Thursday, January 03, 2008

Televangelists Respond to Sen. Grassley

One of my readers, KJ, responded to my post about Sen. Grassley’s inquiry into the finances of certain televangelists including Joyce Meyer Ministries. Here’s a portion of KJ’s comment:

“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. . . .

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.”

And I respond,

“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 to be less than what they claim to be. For example, 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 or is secretly engaging in same sex relationships while condemning them. Well, it used to happen this way—I just don't know what to think about Rudy Giuliani’s marital track record and how that’s being treated. Maybe it doesn’t matter as much anymore. But in general, walk the walk and talk the talk. However, I think without delving more deeply into the individual philosophies of some of this bunch, that they are not actually advocating helping the poor and troubled necessarily.”


Now to the responses of those under examination. According to Joyce Meyer Ministries, Sen. Grassley has been furnished the requested information. Meyer issued a well-crafted response to the probe wherein she says for 2006 82% of the money received went for outreach or programs, 13% for administrative costs and 5% for fundraising. In October of this year, she says the organization received a letter from the IRS saying the organization continues to meet the requirements for Federal Income Tax exemption under IRC Section 501 (c) (3). The response also addressed expenditures for furnishings for the Fenton, Missouri, headquarters and explained that $23,000 wasn’t for a real commode (toilet) but was for “a tall elegant chest of drawers.” Should Meyer have spent this for a piece of furniture? Let's just say, if I thought one of my favorite religious nonprofits spent the money I donated in this way I'd be offended.

But, and it's a big one, I am not sure followers of the Gospel of Prosperity expect their leaders to be pious. The Gospel of Prosperity idea as tied to the Bible is not new. I remember in the 1970s a character named Rev. Ike who was my first brush with the notion. Rev. Ike is still around and his Web site has this to say, "As an evangelist, on TV, radio, and at mass meetings, he had the “nerve” to PREACH “Prosperity NOW!” — long before it became popular to do so. He was dismissed by some “mainstream” and “fundamentalist” people, but now many famous preachers, teachers and authors sound just like Rev. Ike — teaching prosperity!"

I digress. Another televangelist, Creflo Dollar (yes, that really is his name if you are to believe his Web site, which says his father Creflo A. Dollar, Sr., named him so) of the World Changers Church International had his lawyers send Sen. Grassley a letter stating that the "ministry" does not intend to provide the information and further
The Church's first Amendment rights and the problems that section 7611 was designed to prevent are implicated by the recent request for information. While we applaud Senator Grassley's dedication to tax law oversight and we can assure you that the church is willing to comply with a proper request for information, we believe that the IRS, through the framework of section 7611, is the appropriate governmental body to review these sensitive matters. Therefore, we respectfully request that Senator Grassley, or the full Senate Finance Committee, refer any information regarding federal tax compliance concerns to the IRS for the agency to evaluate.


A press release from early December indicated that the other organizations were communicating with the senator's office.

Gerald Iversen, national coordinator of Alternatives for Simple Living, over on the Global Ministries United Methodist Church Web site offers a mainstream Christian view with Treasures on Earth: the Gospel of Prosperity. You can imagine that Iversen, who advocates voluntary simplicity or "Living More with Less," might have problems with the Gospel of Prosperity.

I hope I have presented "the rest of the story" as it now stands. Because of how I feel about the First Amendment, I am not anxious to jump on any bandwagon to quiet the voices of these ministries of prosperity and personal growth. It's one of the wonderful things about living in a free society. Sen. Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee will need to tread carefully here but I do encourage them to proceed.

11 comments:

Sarge Charlie said...

First Amendment???????These snake doctors should not be covered by the first. Oh well, you know my feelings.

floridagirl said...

I was flipping through channels one day and came across Jesse DuPlantis, a preacher out of New Orleans. He proceeded to tell a story of stopping to give some construction workers $50 each (God Bless him!) *tongue in cheek*
to take their wives out to dinner- he said "Here I was climbing out of a $95,000 automobile and they didn't know what to think!" Well, I knew what to think and I'd rather not say it on someone's blog! He dresses in Armani suits while preaching ....OH, don't get me started!!!! When I think of how many homebound elderly folks send horrible people like him half of their Social Security check each month, it just makes me want to puke.
Also wanted to wish you a Happy New Year now that my blood has stopped boiling!! :)

floridagirl said...

I also LOVE the fact that Creflo Dollar's wife's name is Taffi--that's just TOO MUCH!!! :)

Jay Croft said...

Sarge--

Eventually these charlatans will be pleading the Fifth amendment.

Sheila said...

Sarge,
I do think I understand your outrage. I'm the same way too but I guess I wonder how far we should go to protect people from themselves.

Floridagirl,
Happy New Year to you too. Sorry to get you all riled up. I thought the same thing as you as far as Dollar's wife's name. I don't reckon I'll ever understand these folks and their love of the material and the way they have wrapped it all up in Christianity.

Jay,
You could be right. But I don't know that I'd be so hot to let the IRS watch over the situation as Dollar requests. The IRS is the same government agency that thinks Scientology is a church. Heaven help me for mentioning them--they be after me like a flea after a puppy. I do tend to rattle on.

Jackie said...

We have Evangelists here as well who bleed the poor dry and live in huge palatial homes. Sadly one import from a couple of US Bible colleges we could do without.

With our Constitution allowing all major religions to have basically equal time on TV etc at least they don't get too much airtime as we have a variety of Traditional Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddist and Hindu programs to switch over to if the Creflo Dollar types come on our stations.

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.

Pat said...

Isn't it odd that word-faith only works in America? If a Haitian Christian who's nearly making it or less isn't rich, does that make him less of a Christian? I apologise. It's the first time on your blog so I don't know where you stand on this, forgive me if I seem fanatic or something, but the Bible says you can't serve God and Mammon (money). Funny how they ignore the verses that don't fit their agenda. If they even read the Bible, it might close down the word-faith "industry" (which is what it is).

Sheila said...

Pat, I agree (at least I think so) with you. I respect those Christians who try to live good lives but I think these people or the industry as you so aptly referred to it are preying (couldn't resist the pun) on believers and profiting. Not my idea of what Jesus would have wanted to see happen in His name.

Pat said...

Thank you for getting back with me per my email. You commented that you get on a soapbox. Looks like you aren't the only one on that soapbox. Some things get my "dandruff" up also.

Bernie of FreeGoodNews.com said...

I think Christians need to cheer on Sen. Grassley... we need televangelist reform.

I just released a salary survey for Christian execs, see it here:
http://www.freegoodnews.com/2008/01/2008-salary-rev.html

...Bernie