Professor of Christian History at Duke University Kate Bowler talks to Time Magazine About Her Cancer Diagnosis and Her Faith

You are an expert in the history of health, wealth and happiness in American religion. Why do Americans see tragedies as tests of character?

It is one of the oldest stories Americans tell themselves about determination and some supernatural bootstraps. The double edge to the American Dream is that those who can’t make it have lost the test or have failed. The prosperity gospel is just a Christian version of that.

Did Christianity fail you?

Sometimes it felt like that, in part because of the stuff people said using the Christian faith to be incredibly trite. Christianity also saved the day. You really want a brave faith, one that says, in the midst of the crushing brokenness, there is the something else there, the undeniable, overwhelming love of God.

You’ve said one of the hardest things about being sick is other people trying to explain your suffering. What would you prefer?

People who hug you and give you impressive compliments that don’t feel like a eulogy. People who give you non-cancer-thematic gifts. People who just want to delight you, not try to fix you, and make you realize that it is just another beautiful day and there is usually something fun to do.

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Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Seminary / Theological Education, Theodicy, Theology