Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me

Kate Bowler — a professor at Duke Divinity School — has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

But one of my first thoughts was also Oh, God, this is ironic. I recently wrote a book called “Blessed.”

A few years ago she wrote a history of the prosperity gospel, and this article is a sort of mini history, particularly looking at how it shaped the ways in which Christians respond to “bad things” including impending death.

The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.

Many of her points also permeate the non-prosperity North American church. She deals with the religious, the cultural, and the personal with depth, humour, and frankness.

Cancer requires that I stumble around in the debris of dreams I thought I was entitled to and plans I didn’t realize I had made. But cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive.

Read it.

One thought on “Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me”

  1. She’s a great writer, based on this and other articles I’ve read of hers. I’ve intended to read her book for awhile now. Terrible what she’s experiencing, but her spirit certainly comes through in the writing.

    Sure generated some interesting comments on the site, too, including this perspective on the myth of monotheism:

    “Every believer has such a different conception of the deity that there is literally one god per person.

    The desire to believe that God wants what a given individual considers best may make such belief a deeply comforting personal resource, but it has the disquieting tendency to reduce society to religious war.”

    That has echoes of our previous exchange on how self-absorbed our thinking is of the unknown … only this time in the faith section instead of imaginative science fiction.

    It’s tough to remember that the God of Christianity has a way, and it doesn’t fit our end goals unless our goals aspire to God’s, and not the other way around. There’s lots of flexibility for our own plans within our lifetimes, but we shouldn’t confuse our plan for God’s end goal. If, that is, we’re calling it “Christian”.

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