Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Amazing piece on the prosperity gospel

Click here for a gorgeously written piece called "Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me" by Kate Bowler, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School. It concerns how a cancer diagnosis dovetails with her research on the prosperity gospel. Some choice lines:

"Put simply, the prosperity gospel is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith."

"One of the prosperity gospel’s greatest triumphs is its popularization of the term “blessed.”...Blessed is a loaded term because it blurs the distinction between two very different categories: gift and reward. It can be a term of pure gratitude. “Thank you, God. I could not have secured this for myself.” But it can also imply that it was deserved. “Thank you, me. For being the kind of person who gets it right.” It is a perfect word for an American society that says it believes the American dream is based on hard work, not luck...This is America, where there are no setbacks, just setups. Tragedies are simply tests of character."

"The prosperity gospel holds to this illusion of control until the very end. If a believer gets sick and dies, shame compounds the grief. Those who are loved and lost are just that — those who have lost the test of faith...There is no graceful death, no ars moriendi, in the prosperity gospel. There are only jarring disappointments after fevered attempts to deny its inevitability.

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."

"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."

"This is surely an American God, and as I am so far from home, I cannot escape him." 

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