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

Sandra L. Barnes
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Live Long and Prosper: How Black Megachurches Address HIV/AIDS and Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology
    Book Description:

    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 personal use. 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 a piercing 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 a complex, 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 tackle difficult 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 of scholarship complete with extensively documented endnotes, statistics, informative charts and tables, and an exhaustive bibliography.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5062-2
    Subjects: Public Health

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: The Black Megachurch
    (pp. 1-12)

    “Live long and prosper.” It may seem odd to readers that these famous words originally uttered stoically by Mr. Spock on the sci-fi seriesStar Trekcould 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.¹ 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...

  6. 1 The Calling and the Corner
    (pp. 13-46)

    Black megachurches are as demographically diverse as the communities they serve. In addition to mirroring features from the historic Black Church, white evangelicalism, secular society, and congregation- and locale-specific dynamics,¹ black megachurches have a distinct connection to the black community and its historic and current experiences.² Parallels can be drawn between black megachurches and their smaller black peers (refer to Table 1.1 on page 18), yet their size, perspectives, and resource base generally result in dramatically different interactions with the black community and the larger society. Although earlier research on megachurches paid little attention to or provided only cursory references...

  7. 2 Black Megachurch Theology: Making the Word Flesh!
    (pp. 47-98)

    Biblical interpretation reflected in theology¹ represents an essential church cultural tool as well as another mechanism to convey the understanding that God has a message and ministry for believers. Typologies and interpretations vary, yet what appears constant is the unique ability of such symbols, words, and stories—each intricately woven into the exegetical fabric of a theological stance and channeled through the experiential lens of clergy—to translate intangible, otherworldly beliefs into tangible, this-worldly events, programs, and activities. Often shrouded in as much mystique as a minister’s calling, theology has the potential to render abstract beliefscorporealand, if convincingly...

  8. 3 Black Megachurches and HIV/AIDS: Beliefs and Behavior in Unsettled Times
    (pp. 99-142)

    According to one source, “in the United States, there is one AIDS-related death every 11 minutes, one AIDS diagnosis every 9 minutes, and a newly reported HIV infection every 13 minutes.”¹ Early figures show that although AIDS was described as a “gay, white male” disease, relatively smaller, but rapidly increasing, numbers of blacks and intravenous (IV) drug users were being infected. Moreover, the generally disproportionate representation by blacks among IV drug users as well as their engagement in sexual relationships with IV drug users exacerbated this social problem in the black community.² Based on 2009 figures, over 1.1 million persons...

  9. 4 Poverty as a Frame Continuum
    (pp. 143-176)

    The Bible verse “for ye will have the poor with you always”¹ takes on a particularly menacing meaning in the black community. A legacy of economic exploitation in the United States, rooted in chattel slavery and decades of segregation, racism, and neglect, has resulted in poverty among a disproportionate percentage of blacks. Whether poverty among blacks constitutes apandemicis debatable; its chronic nature is clear. Holistic, pragmatic, and servanthood frames summarize how black megachurch clergy studied in this book understand poverty. At one end of the framing spectrum clergy argue for an initial spiritual change that should transform every...

  10. Conclusion: The Black Megachurch in the New Millennium–Responding to Social Problems
    (pp. 177-188)

    In the United States, who “lives long and prospers” is indelibly linked to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Their perks and penalties are no more apparent than when considering how social problems such as poverty and HIV/AIDS prevent large segments of the black community from experiencing any semblance of this futuristic declaration. And how do religious collectives such as black megachurches respond to this dilemma? Borrowing from yet another pop culture phrase, “there is good news and bad news.” Here and in other outlets, I make the case that the black megachurch is a complex, contemporary model of the...

  11. Appendix: The Black Megachurch
    (pp. 189-198)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 199-218)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-236)
  14. Index
    (pp. 237-242)