This afternoon, I'm in the midst of final preparations for a symposium happening for the next couple of days at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virgina.
Pentecostalism & Prosperity Symposium
The Socio-Economics of Global Renewal
Co-sponsored by the Schools of Undergraduate Studies and Divinity
February 21, 2:00-5:30 pm, Library Auditorium
February 22, 2:00-5:30 pm, Library Auditorium
I'm thrilled to join this stimulating conversation. How is Pentecostalism related to global economics?
The adaptability of Pentecostalism to the current economic system is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the movement. On Tuesday, I'll be talking about how prosperity theology connects with today's "individualization" and the rise of "self-culture."
|Hollywood Faith by Gerardo Marti|
If we step back, I think we can all agree that prosperity theology developed with the emergence of modern capitalism. I believe it resonates with many people today because the effect of globalized capitalism on everyday life is experienced so broadly. As society changes, people find forms of religion that fit those changes.
Several theorists (who don't pay much attention to religion) tell us that the broader workforce today must master self-promotion for economic survival. If we then turn to the place of religion in these changes, I note that much of the "work" of religious communities has as their goal the supporting of a kind of “self” needed to live in the world today. The modern "self" today largely lives in context of work. Being a wage-earner has become enormously important, more so than any other period in history.
When we appreciate the economic uncertainty of individuals in advanced capitalism, the emphasis on a vigorous, God-empowered self can be seen as a way to adapt to the demands for work today.
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In prosperity-oriented churches, individualism coexists with the general call for generosity and self-sacrifice because the individual is seen as the conduit by which God will accomplish his purposes on the earth. The focus on the individual is not about individual self-promotion but about creating a platform as an ambassador of the kingdom of God to engage in activities that allow God to work in the world at large.
It is a win-win solution; God fulfills his missional purposes, and his people live prosperous, fulfilling lives.
My paper for the symposium lays out more detail on all these processes. In addition, the symposium will encourage an active dialogue on how this argument is right/wrong, and surely provide many additional considerations.
If you're interested, the presentations will be live on the internet (see symposium website), and the papers will be collected into an edited volume in coming year. I'll post as things become available.