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Unread 11-20-2020, 11:20 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,720
Default Prosperity Theology


Santa’s Helper

Her God is Santa Claus, perhaps. In those
mid-ceiling scenes of Michelangelo’s,
God’s bearded. Old. But fierce, with muscle tone,
suggesting Santa on testosterone.

She claims to be His prophet. If you give her
a large enough donation, she’ll deliver
the benefits of Naughty List protection.
(Your scandals won’t prevent your re-election.)

Her God is Santa Claus. Or close enough.
Stay on His good side, and He’ll give you stuff.
And if you’re poor, you must have pleased Him less
than those (like her) he’s showered with largesse.

She claims to be His prophet. What’s her mission?
To bless/endorse whatever politician
keeps rich folk rich and poor folk struggling still.
She calls such stark inequity His will.

Her God rewards, and punishes. He’ll strike
and strike and strike
the folks her fans don’t like.
By preaching what her funders most like hearing,
she puts the prophet into profiteering.

She claims to speak for Him. But where’s the love,
et cetera
, the Bible tells us of?
Her rants are full of something, but it’s clear it
is not—as she insists—the Holy Spirit.


Prosperity Theology

Her God is Santa Claus. She’s sure it’s so.
His portraiture by Michelangelo
looks more ill-tempered, with more muscle tone,
but that’s just Santa on testosterone.

Her God is Santa Claus, or close enough.
If you’ve been good, He’ll give you lots of stuff;
if you’re in need, that’s proof He loves you less
than those (like her) he’s showered with largesse.

Her God is Santa Claus. That means the good
and bad receive exactly what they should.
His will is inequality. Who’d dare—
except the undeserving—cry “Unfair”?

Her God is Santa Claus. And you’ve been naughty.
Whatever you’ve been doing, you’ve been caught. He
will leave your household destitute. You’re screwed.
But for a fee, she’ll change His attitude.

Her God is Santa Claus. If you can give her
a large enough donation, she’ll deliver
the benefits of Naughty List protection:
you’ll keep your job, and win your lost election.

Her God is Santa Claus. But “Love thy neighbor”
and “Tend the sick,” et al., is foolish labor.
To demonstrate your fitness to receive
His bounty, simply bribe her, and believe.

No need to change your ways: pay her to wheedle.
If fear won’t make you do it, sloth and greed’ll.
Call now! An operator’s standing by.
If your God’s Santa, too, then she’s your guy.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; Yesterday at 01:00 AM.
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Unread 11-20-2020, 11:44 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,966

Julie, I thoroughly get where this is going, and it's a justifiable renewal of an old theme. I could go on in bunches of directions. As to the poem itself, one person it would NOT please is my wife, who despises the usage of "guy" for a woman in your last line. Loathes that usage, and complains about it to clerks, wait persons, etc. fifty percent of the time in situations when it is used , as in "you guys", meaning she and I. Since that boat has sailed for the clerks and wait persons, she doesn't change any minds, but there you are. As it pops up so visibly in your otherwise charming poem, it jars even me, descriptive linguist that I am. Just so's you know about this. It looks rhyme driven. Now, there a thundering herd of buffalo on Eratosphere who will laud your last line; alas, lassy, I canna'.

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Unread 11-21-2020, 06:37 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Bryn Athyn, PA
Posts: 85

Hi Julie,

I love the way this starts, and I like where it’s aiming, but for me it still needs some work to get there. The first three stanzas are perfect takedowns of the prosperity gospel - I love the way you play on the image of Santa Claus as God, showering the good with gifts and punishing the wicked with poverty.

Where it starts to falter for me is in the switch from prosperity gospel believer to prosperity gospel preacher at the end of S4. I think you give away your hand too early by having her demand a fee there; S5-7 have variations on the same punchline and it would be more effective for me to delay it as long as possible - first let her appear as a magnanimous helper, offering her services as one of God’s Special People, and only bring in the fee later. This would also let you establish why she might have this ability to change Santa/God’s list, which isn’t clear now.

For actual prosperity gospel preachers, the pitch tends to go, “Look, because of my faithfulness, God has showered me with blessings! Do you want blessings too? Well, what better way to demonstrate your faithfulness than to give some of your money to a ministry that God so clearly favors!” The logic of it is somewhat different from the intercessory role of the subject of the poem — so, for example, it would ring more true for me to have speaker suggest that “loving your neighbor” is all well and good, but much MORE faithful to give to God’s favorite, and hey, it’s easier too!. Since it’s a parody I think you can still build to something like that intercessory role, and I love the corporate money-making imagery in the final stanza, but it doesn’t work for me to jump straight to “give me money and I’ll get you off the naughty list,” especially not so early in the poem.

I also wonder if there are ways to bring more elements of the Santa myth into the second half of the poem, since it shifts out of typical Santa territory there - Santa is generally unswayable. I don’t have any brilliant suggestions here (maybe something to do with favorite elves having influence?), and it may not be necessary - but I love the way that the first stanza goes beyond saying “her God is like Santa Claus in that he rewards good people and punished bad ones” and actually says, “For her, God IS Santa Claus,” and I’d like more of that throughout the poem.

