Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christian Marketing and Redeeming the Fallen

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has launched a senate probe into TV ministries. He’s asked for financial records from six major televangelists including Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

The senator is questioning the ministers’ spending practices for possible abuses of their tax-exempt status. Some of those elaborate sets with the gold “thrones” seemed a bit over the top to me. Yet, the very scope of the inquiry has been attacked as too broad. Grassley has been quoted as saying that the investigation “has nothing to do with church doctrine” and that he wants to make sure the organizations are following the law.

However, I suppose the timing of the advertising insert for “Morningside, A Place of Refuge” couldn’t have been worst for one Branson, Missouri, televangelist you may recall and the Branson developer, Jerry Crawford, working with him. A four-page color advertisement for this new venture appeared in the Dec. 28, 2007, Springfield News-Leader. The AP story about Sen. Grassley’s investigation was on page 9A and the advertisement for this new planned community was tucked among ads for JC Penney after Christmas sales and DirectTV promotions.

Crawford, a supporter from Bakker’s old days of The PTL Club, had encouraged the fallen televangelist to come to Branson, and Bakker and his second wife, Lori, are building a TV ministry here. Perhaps the “Gospel of Prosperity” theology once associated with Bakker has been exchanged, and the years he served in prison for fraud have molded a new and redeemed man. But one thing hasn’t changed. Bakker hasn’t lost his love for televangelism.

Will the new venture, Morningside, evolve into something similar to Heritage USA, once the third-largest theme park in the U.S.? It’s too early to say but the ground has been broken and the development is under way in Blue Eye, Missouri.


Jay Croft said...

Go get 'em, Senator!

Those slimy characters give Christianity a bad name. Plus, they're getting fabulously wealthy off the people who trust them.

Marsha said...

I think that for those of us who have never been regular church goers, this type of Christianity is our perception of all church goers. Greedy bastards who don't care about anyone but themselves and their churchy friends. So many people who are not like this have no idea why things like saying Merry Christmas to everyone regardless if they are Christian or not is rude. I feel like the vast majority of Christians are good people but they turn a blind eye to those who are corrupt among them.

Sarge Charlie said...

These damn people pray on the old and the disabled, in her later years I would check my mothers check book to see how much she was sending these bastards. Sorry Shelia, you touched a hot button.......

the teach said...

Shelia, thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog. Your blog looks very interesting and questioning televangelists spending practices is a good thing...Happy New Year to you and yours. Let's keep in touch!

Sheila said...

Rev. Jay,
Thanks for your input. If you ever get to the Branson area, you'll have to take in the Jim Bakker Show. Lest he really be redeemed, I don't want to pile on too hard. This new undertaking just struck me as so familiar to the old Heritage USA scheme. I am halfway thinking about attending one of the shows. I have seen the show on TV and the operation almost seems intentionally "modest."

Yet, the Christmas show included Bakker telling viewers that if they gave a "love offering" of $50, they would receive a wooden box with a rock from Calvary, which was enclosed in a black velvet bag with two red tassels. A brass plate with scripture adorned the top. It seems Bakker was having a "fire sale" of sorts since the show was moving to the new digs soon. Not only could viewers get the box, but Bakker was going to throw in five other "premiums" or extras or whatever he called them. Leftover books, figures that looked like Jesus dolls (I could be mistaken here) and other items left over from the PTL Club glory days I suppose--a kind of God garage sale. I swear I thought I was watching Home Shopping Network.

I am sorry I got started on this subject. A part of me actually felt sorry for Bakker. Maybe he is truly redeemed. But here he was along with his second wife talking to viewers and trying to rebuild his life. The man who once owned a Rolls and lived a lavish life was reduced to "selling" his wares to keep the show on the air.

I'd be more likely to believe that his heart was geniune if he had stayed in L.A. and was continuing his work with poor Hispanic youths instead of this Branson venture.

I am like you too. I know most Christians are not like those under scrutiny. There have always been flim-flam men and women, grifters who use religion to scam people. But I do have problems when they take advantage of government tax breaks in the name of God.

My husband grandmother would send in checks to these hucksters too. Lonely, old and scared that the government would take away her pension--yet she'd give her money to people who lived in big mansions. For shame! It's a hot button issue with me too.

Hi Teach,
So glad you dropped by and sorry you caught me on a "rant." You have a thoughtful and interesting blog. I think many of my dear gentle readers would like you too. Happy New Year!

Jay Croft said...

"church goers, this type of Christianity is our perception of all church goers. Greedy bastards who don't care about anyone but themselves and their churchy friends."

