Today’s lesson is that if your religious slogan rhymes, then people will assume that it’s theologically accurate. (Or maybe not.)
“Name it and claim it!” This is a catchy slogan for the “prosperity gospel,” also known as “positive confession” or the “Word-faith movement.” Basically the idea is that if you say you’re going to receive (or become) something, and you have enough faith, then whatever you say will happen will have to happen. For example, a person might say aloud every morning with confidence: “I will receive enough money to pay off my debts and buy a house!” Or: “I am healed of every disease and infirmity!” If you believe it, then it will have to happen.
Supporters of the teaching point to Biblical examples such as Jesus telling a fig tree that it won’t bear fruit, and the tree instantly dying. Or Jesus saying “Be healed” and a person becoming healed. If you think about it, there’s a certain logic there. After all, didn’t God say “Let there be light” and all of a sudden there was light?
While this teaching is commonly associated with the televangelists of the 1980s, there are still Christian leaders today who exhort their followers to adopt similar views. Some Christians today still make what are called “declarations” over themselves about what reality looks like. So if I have a cold, I might say “I really don’t have a cold at all! I’m a Christian and God wants me to be healthy. I might appear to have the symptoms of a cold, but I refuse to accept that I have a cold. Therefore, this cold cannot exist!” By naming what I want, and by virtue of my faith in God’s power, I will be able to claim what I declare. Put another way, by confidently proclaiming what I believe is true, reality will be compelled to conform to my proclamation.
There are folks on both sides of the issue, as you can well imagine, but there are a few facts that nobody can argue with.
First, the term originated as broadcast radio slang in the 1950s. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that people began to apply this catchy catchphrase to the increasingly popular prosperity gospel movement.
Second, the term initially seems to have had a neutral connotation, and even something of a tongue-in-cheek playful connotation—after all, the term originally meant a radio game show. But over time, as vocal criticism of the prosperity gospel has mounted, the term name it and claim it has taken on irreparably derogatory connotations, and the term is mostly used by folks who are critical or dismissive of prosperity gospel teachings.
What other synonyms for “name it, claim it” have you heard? Post what you know in the comments.
name it and claim it n. Also: name it, claim it. A derisive nickname for the *prosperity gospel (also known as *positive confession).
The term is used attributively in various combinations of obvious meaning, such as name-it-claim-it advocate (see 1983b citation), name-it-and-claim-it gospel (see 1987 citation), name-it-and-claim-it preacher (see 1990 citation), name-it-and-claim-it theology (see 1995 citation).
The term originated as American broadcast radio slang in the 1950s for a type of on-air prize giveaway: “The applicant also broadcasts a program entitled ‘Name It and Claim It,’ upon which program a phonograph record is played and that record is given to the first person who telephones the station and answers correctly a question about the musical recording, such as the title of the musical number, the orchestra playing it, or the vocalist singing the refrain” (Federal Communications Commission Reports XIII. (1954) 438). And: “Short-form contests, still a radio mainstay, include ‘name it and claim it,’ a record or ticket giveaway (inspired by NBC’s popular 1952 radio and television game show Name That Tune, itself a knock-off of Mutual’s 1944 radio show, What’s the Name of That Song?)” (Godfrey, Leigh Historical Dictionary of American Radio (1998) 94).
The key element of such contests is that a person who calls something by name (“names it”) receives it free (“claims it”). The catchphrase was first figuratively applied to the prosperity gospel in the late 1970s. Early citations suggest that the term was used both by supporters of the prosperity-gospel movement (see 1977 citation) and by critics of it (see 1980 citation), though over the years the term has become almost wholly the property of the movement’s critics.
Similar nicknames for the prosperity gospel are: *blab it and grab it; *conceive and believe; *gab it and grab it; *health-and-wealth gospel; *seed faith; *victorious living; *word-faith (sometimes abbreviated *WOF).
• 1977 Tri-City Herald (Richland, WA) (19 Aug.) 9 (church listings) : “Name It and Claim It.” When we feel separated from our good, it is usually because we are judging by what is taking place in our lives at some particular moment, rather than recognizing that this condition need not continue, that within our own mind lies the ability to create any new experience we desire. Stop judging your life by your present (or past) circumstances, and start placing your thoughts on what you want to experience. And do this frequently, not just once in a while! Eventually it will create a very vivid picture in your own creative mind, and you will that perfect right action resulting in the attainment of your desire. We invite you to explore life with us. It’s beautiful! “Church of Religious Science.” (No Sunday school or youth church during summer months.) 1980 Time (17 Feb.) 69 : Believers who pronounce their wishes in true faith have already received them, the [prosperity] preachers maintain, even though it may take time for the miracle to be realized. The shorthand version: “Name it and claim it.” The movement deeply disturbs more traditional Evangelicals and Pentecostals (Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson, however, are among outsiders who are friendly). 1980 The Wittenburg Door (Oct.–Nov.) 20 : “Some teachings in the charismatic movement I think are abhorrent.” “Such as?” “The so-called ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ teaching.” 1982 Gaither Decisions 58 : And I’m not going to get into how much faith you have to have or the “name it, claim it” craze. 1983a Hopko The Lenten Spring 68 : They say that you can come before God and “name it and claim it.” Health, wealth, happiness, prosperity in this world are what, according to them, the Lord primarily promises and provides. 1983b Bulle God Wants You Rich: And Other Enticing Doctrines 39 : One wonders, too, how much spiritual agony has been caused by the “name it, claim it” advocates. Faithful saints suffering and in pain are tortured with the accusation that if they only believed, Jesus would heal them. 1986 Powell When the Hurt Won’t Go Away 65 : There are those who call themselves Christians that promise us health and wealth if we will just become their kind of Christians—and send in our offerings. Their motto is: “Name it and claim it.” Ask for it and it’s yours. 1987 Burkett Answers to Your Family’s Financial Questions 115 : Perhaps the passage most commonly associated with the “name it, claim it” philosophy is Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.” 1987 Newsweek (13 Jul.) 53 : Influenced by more worldly second-generation television preachers, [Oral] Roberts has lately adapted himself to the “Name it and claim it” gospel. According to insiders, this school stresses the belief that God rewards faith with material blessings. 1990 Boston How to Profit from Our Afflictions 8 : The prosperity gospel preachers, or as some say, the “name it and claim it” preachers, who teach that you just speak a verbal word and God will bring it to pass. 1993 MacArthur Charismatic Chaos 323 : The Word Faith movement, known otherwise as the Faith movement—or Word, Faith-Formula, Word of Faith, Hyper-Faith, Positive Confession, Name It and Claim It, or Health, Wealth, and Prosperity teaching—is a subdivision of the charismatic movement. 1995 Collins, Ishola Baptists and the Charismatic Movement 73 : Those who teach “prosperity theology” take Jesus’ words, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7) and claim that any request the child of God makes of God will be granted. Thus it has been labelled “name it and claim it” theology. 2007 Levin People in Glass Houses 81 : I am an original test case for the “name it and claim it” movement. We had so many stories of people who pinned photos of cars on their fridges, or made a list of the perfect spouse, and God had delivered to them their details. 2011 Relevant Mag. (Nov./Dec.) 54 : In the fundamentalist Word of Faith movement … words have spiritual power. With enough faith, one can receive what they can verbalize, a practice more colloquially known as “faith confession” or, more derogatorily, “name it and claim it.”