Live Long and Prosper: How Black Megachurches Address HIV/AIDS and Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology

Live Long and Prosper: How Black Megachurches Address HIV/AIDS and Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology

Live Long and Prosper: How Black Megachurches Address HIV/AIDS and Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology

Live Long and Prosper: How Black Megachurches Address HIV/AIDS and Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology

Synopsis

This pioneering new study of the Black megachurch phenomenon brings nuance and depth to the question, Are Black megachurches more focused on prosperity than on people?Black megachurches and their pastors are often accused of failing to use their considerable resources to help the poor; focusing on prosperity theology rather than on social justice; requiring excessive monetary and time commitments of members; and pilfering church coffers for the their personaluse. The debate rages on about whether these congregations are doing all they can to address specific challenges facing African American communities. Live Long and Prosper is a refreshing, innovative study that reaches beyond superficial understandings of the Black megachurch phenomenon in apiercing interrogation of how powerful megachurches address (or fail to address) two social crises in the Black community: HIV/AIDS and poverty.Live Long and Prosper offers an intriguing examination of sixteen representative Black megachurches and explores some of their motivations and subsequent programmatic efforts in light of prosperity or "health and wealth" theology. Professor Barnes makes the case that the Black megachurch is acomplex, contemporary model of the historic Black church in response to globalism, consumerism, secularism, religious syncretism, and the realities of race. She contends that many of these megachurches hold unique characteristics of adaptability and innovation that position them well to tackledifficult social issues. Prosperity theology emphasizes two characteristics - physical health and economic wealth - as examples of godly living and faith. This book considers whether and how efforts to address HIV/AIDS (a health issue) and poverty (a "wealth" issue) are influenced by church and clergy profiles; theology,in general; and prosperity theology, in particular. Frame analysis informs this mixed-methodological study to compare and contrast experiences, theological beliefs, pastoral profiles, and programs.Live Long and Prosper is a must-read for general readers, academics, and students alike - indeed, anyone interested in the contemporary Black megachurch's response to social problems and the link between theology and social action. It is at once a fascinating, readable narrative and a rich piece ofscholarship complete with extensively documented endnotes, statistics, informative charts and tables, and an exhaustive bibliography.

Excerpt

“Live long and prosper.” It may seem odd to readers that these famous words originally uttered stoically by Mr. Spock on the sci-fi series Star Trek could inform a book about black megachurches. Although it has now become a catchphrase in popular culture, I contend that the expression succinctly characterizes a theological perspective that emerged during a religious movement dating back to the early 1900s. Just as the classic television show was known for pushing the envelope and tackling controversial political, social, and cultural issues, proponents of what is known today as Prosperity theology (also known as Health and Wealth theology) have a reputation for appropriating Christianity in unconventional ways. Although Prosperity theology initially shaped the worldview of a sectlike group of Christians, many of its more contemporary supporters are believed to be megachurches in general and black megachurches in particular. Using HIV/AIDS and poverty as the backdrop, this book focuses on the latter group and its theologies, pastors, and programmatic efforts that impact the longevity and prosperity of the black community.

A certain cadre of black megachurches has experienced increased exposure based on internationally and nationally televised worship services, bestselling books, niche conferences for groups, from youth to pastors and their wives, global evangelistic canvasses, and expansive church campuses. For example, Reverend Fred Price’s Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, broadcast from the Crenshaw Christian Center in California, is one of the top fifteen syndicated Christian programs in the United States. Woman Thou Art Loosed by Bishop T. D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas, became a bestselling instructional manual on female self-esteem and healthy relationships. the movie by the same name, and starring the charismatic pastor, grossed over $6.8 million in 2004. and still other large black congregations are equally infamous. For example, the current economic recession has resulted in financial hardship for Bishop Kenneth Ulmer and the Faithful Central Baptist Church of Inglewood, California, as they strain to make the $1.2 million annual mortgage payment on the . . .

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