Righteous Riches: The Word of Faith Movement in Contemporary African American Religion / Edition 1

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Does God want us to be wealthy? Many people believe that God offers not only eternal joy in the hereafter but also material blessings in the here and now. Other Christians see this "prosperity theology," as nothing more than vulgar materialism, incompatible with orthodox Christianity. In Righteous Riches, Milmon F. Harrison examines the Word of Faith movement, an independent, non-denominational Christian movement that preaches the so-called "health and wealth gospel."
The Word of Faith movement is an international network loosely bound by a basic doctrine called the "Faith Message," which teaches that it is God's will for Christians to be prosperous, successful, and healthy in the present life. Drawing on his personal experiences as a former insider and in-depth interviews with members, Harrison takes us inside the movement, revealing what it is like to belong, and how people accept, reject, and reshape Word of Faith doctrines to fit their own lives. Although the movement is not exclusively African American, many of its most prominent and recognized leaders are African American ministers with large congregations and national television audiences. Analyzing the movement's appeal to African Americans, Harrison argues that, because of their history of oppression and discrimination, African American religious institutions have always had to address the material—as well as spiritual—concerns of their members. The Word of Faith Movement, he says, is one of several prosperity movements that resonate strongly with African Americans. Situating the movement in the contexts of both contemporary American religion and the history of the Black Church, Righteous Riches offers a fascinating look at a quintessentially American phenomenon.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Those interested in and concerned about contemporary African-American religious practices owe a debt of gratitude to Harrison. He has meticulously documented a religious movement that is highly visible but scarcely understood." —Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"...a careful yet sympathetic phenomenological analysis of a predominantly African American "Word church." Righteous Riches contextualizes the Faith movement with touchstones from the black church experience and contemporary American culture and therefore is an important contribution to American studies as well as contemporary American religion." —The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies

"Indispensible for anyone interested in understanding contemporary permutations of the black church. Highly recommended." —Choice

Publishers Weekly
This debut is an engaging ethnographic account of the Word of Faith movement, a loosely affiliated group of nondenominational churches that embrace a hodge-podge of New Thought, evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Harrison, a former Word of Faith adherent, introduces readers to several members of the movement as if he were (and in many cases, he is) introducing old friends. He describes his first informant, Cassandra, as someone he has "known for many years... an extroverted, gregarious person with a great sense of humor... [who] would not hold back in terms of what she thought." This personal touch, in keeping with Harrison's desire to write a "straightforward, clear" book, is refreshing and will appeal to a wide audience. Not as illuminating are Harrison's analyses, which often feel as though they could apply to any conservative religious movement. He does give fascinating insights into the tradition's emphasis on Christian prosperity, but only skims the surface of its complicated relationship to the idea of progress and, most regrettably, largely neglects its relationship to the African-American community. He does address these topics, but only briefly, and mostly in concluding thoughts that should have been expounded earlier. Still, Harrison delivers an informative, readable introduction to a little-known but very influential religious movement. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195153880
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : the word of faith movement 3
1 Bearing witness 21
2 Living the faith message 51
3 Faith Christian Center 81
4 Negotiating the demands of membership at Faith Christian Center 107
5 Prosperity in African American religion 131
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