Live Long and Prosper
How Black Megachurches Address HIV/AIDS and Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology
By Sandra L. Barnes
(Fordham University Press, Hardcover, 9780823249565, 242pp.)
Publication Date: November 2012
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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.