Last month, my colleagues and I were moved by a beautiful and tragic New York Times editorial by Kate Bowler, a religion professor from Duke Divinity School who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
Bowler recently wrote a book – Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel – that has been hailed as the first monograph tracing the history of the prosperity gospel in America. The prosperity gospel, Bowler explains, is “the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith.”
Bowler recalls how the prosperity gospel transformed the Mennonite farming community in Manitoba where she grew up. When the community’s pastor showed off the motorcycle he received for “pastor’s appreciation day,” it signaled a new religious attitude about material wealth. She describes explaining this change as her “intellectual obsession.”