All that said, I like this poem - I just think has potential to close more strongly.

Edit: on reflecting, I think one hurdle that might be challenging is that while prosperity gospel believers might have the simple “do good, be blessed” idea, the (Protestant) preachers usually wrap it in the language of faithfulness rather than good deeds / bad deeds, which makes it harder to line up with the Santa myth.

Last edited by Coleman Glenn; 11-21-2020 at 07:18 AM.
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Unread 11-21-2020, 06:51 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: California
Posts: 1,045

Hi Julie,

I think the modern idiom would enjoy this for it's apparently anti-religious tone. (I don't think it's anti-religious, it's anti-false-religious as it were. Which suits me just fine.)

After reading the first five words, I already knew the whole poem, though, there were some great turns of phrase throughout though. Love Santa on testosterone. I can see the photoshop of it now. Ha!

This could be fun light verse, with it's Broadway style "greed'll" etc. but the refrain is far to strident for my enjoyment. One idiosyncratic idea is save it to the end, since it's really a conclusion. Something like, "You will give her money; surely God will give applause/Her deity-o-matic is some f-ing santa claus" I dunno. Just tossing it out there.
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Unread 11-21-2020, 07:28 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 2,293

Hi Julie,
This is respectable, polished satire. I think it needs more of the effervescent wit of "naughty-caught. He" and "wheedle-greed'll" to counter the philosophical, somewhat bitter seriousness of the accusation. Maybe more joyfully savage personal attacks on the televangelist (if your fair-mindedness will allow it) would help. It is also somewhat static, with no development on either side of the screen, except for the ironic sales pitch at the end. It would be a major revision to add a story of redemption or comeuppance, but maybe that would appeal to you. (The speaker successfully experiments with a donation! The televangelist learns a new doctrine of poverty as a result of a money laundering prosecution!) You could also shorten the poem. Or simply consider it finished for what it is, polished and witty satire that cuts deeply.
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Unread 11-21-2020, 08:07 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,721

Though I've only breezed the poem (I'll dig into it later) and the comments (them too) it's clearly written to reference/embody the despicable Paula White Cain and her diabolical disciples. Just thought I'd bring that log to the fire. Here's the fetid nest of them preaching to the rest of them. Btw, she's DT's go-to evangelical.
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Unread 11-21-2020, 08:54 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,733

Julie, it works for me. I like the clever rhymes, and the repetition of the opening phrase takes on a litany effect, with enough variation to hold my interest throughout. I like the way you work in "election" toward the end, so that is not just about Donald Trump, but about a whole subset of people.

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Unread 11-21-2020, 10:38 AM
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A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Alexandria, VA, USA
Posts: 74

Hi, Julie, this is an intensely agile poem, thought-provoking and replete with lines that fall right on target, exponentiating the power of the whole. A lot of good points have been made by others, most of which I agree with or can at least see the validity in. My overriding constructive crit would be that to me, the light-verse tone of this makes the material start to feel too long and involved beyond the first three stanzas--a belaboring of the point. However, you have so much that's good beyond the first three stanzas, including the development of what becomes your main thrust, so I will refrain (at least for now) from proposing a solution to this problem that I perceive.

A few nits:

Her God is Santa Claus. Shes sure its so.

His portraiture by Michelangelo
At first, I confusedly took "his" to refer to Santa Claus, not God, since a pronoun normally refers to the noun preceding it, barring some clear cue (not just floundering deduction--at first I thought you were introducing a fantasy painting here) to the contrary.

I also got thrown by "election," since, up till then, I'd thought you'd been referring to some literal, ordinary child, most probably the n's daughter, not a symbolic "daughter" of the outgoing president. If this is all a political metaphor, it doesn't cohere for me.

Still, I very much enjoyed this articulate critique of an endemic, destructive manner in which many relate to Santa Claus, God--and other entities, as well. This may be a broader meaning than you intended, but for me, it's a more compelling one.
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Unread 11-21-2020, 11:30 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 15,087

I enjoyed this, especially "Naughty List protection". I took it as expert light verse with one basic point that didn't require or invite the nuanced analysis that Coleman brought to bear on it, though I found it interesting indeed.

My only slight glitch was the "His" in S1, since I didn't think Michelangelo had done a Santa Claus portrait. Perhaps substitute "The"?
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Unread 11-21-2020, 12:22 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Posts: 1,844

The first three stanzas condemn our materialism wittily. The rest interest me less, maybe because I'm not understanding the more specific target.

A quibble about something that felt larger to me when I'd read only one line than it does now:

"So" wants to refer to Santa being G-d, but grammatically it refers to her choosing Santa, to Santa being her G-d, which is not the same. It would be easier to make the mental jump if Santa being G-d had already been shown in the poem, though there's clearly a reason why that stanza comes first. Maybe there's a different oh rhyme for that first line?
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