Kate Bowler is an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America. Her book, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (Oxford University Press, 2013), received widespread media attention and academic praise as the first history of the movement based on divine promises of health, wealth, and happiness. She researched and traveled Canada and the United States interviewing megachurch leaders and everyday believers about how they make spiritual meaning of the good or bad in their lives. Her work on the prosperity gospel has been featured in the New York Times, The New Republic, The Guardian, TIME Magazine, The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Post, NPR, and the BBC.
In 2015, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35. In her viral New York Times op-ed, she writes about the irony of being an expert in health, wealth and happiness while being ill. Her subsequent memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) (Random House, 2018), tells the story of her struggle to understand the personal and intellectual dimensions of the American belief that all tragedies are tests of character.
She recently received a sabbatical grant for researchers from The Louisville Institute to write her third book, The Preacher’s Wife: Women and Power in American Megaministry (Princeton University Press, 2018). It follows the rise of celebrity Christian women who go by many names: pastors, co-pastors, executive directors, or, more commonly, pastor’s wives. They pitch their expertise in any number of ways, from women’s ministry directors to singers, bloggers, parenting experts, sex therapists, prophetesses, life coaches, and television hosts. Whether they stand alone or beside their husbands, they are leading women who play many parts: faithful wife, spiritual authority, and Hollywood celebrity.