Toxic positivity

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”


At least that’s one of the things that people would say to Kate Bowler, the national expert on the history of the prosperity gospel.

But would you say that to someone with Stage IV colon cancer?

In her book, No Cure for Being Human and Other Truths I Need to Hear, Kate tells of recovering in the hospital from surgery to remove as much cancer as possible from her insides. After several days, she got up the strength to wheel her IV into the hospital gift shop.

She began pulling books off the shelf and dumping them on the floor. Dozens of them. 

The manager asked, “May I help you, ma’am?”

“Yes,” Kate said. “I need you to know that these books are not suitable to be sold in a hospital,” pointing to the pile of Christian best-sellers she’d made on the floor.

Every book was one that Kate had poured over during her ten-year study of the prosperity gospel. She’d interviewed their celebrity authors.

Kate pointed to Your Best Life Now.

“He’s writing about the prosperity gospel,” Kate said. “He’s saying that God will reward you with money and health if you have the right kind of faith.”

“You can’t sell this in a hospital. You can’t sell this to me,” she said, pointing to her hospital gown and IV.

Kate pointed to one book after another. “This book tells me to claim my healing using Bible verses. This one tells me that if I can unleash my positive thoughts, I can get rid of negativity in my life.”

In an interview for CNN, Kate said, “Our minds are powerful, but forcing our minds to conjure up optimism is not always healthy. American culture got hooked on the idea that everything is possible for those who believe. But the casualty is honesty. We overemphasize our own abilities and end up saddling ourselves with unnecessary shame and frustration. Life is hard enough without imagining that we are not simply suffering, but failing.”

The Apostle Paul, the first great Christian missionary and author of the letters that make up much of the New Testament, constantly faced closed doors as he travelled the Mediterranean world. His faith led him to be beaten, stoned, and more. Paul never claimed he was living his best life.

But he knew Jesus was with him in his journeys.

He knew Jesus would be waiting when his journeys were through.

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