Kate Bowler studies the stories people tell themselves.
An author, educator and podcaster, Bowler has shared narratives of unconventional faith, from the arc of the American prosperity gospel to her own struggle with cancer. Bowler knows faith at its strongest and its weakest points, and she shares what she has learned.
Bowler will bring her perspective to Chautauqua Institution at 10:45 today in the Amphitheater as a part of this week’s Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “The State of Believing.”
Jordan Steves, the interim Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education at the Institution, said that in a week taking an “expansive view” of faith, Bowler represents a more traditional take on the theme, approaching it through the lens of faith and religion.
Bowler speaks and writes widely about … stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves,” Steves said.
Bowler holds a master’s degree in religion from Yale Divinity School and a doctorate degree from Duke University. She is author or co-author of six books, an associate professor of American Religious History at Duke Divinity School and the host of the podcast “Everything Happens.”
On her podcast, Bowler has spoken to a myriad of people, from celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and Priyanka Chopra Jonas to spiritual leaders like Bishop Michael Curry and Rabbi Steve Leder.
“Life isn’t always bright and shiny, as Kate Bowler knows,” according to the description of her podcast. “In warm, insightful, often funny conversations, Kate talks with people about what they’ve learned in difficult times.”
Bowler’s 2018 book, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, tells the story of her life during and after her cancer diagnosis. The book is the story of her “struggle to understand the personal and intellectual dimensions of the American belief that all tragedies are tests of character,” according to Bowler’s website.
“At age 35, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage IV cancer, causing her to think in different terms about the research and beliefs she had been studying,” her website says.
Bowler’s other memoir No Cure for Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear) followed in 2021. Outside of these autobiographical works, Bowler is the author of two books on American Christianity, 2020’s The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities and 2013’s Blessed: A History of The American Prosperity Gospel.
Bowler is also the co-author of two books with Jessica Richie, the producer of her podcast: 2022’s Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection and her latest, The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days.
Bowler and Richie’s newest book offers “creative, faith-based blessings that center gratitude and hope while acknowledging our real, messy lives,” in the style of a prayer book, according to its description on Amazon.
Bowler will be the second speaker for this week’s theme, which Steves hopes leads people to “consider other points of view” and to “approach people who are different from us in good faith.” She’ll also close the week, in another fashion, as she’ll be in conversation with Duke Divinity School Associate Dean Katherine Smith Friday in the Hall of Philosophy for the Interfaith Lecture Series.
In this week, Steves said he hoped people reaffirm their own beliefs while coming to understand those of others, “understanding of how we all come to the conclusions that basically form our identities and the way we show up in the world.”