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Presents of God: The Marketing of the American Prosperity Gospel

Butler, Susie (2014) Presents of God: The Marketing of the American Prosperity Gospel. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Prosperity Theology is a fast-growing Protestant movement rooted in Pentecostalism, which teaches that faithfulness to God ensures health and wealth in this lifetime. This study analyzes how it is marketed at Oasis Church in Hollywood, California, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and Victory Family Church in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. The dissertation examines how these churches market Prosperity Theology online and offline to determine the themes and emphases of their messages, whether the content changes based on the audience, if the audience is affecting the presentation of the message, and, if so, in what ways. Included in this investigation is rhetorical analysis of the sermons, websites, and Twitter posts of the pastors to determine themes that emerge in their presentations. Secondly, this study analyzes the make-up of the audience and how it responds to the practical preaching of the Prosperity pastors. Examining the audiences provides insight into the growth and popularity of the movement, and reveals how the audience can and does influence the message that is presented to them. This study demonstrates how these three churches address fewer traditional Pentecostal elements like glossolalia and spontaneous healing, to focus instead on relationships, personal betterment, and therapeutic messages of inspiration. Furthermore, I have found that the pastors’ messages are influenced by who is perceived to be in the audience, and, as a result, they offer theological content based upon whether the audience is comprised of insiders or outsiders. Finally, I found that audience members respond favorably to the practical preaching and message of God’s interest and interventions in their daily lives. The new focus among prosperity churches upon material improvement and therapeutic uplift has implications regarding the congregations’ shared-identity and ability of the leaders to mobilize the audience based upon a common worldview.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Butler, Susiesmb113@pitt.eduSMB113
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKane, Paulapmk@pitt.eduPMK
Committee MemberKranson, Rachelkranson@pitt.eduKRANSON
Committee MemberShear, Adamshear@pitt.eduSHEAR
Committee MemberZboray, Ronaldzboray@pitt.eduZBORAY
Date: 28 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 April 2014
Approval Date: 28 May 2014
Submission Date: 24 April 2014
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 231
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Prosperity Gospel, Prosperity Theology, Religious Studies, Religion, Marketing, Health, Wealth, evangelicalism, evangelicals, Pentecostalism, Pentecostals, neo-Pentecostals, Joel Osteen, sermons, Twitter, rhetoric, inspiration
Date Deposited: 28 May 2014 15:32
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:19


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