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.