Our Turn to Prosper

Paul Harvey

Matt Sutton's review of It's a New Day, Race and Gender in the Modern Charismatic Movement was just featured as the Book of the Week review at Books and Culture. The book focuses especially on African American and female ministers who have become prominent in Pentecostal-charismatic movements. Billingsley aims to portray these people mostly through their own words and stories, Sutton says, and succeeds in doing so. Sutton raises some important questions that naturally arise from this survey:

Billingsley has done an admirable job of identifying many of the key players in the charismatic movement, but he never sufficiently addresses the more interesting question of why so many of the most influential African American and female ministers in the United States have embraced the prosperity gospel. What does it mean that these ministers would move from a traditionally world-denying creed to one that not only tolerates the accumulation of wealth but actually celebrates consumption? What does this illustrate about religion in the United States?

. . . Neither the civil rights nor the feminist movements explain the success of the Word of Faith gospel. Instead, these leaders' promotion of conspicuous consumption and the pursuit of wealth as divinely mandated, rather than devilishly inspired, may illuminate better than anything else what is driving the success of their movement. Against all odds, they have created a faith that affirms rather than challenges the materialism and extravagances of American culture. Indeed, it is a new day.


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