When athletes give interviews about their success, they tend to iterate on themes of self-assuredness, dedication to a goal, positive thinking, and divine blessing. By examining the history of prosperity theology in the U.S., we can see one possible source of this rhetoric. Prosperity theology teaches believers that God wants them to be healthy and wealthy and that the means to achieve health and wealth are at a believer’s fingertips. All one must do is give faithfully to one’s church, never waver in one’s belief that God will grant health and wealth, and act as though one has already received the blessing one desires. While scholars have long critiqued prosperity theology for obscuring structural inequalities, particularly those that impact people of color, the philosophy remains popular in many congregations across the U.S. and is nearly ubiquitous in black churches. Examining similarities in the rhetoric of prosperity gospel and athletes’ narratives of their success shows that these narratives also contribute to the faulty logic of meritocracy by ignoring systemic inequalities.
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