Megachurches, Suburbia and the Prosperity Gospel
Jesus had a favorite suburb. According to pastor Leith Anderson, Jesus’s favorite suburb was Bethany, and the Messiah actually commuted to Jerusalem to work. All of his “best friends” lived in Bethany (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), so it made sense for Jesus to live in a suburb instead of in the urban center. Although Anderson does recognize that Bethany may have been different from the modern extraurban manifestations of sprawling gated communities and planned neighborhoods that have come to represent suburban life, he insists that Jesus was, like so many Americans today, very much the suburbanite. The minister has only one purpose for placing his savior in a suburban environment: to demonstrate that the suburbs can be useful and “authentic” spaces for spiritual activities. He argues, for instance, that Jesus performed his “top miracle” in Bethany by raising Lazarus from the dead. What Anderson attempts to accomplish in this narrative is to combat the notion that suburbs are spiritual vacuums, void of any real religious substance. If Jesus lived and prospered in one, he asserts, then so can many Americans.