Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

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How have millions of American Christians come to measure spiritual progress in terms of their financial status and physical well-being? How has the movement variously called Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, or simply prosperity gospel come to dominate much of our contemporary religious landscape?

Kate Bowler's Blessed is the first book to fully explore the origins, unifying themes, and major figures of a burgeoning movement that now claims millions of ...

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Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

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How have millions of American Christians come to measure spiritual progress in terms of their financial status and physical well-being? How has the movement variously called Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, or simply prosperity gospel come to dominate much of our contemporary religious landscape?

Kate Bowler's Blessed is the first book to fully explore the origins, unifying themes, and major figures of a burgeoning movement that now claims millions of followers in America. Bowler traces the roots of the prosperity gospel: from the touring mesmerists, metaphysical sages, pentecostal healers, business oracles, and princely prophets of the early 20th century; through mid-century positive thinkers like Norman Vincent Peale and revivalists like Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin; to today's hugely successful prosperity preachers. Bowler focuses on such contemporary figures as Creflo Dollar, pastor of Atlanta's 30,000-member World Changers Church International; Joel Osteen, known as "the smiling preacher," with a weekly audience of seven million; T. D. Jakes, named by Time magazine one of America's most influential new religious leaders; Joyce Meyer, evangelist and women's empowerment guru; and many others. At almost any moment, day or night, the American public can tune in to these preachers-on TV, radio, podcasts, and in their megachurches-to hear the message that God desires to bless them with wealth and health. Bowler offers an interpretive framework for scholars and general readers alike to understand the diverse expressions of Christian abundance as a cohesive movement bound by shared understandings and common goals.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The idea that Christian believers are promised wealth and health by faith in God has existed in various permutations throughout American history. In this riveting historical account, Bowler, a professor of religion at Duke Divinity School, deftly introduces readers to major figures and developments since the late 19th century in the prosperity gospel movement. Her rich narrative traces the entanglement of prosperity and the divine in New Thought thinkers, who believed in mind-power to transform heaven-sent blessings; the power of positive thinking in the postwar era, from Norman Vincent Peale to the televangelists of the 1980s; and the rise of the contemporary megachurch, which includes preachers like Joel Osteen, who argue that believers are created to excel. There are fascinating detours into Pentecostalism and the charismatic revival as well as examination of numerous odd and compelling religious figures, such as Father Divine. Bowler argues that the prosperity gospel has become a major theological, social, and political force in America. Refusing to condemn the prosperity gospel as merely a religious iteration of the American dream of individual upward mobility and accumulation, Bowler also explores how some groups, particularly African-American churches, transformed it for liberating ends. (June)
From the Publisher

"Marvelous this is a stunningly empathetic book. By pushing far beyond caricature, Bowler has produced a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the prosperity gospel and how it is, even now, remaking the American religious landscape." --The Christian Century

"An important account of an audacious contemporary religious phenomenon." --Booklist

"[A] riveting historical account." --Publishers Weekly

"The 'prosperity gospel' is as much despised by its detractors as it is embraced by its millions of adherents. Yet until Kate Bowler's Blessed, no one has attempted a balanced, informative, inquisitive survey. Her book is a metaphorical godsend for those with an outsider's curiosity about one of the fastest growing religious movements in contemporary America and a literal one for those inside." -- Mark A. Noll, author of Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction

"Though often maligned and misunderstood, Bowler's comprehensive and exciting examination of the prosperity gospel demonstrates the ways 'health and wealth' has been a staple of American Protestant life since the 19th century. Blessed provides a thorough and nuanced account of the phenomenon, as it skillfully examines varying attitudes toward prosperity which emerged across racial, regional, and denominational lines. This is a grand contribution to the field of American religious history." -- Jonathan L. Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Professor of Religion and Society, Harvard University

"This book propels Kate Bowler into the first rank of younger historians of religion in America. The author's keen ear, her perceptive insights, and her command of history make this a remarkable and unforgettable book-and her conclusion that the 'prosperity gospel consecrated America's culture of optimism' rings very true." -- Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America

"Blessed is worthwhile reading for what it is-a history of the prosperity gospel and not a theology of the prosperity movement. I've benefited from time spent working through it and would recommend it to those seeking to learn about this topic." --The Gospel Coalition

"Blessed is a good history of the rise and flourishing of the gospel." --The Blade

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199827695
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/5/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 551,077
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Bowler is Assistant Professor of American Religion at Duke Divinity School.

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Gospels
Chapter Two: Faith
Chapter Three: Wealth
Chapter Four: Health
Chapter Five: Victory
Conclusion: An American Blessing
Appendix A: Megachurch Table
Appendix B: Naming Names

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2014

    Such a profound look at the modern usage of the word "blessed"

    Blessed is a word reserved for the experience of overwhelming gratitude to our Lord. It extends far beyond our mundane activities. This book explores "blessings" beyond getting a new car.... new phone... etc. Be prepared to finish this book asking God for "more" in your life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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