There are many things I could say about the spiritually dangerous view known as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. Rather than spew my thoughts, I decided to share an excerpt from an opinion piece published in The New York Times this past Valentine’s Day Weekend. The author is Kate Bowler, who is a Biblical scholar at Duke University, who spent nearly a decade researching prosperity preachers, their teachings, and their churches for her book titled, “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel,” which was published in 2013. Ms. Bowler’s words are honest, loving, and trenchant. Kudos to her and may the Lord continue to lead and embolden her to speak his truth.
“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.
“CANCER has kicked down the walls of my life. I cannot be certain I will walk my son to his elementary school someday or subject his love interests to cheerful scrutiny. I struggle to buy books for academic projects I fear I can’t finish for a perfect job I may be unable to keep. I have surrendered my favorite manifestoes about having it all, managing work-life balance and maximizing my potential. I cannot help but remind my best friend that if my husband remarries everyone will need to simmer down on talking about how special I was in front of her. (And then I go on and on about how this is an impossible task given my many delightful qualities. Let’s list them. …) 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. Even when I am this distant from Canadian family and friends, everything feels as if it is painted in bright colors. In my vulnerability, I am seeing my world without the Instagrammed filter of breezy certainties and perfectible moments. I can’t help noticing the brittleness of the walls that keep most people fed, sheltered and whole. I find myself returning to the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
(Kate Bowler, “Death, The Prosperity Gospel, and Me,” New York Times, 13 Feb 2016)