Life, Death, And Faith Collide: Prosperity Gospel Scholar Kate Bowler Faces Stage 4 Cancer

Mar 14, 2016

When Kate Bowler was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer last year, she thought, “well, isn’t this ironic?” Bowler is a scholar of the prosperity gospel, the theology that those with the right kind of beliefs will receive God’s grace. As she grapples with her diagnosis, she reflects on life, death, and where faith fits into the picture. She wrote about it in the New York Times, "Death, The Prosperity Gospel, And Me."

'I come from a Mennonite tradition in which they love to despise things that are shiny [...] so to be [studying] a gospel of endless abundance was a real departure for me.'

Bowler grew up in a predominantly Mennonite community in Manitoba, Canada, and although her family wasn’t Mennonite, she spent much of her childhood and teen years in Mennonite youth group and bible camp. As she grew up, she began to identify as an evangelical, a term Bowler asserts looks much different in Canada than it does in most of the United States.

After attending college in the U.S., her interest in American religion grew, and she decided to study for a masters in divinity at Yale.

Bowler received a PhD in American religion at Duke University, and recently published her first book: “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” (Oxford Press/2013).  Her current project documents the rise of celebrity women who serve alongside their partners in mega churches around the country. 

'In our day to day lives we have very little evidence that God rewards the faithful with an easy way.'

Host Frank Stasio talks with Bowler about her life story, new projects, and thinking critically about faith and religion when her health is uncertain. She blogs about the topics here

Hear Kate Bowler discuss her research on the history of the Prosperity Gospel: