My worries are that the cultural premise of so much of this [prosperity] debate is that material wealth is the core goal of human society.... [This] is a surrender to the world which Christianity, if it still existed with any cultural force, should do all it can to resist – because it does not, in the end, make people happy or good.
A thousand Amens. A pious belief in material prosperity's transdecendent value is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the human soul, and its proponents range from contemporary conservatives to semi-orthodox socialists (there a few of us left) to, most puzzlingly, Christians, who foresee eternally insubstantial bliss but acquire like there's no tomorrow. (The only god I could believe in would be the one who comforts the agnostically dispossessed and pities, if not disdains, the piously acquisitive.)
Moving somewhat away from theology, though, politically it's a wonder that conservatives, who have always purported a righteous superiority over grubbily material socialists, are in reality today's most formidable materialists. They pay all the necessary lip service to what we might call higher values, but their political platform is indistinguishable from the Almighty Dollar. What you need is a tax cut, so you can buy, buy, buy.
Me? As a socialist I may be a rather peculiar one. I do hold to socialism's redistributionist fundamentals, but only the real fundamentals--i.e., life's material essentials. Life's true joys, though--and this I have attempted to impress on my young daughter with no doubt excessive lecturing force--come in reading, in learning, in discovering, in exploring ideas, all that which is the least materialistic.
My daughter rolls her eyes, of course, for she is, understandably, a captive of our conservative, Christianist, materialist culture. I can only hope that some of what I say sticks--for her future joy, not mine.