They're not really "church goers," but people who are looking for a good show. They actually call their churches "Auditoriums."

Palm Springs Savant said...

Sheila- these tv ministries drive me crazy too. I know several people who were sucked in and gave way more money than they could afford, under the promise that it was what God wanted.

On a side note- Tammy Faye (former wife of Jim Bakker) lived in Palm Springs until she passed away a few months ago. We saw her out and about town and was very sweet.

Miss Trashahassee said...

Benny Hinn ... Grrrrrrrr. I do not wish to even get started. God will deal with him and his ilk.

Miss T

The T-Dude said...

You gotta love Chuck. When he first got elected, he was known as Tweedledum, that Senator form Iowa. Just look at him now.

He actually tried to go after pimps and pros on the tax thing as well. Check it out:

Diane J Standiford said...

Thank God you are ranting! Don't ever hold back, that is how change happens and wrongs made right--let it out! Ministries should be giving BACK $ to the elderly. Makes me sick. Great post.

KJ said...

Hi Sheila and HAPPY NEW YEAR! I must say that this stirred me up and not for the same reasons as your other guests...

I do understand that many abuse the Gospel and fleece the flock. In my years of being a Christian, I have seen wolves in many guises filter into unsuspecting congregations. Some were pretty slick! Thank God for discernment! Even the Bible warns us to be on the lookout for these creeps. I've even had to expose a few. Wolves go where they want to and it's our job to sniff them out. This by no means diminishes the Gospel or puts ALL Christians under scrutiny.

I do want to say that there are are at least a couple of these individuals who do not belong on this list. Joyce Meyer—for one—is above board. I have met her more than once and I have followed her ministry closely. She has actually helped many people avoid the snakes by teaching them how to shed low self-esteem and a victim mentality.

Any ministry needs funds to operate. I know this because I am deeply involved in ministry. I have never been on the payroll, even while serving as an Associate Pastor. However, it always takes money to provide meals, clothing, materials, aid, etc. And, those funds have not always been easy to collect.

I read all of the prior comments and let me say that my church is continually giving back to the elderly. I know a whole slew of ministries who regularly provide care and outreach. You won't hear about this on the news because our media, especially, loves to paint Christianity in a negative light.

As we start hooraying when it looks like some Christians—or so called Christians—are getting "theirs", I think we need to question our enthusiasm. Is it because we want justice wherever there is abuse, or is it because we have personal issues with Christianity. Just as it is wrong to lump all Middle Eastern people into the category of terrorist, it is wrong to identify all Christians as wolves and hypocrites.

Perhaps we need to turn the tables on our politicians—Republican and Democrat! Many politicians are abusing the system constantly with their financial practices. If we are going to conduct witch hunts, lets make it go both ways...


P.S. I can always count on a rousing visit to your blog. I do appreciate YOU!

Naomi said...

I've always found the way those ministers go on tv asking for money in the U.S. strange to say the least Sheila. They wouldn't allow it here in England. I'm surprised they get away with it there and are allowed to do it. Great post Sheila. Charity should come from the heart! People like this are greedy and unscrupulus. They give christianity and church goers a bad name.

Sheila said...

I appreciate your comments. That is interesting about Sen. Grassley's attention to whether ladies of the night pay taxes.

You are always so reasonable and thoughtful and I'm happy to have you as a reader. The unfortunate thing about these Senate probes is that just the mere fact that a person is "under investigation" places a cloud on their name or organization. With the current probe, Joyce Meyer (she's headquartered in Fenton, MO) has provided the senator with the requested information.

You wrote, "Just as it is wrong to lump all Middle Eastern people into the category of terrorist, it is wrong to identify all Christians as wolves and hypocrites." I agree wholeheartedly with you. However, I think we hold those claiming "piety" to the standard they proclaim no matter if they are Christians or some other religion or if they are politicians or other public figures. The gotcha moments come when these folks are found out. The politician who advocates the sanctity of marriage is strung up by the media if it is found out he or she is cheating on the spouse (well, it used to happen this way--don't know with ole Rudy's marital shenanigans) or is secretly engaging in same sex relationships while condemning them.

Walk the walk, talk the talk. Balance in all things. Lessons learned.

Jay Croft said...

BTW, maybe Sen. Grassley is doing this for publicity.

On the other hand, Iowa has a higher percentage of elderly than the national average.

Sheila said...

I guess I'm too skeptical these days about motives like you. Whatever his motives, I hope Grassley sheds light on the ones abusing the tax laws to line their pockets and clears those who are actually doing what their supporters think they are.

kbeach said...

