Kate Bowler

Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity in North America

External address: 
209 Gray Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Box 90967, Durham, NC 27708

Overview

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.  

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Duke University 2010
  • M.A., Yale University 2005
  • B.A., Macalester College 2002

Selected Grants

A History of a Modern American Icon awarded by Louisville Institute (Principal Investigator). 2015 to 2017

Bowler, K. "French Canadian Immigrant Women." Encyclopedia of American Women’s History. Ed. HR Diner. New York: Facts on File, 2011.

Bowler, K. "Blessed Bodies: Prosperity as Healing within the African-American Faith Movement." in Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing. Ed. CG Brown. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Bowler, K. "Positive Thinking." Encyclopedia of Religion in America. Ed. C Lippy. Washington: CQ Press, 2010.

Bowler, K. "Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate." Westminster Handbook to Women in American Religious History. Ed. SH Lindley and EJ Stebner. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008.

Bowler, K. "Women’s Union Missionary Society." Westminster Handbook to Women in American Religious History. Ed. SH Lindley and EJ Stebner. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008.

Bowler, K. "Eliza Hart Spalding." Westminster Handbook to Women in American Religious History. Ed. SH Lindley and EJ Stebner. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008.

Bowler, K. "Matilda Thurston." Westminster Handbook to Women in American Religious History. Ed. SH Lindley and EJ Stebner. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008.

Bowler, K. "Dorothy Eugenia Rogers Tilly." Westminster Handbook to Women in American Religious History. Ed. SH Lindley and EJ Stebner. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2008.

Bowler, K. "Antinomianism." Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter Publishing.

Bowler, K. "Daily Grind: The Spiritual Workday of the American Prosperity Gospel." Journal of Cultural Economy 8.5 (September 3, 2015): 630-636. Full Text

Bowler, K, and Reagan, W. "Bigger, Better, Louder." Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 24.2 (July 2014): 186-230. Full Text

Bowler, K. "From Far and Wide: The Canadian Faith Movement." Church & Faith Trends (2010).

Bowler, K. "Believers in Bling: Behold, the Prosperity ‘Preachers of L.A'." CNN Belief Blog (October 8, 2013). (Editorial Comment)

Bowler, K. "“Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement,” (Review)." Sociology of Religion ( 70.4 (2009): 454-455.