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Godly Riches: The Nineteenth Century Roots Of Modern Prosperity Gospel

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Chapter Summary

This chapter demonstrates how two cultural sources, religious sermons and books, shape ideas about wealth, sin, and class. Henry Ward Beechers (1870) Individual Responsibility and Russell Conwells (1915) Acres of Diamonds share three intersecting components: individualism, God-sanctioned wealth, and the sin of poverty and concomitant danger of charity. The chapter compares these ideas with those in the contemporary Word of Faith movement as well as the popular prosperity gospel preachers, Joel Osteen and T. D. Jakes. Throughout the author refers back to George Thomass (1989) work to demonstrate how these ideas are not just religious theologies, but embedded within the rhetoric of the broader culture. The chapter further suggests that by portraying this theology as new, both Harrison and the Times article seek to exoticize this movement and deflect attention from how this theology reflects broader cultural currents.

Keywords: Henry Ward Beecher; modern prosperity gospel; Russell Conwell; Word of Faith movement; Word of Faith theology

10.1163/ej.9789004171428.i-222.61
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