I’ve been there, that’s why I am here.
Exactly who does have a right to question Copeland about where the money goes? Copeland put on a exhalent performance at his latest ministers conference, visible at , in which has now gotten the attention of people all across the USA, and abroad. If I didn’t personally know better, one would actually think he cares about the protection of all his followers (partners),that pour money into his ministry. Requesting a summery of my mothers (Bonnie Parker) contributions, a long time partner of KCM, we like Grassley got little or no response. (Request viewable at ). If their partners aren’t entitled to this privileged information, even though they are funding this lavish lifestyle KCM has grown very accustom to, nor is the Senate entitled either, then who is? The IRS perhaps? Are the teachings of the Prosperity Gospel message being misconstrued? Do we, any of us, have a valid argument, or the right to ask for these records ? I believe with all my heart, we should let the ones affected most by this money making scam have a say in determining the answer to those questions..
“ I had a home“, “I had a life“, “I had faith“, “I had a family“, “I lost a loved one“, “I have no clue what the truth is anymore!” “I will never trust any form of religion.” these are merely a handful of endless testimonies coming to light nationwide. Ranging from all walks of life, their heartbreaking testimonies can be found throughout the web, yet inconceivably, victims are being labeled as fools, ignorant, and basically downright blind for not seeing the truth behind the Prosperity Gospels falsehoods. ” Being only human, our quest for health and wealth, regrettably does lead some in the wrong direction. Promises and guaranties, made by the Prosperity Gospel ministers, give people that have not obtained these blessings on their own, a second chance at achieving their goals in life. An important discovery I made while reviewing testimonies, revealed the fact numerous victims had very little knowledge of the Prosperity Gospels dark side. These unfortunate victims, appear to be equipped with only a small portion of the web of deceit these ministers weave . Picture yourself being raised in a small country town, with a population of only a few hundred, the closest city, only a population of only a few thousand. Computers, internet, cable, satellite TV, and other high tech gadgets are not needed or desired. You are living a simple , solemn life you wouldn’t trade for any amount of cash. After your working day is done, you gladly remove your shoes, kick back in your easy chair, and relax without a care in the world for a while. After flipping on the TV to view the local evening news broadcast, you are reminded to give thanks that you don’t have the worries that accompany life outside the safe haven of your home, and your community. Religion is your safeguard, your faith is strong, and you have no doubts about the truth behind your sacred beliefs. This was my life, before KCM.
Prosperity Gospel ministers enter the homes of many victims though a thirty minute Sunday morning worship service on a local broadcast station. Growing up in Jigger La., truly located in the middle of nowhere, I can testify to the fact that we only received on a clear day about three or four channels at most. Warnings of dangers associated with Prosperity Gospel ministries, made by critics, ministers, and victims go unheard, therefore tragically for many, when the realization of this scam is discovered it is already to late. Family’s have lost their homes, lifesavings, and some even their lives due to the Prosperity Gospels misleading doctrines. Unfortunately my mother was not one of the lucky ones, her confidence, and faith in this false Gospel, ultimately cost her, her life. After more than a decade of programming her mind to believe and think the Prosperity Gospel way of life, she lost her battle with cancer. By refusing medical attention, she sealed her fate, but the programming she had acquired from Kenneth and Gloria Copeland proved strong all the way to her last breath. A diary she left behind revealed the horrific tale of her life from 1992-2002, the top of each page titled with Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, or BVOV. Some mistakes in life we can not undo, and good intentions don’t always go as planed, these victims are simply following misleading promises of health and wealth. The use of miraculous healing confessions, and newly found wealth testimonies, are their sales pitch, sadly my mom among many other are proof that their sale pitch works. The possibility these Mega churches were misusing finances for personal luxuries is what brought this scam to the publics attention, not the loss of life, the financially bankrupt, and numerous homeless victims they have been left in the wake of this devastating hoax. So, do we continue blaming the victims, or do we stand up beside them, learn from there mistakes, and put an end to these senseless tragedies? Even I being a victims daughter have many lingering questions, such as follows, “How is it that some see the truth, and others do not?” ” What leads these victim to believe the unbelievable?” “ Are some more vulnerable to these sort of money making scams than others When all is said and done, perhaps they will be tagged, not as the Prosperity Gospel, but the false gospel. One Quote from Copelands mouth should erases any doubts of KCM innocence,
“It’s not yours, it’s God’s and you’re not going to get it and that’s something I’ll go to prison over. So, just get over it!”

The family of Bonnie Parker

Photo, before and after KCM,
Documentary Suffer The Children, exposes televangelists lavish lifestyles ,
Book recently published by Sara Posner, also looks into these subjects,