food stamps and welfare, which blows my mind.*
First of all, as far as I know neither Joel Osteen nor most conservatives I've talked to are attempting to do away with food stamps and welfare. A more fair generalization would be that conservatives question the explosion of food stamp use in the last 8 years and its efficacy in fighting poverty, and progressives are opposed to it being questioned, content to dismiss it as an unavoidable consequence of the recession. There is a growing movement to draw deep principles of balancing accountability and liberty in a Christian context, but that is largely orthogonal to the "prosperity gospel," something that cannot be understood in isolation from the "healing gospel."
"The argument of the prosperity gospel, if I can put it flippantly, is that Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. That is basically what the argument is.*
Aside from how lucrative the gospel of redistribution has been for this apostle of neo-Marxism, this is pure caricature. It should be beneath a "scholar of religion" though it is par for the course with a political pundit.