Dr. Keith L. Magee is a distinguished senior fellow on race, religion and poverty at the University of Birmingham Institute of Advanced Studies and a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. He is also a visiting scholar at Boston University School of Theology. Keith has given national and international attention to the National Public Housing Museum and the Center for the Study of Housing and Society.
Keith Magee’s work is interwoven in his commitment to social justice and the cause of the poor. He has intersections with various universities, museums, and non-governmental organizations to illuminate and interrupt the cycle of global poverty through scholarship, arts and culture to address issues of inequality, literacy, public policy, and how to build sustainable communities. He brings both the academic, having trained at Harvard Divinity School, and practical background, having served in various roles as nonprofit executive, social historian, pastor of two an inner city congregations, and as a senior advisor to the President Obama’s campaign and the African American Clergy Network. Over the last year, Keith has also served as the lead Yale University School of Medicine’s Center for Dyslexia and Creativity’s Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative, leading the charge on “Dyslexia and the Achievement Gap: A Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.”
The Gospel Exchange: Social vs. Prosperity and its Impact on the Poor
The challenge of poverty is pejorative around the world. There are an estimated 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, with the equivalent of just US$1.25 a day for all their needs. The rich and poor often coexist in close proximity, as neighbors and strangers, individuals passing each other in grocery stores and gas stations, people who interact or, more often, live in segregated silences within the church and society. Yet at the same time there is gospel of “prosperity” that is a multi-billion dollar industry engaged with the poor and within poor communities.
The Gospel Exchange: Social Justice vs. Prosperity Gospel and the Impact on Poor is an in-depth look at the impact that this exchange has on the poor in the United States and United Kingdom. Gleaning for the Civic Gospel, which was part of a longer tradition that placed Birmingham at the heart of wider political changes, it also explores the influence of this 1870’s social improvement era impact on the national struggles causing a shift in power from aristocratic landowners who had inherited economic wealth and political privileges by birth to the entire citizenry. Likewise, it considers the American Civil Rights movement that was birth from the social gospel and applied faith to address social justice, in the fight for equality, giving birth to the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Within a generation of massive legislative equality the African American Church finds itself entangled in a prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is on the rise around the global, an in particular in communities of color, and rapidly emerging in the United Kingdom. This doctrine of “positive proclamations” and donations has increased material wealth, but its inability to speak out courageously for the poor and the least of these, have left many communities with much of the same critical needs as were present years ago.
The purpose of the research is to examine the origins of social gospel, its Christian ethics, leaders in community churches, and social justice: wealth perceived as excessive, inadequate housing, employment, education, public policy and public health, all addressing abject poverty and a need for equality. It will contrast and examine the prosperity gospel as a doctrine that views the gospel as a contract between God and individuals, defining faith in terms of money rather than through the spiritual prism of serving the less fortunate and ameliorating the poor as does the social gospel. It will also explore leaders in the Charismatic Movement and the establishment of mega-churches, which are often outside of the inner cities, having less focus on local abject poverty, but foreign missions. There will be an analysis of moderate size inner-city churches that currently deem the social gospel relevant, providing services to the poor, juxtaposed to the suburban mega-churches.
The outcome of the research is to reveal and consider 1). What was the biblical concept of the social gospel imposed within community galvanize a cohesive force? 2). What are the guiding biblical principles of the prosperity gospel? 3). What is the spiritual relationships of the parishioner as a collective member of community of believers, as opposed to the commit solely between God and the individual? 4). What value systems do both gospels provide and can exchange to continue to forge equality and uplift?