I’m a scholar of the “prosperity gospel.” It took cancer to show me I was in its grip.

By Kate Bowler

There’s a branch of Christianity that promises a direct path to the good life. It is called by many names, but most often it is nicknamed the “prosperity gospel” for its bold central claim that God will give you your heart’s desires: money in the bank, a healthy body, a thriving family, and boundless happiness.

This was not the faith I grew up with on the prairies of Manitoba, Canada, surrounded by communities of Mennonites. I learned at my Anabaptist Bible camp about a poor carpenter from Galilee who taught that a good life was a simple one.

But when I was 18 or so, I started hearing stories about a different kind of faith with a formula for success. At first, I followed my interest in the prosperity gospel like a storm chaser, finding any megachurch within driving distance of a family vacation. I started at Yale Divinity School for my master’s ready to devote myself to analyzing this unusual theology.

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