I Double-Dog Dare you in Jesus’ Name! Claiming Christian Wealth and the American Prosperity Gospel



Since the 1980s, prosperity gospel Christianity has exploded in its size and influence, with global television ministries like Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Daystar Television Network, and The Word Network expanding the reach of the American-born religion to every nation. Most popularly called the Faith movement many may recognize this form of Christianity by a variety of other labels, such as the Gospel of Wealth and Health, Word of Faith, Prosperity Theology, Name it and Claim it, Seed-Faith, Abundant Life, or the more derisive Blab it and Grab it. Most observers associate the Faith movement with two teachings: first, God grants all his faithful followers physical health and financial prosperity; second, believers claim their divine right to wealth and health through positive confession, financial offerings, and the persistent faith that God must fulfill his promises. Promises of total transformation, concern over exploitation, and controversies over Biblical interpretation have made the prosperity gospel a topic of scholarly and popular interest. This article explores the history of the prosperity gospel, with particular emphasis on understanding the largest and most visible of these traditions, the Faith movement. Throughout, I will highlight scholarly literature critical for understanding the contemporary and historic development of the prosperity gospel and ministries that have coalesced around its optimistic message. As I explore relevant works on New Thought, African American religions, and the Faith movement, I hope to provide insight into central questions, possible pitfalls, and under-investigated dimensions of the American prosperity gospel, and finally to gesture towards fruitful avenues for future inquiry.