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Greed Is Christian Duty, Says Gilded Age Gospel: Lewis Lapham

Religion in American Politics
The cover jacket of "Religion in American Politics: A Short History." The book is the latest by Frank Lambert. Source: Princeton University Press via Bloomberg

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Entering the Kingdom of God, as Jesus noted, has usually been tough for the rich. During America’s Gilded Age, however, some ministers saw the capitalist light and started preaching the gospel of wealth. Adoring money is not a sin but a virtue, and the more you accumulate, the better you are.

“Love is the grandest thing on God’s earth, but fortunate the lover who has plenty of money. Money is power,” pointed out Philadelphia Baptist minister Russell Conwell and first president of Temple University. His upbeat sermon, “Acres of Diamonds,” delivered more than 5,000 times between 1900 and 1925, explained that it’s every Christian’s duty to get rich.

Some American churches still prosper by preaching the gospel of Mammon. I spoke with Frank Lambert, author of “Religion in American Politics,” on the following topics:

1. American Pluralism

2. The Gospel of Wealth

3. Religion vs. Science

4. The Power of the Religious Right

5. Free Market of Religions

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s Magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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