Half of American Christians believe in the prosperity gospel

Among mainstream, nondenominational megachurches, where much of American religious life takes place, “prosperity is proliferating” rapidly, says Kate Bowler, a doctoral candidate at Duke University and an expert in the gospel. Few, if any, of these churches have prosperity in their title or mission statement, but Bowler has analyzed their sermons and teachings. Of the nation’s 12 largest churches, she says, three are prosperity—Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s, in Phoenix; and T. D. Jakes’s, in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel dominates. Overall, Bowler classifies 50 of the largest 260 churches in the U.S. as prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful. It’s an upbeat theology, argues Barbara Ehrenreich in her new book, Bright-Sided, that has much in common with the kind of “positive thinking” that has come to dominate America’s boardrooms and, indeed, its entire culture.

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  1. #1 by Marc on December 3, 2009 - 9:24 am

    Yikes. A bit scary.

    I found it funny that Kate Bowler is described as an “expert in the gospel”. Not sure why.

  2. #2 by James on December 3, 2009 - 11:46 am

    This truly is heresy! If only people would read their Bibles instead of the pop-good-times-gospel-paperback-garbage that is produced…

  3. #3 by Nathan on December 4, 2009 - 12:42 pm

    Just yesterday I was thinking that suffering was an acknowledged, expected, and embraced aspect of early Christian life. Says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. We’re so far from the real path it’s embarrassing.

  4. #4 by Scotty on December 6, 2009 - 2:09 pm

    Along with the good times of the properity gospel, I often see people being told that it’s 100% (or very close to 100%) their own fault when bad things happen in their lives. “That car accident wouldn’t have happened to you if you had been tithing more … or if you hadn’t gone to that Metalica concert.” It’s such crap. It’s true that if you pull a few verses out of context that the properity gospel is evident for all to see and the uneducated and easily swayed get duped by it. But to say that the whole Bible is pushing these ideas is nothing but quackery. Scary to see how much it has taken over.

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