Religious ideas and beliefs should not be above criticism or beyond satire we use both...we're different. * No written or expressed guarantees are made about the use of alternative, metaphysical or spiritual enlightenment tools, services and supplies. This site is for entertainment/enlightenment purposes only and is done in parody..."It's a joke son..."~Foghorn Leghorn

Even the the wisdom of heresy has it's own specific tune and melody unique to the wisdom of heresy.~Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Friday, November 6, 2015

‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ groups face backlash thanks to ISIS

DAYTON, Ohio — Trinity Church member John Kelly was surprised to arrive at work Monday and see an email from his boss saying “Come into my office.”

“He sat me down and said, ‘I knew you were religious, but what’s with supporting ISIS?’” Kelly says.

Kelly has led an Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) group Fridays at lunchtime for eight years at the plastics company where he works. But a co-worker took his most recent flyer from the break room and reported it, thinking Kelly was supporting the northern Iraq-based terrorist group, ISIS.

“I tried to explain that we’re about iron sharpening iron,” Kelly said. “That only made it worse.”

ISI groups around the country are facing new suspicions as the Iraqi terrorist group with similar initials commits atrocities widely seen on the Internet.

In North Carolina, ISI Bible study leader Dewayne Lovett sent out an email inviting people to join his group and immediately heard back from guys saying, “What do you all do, kill journalists?” It didn’t help that one of the people on the email is a former Muslim named Mohammed Al Akbar.

“I like the name ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ ‘cause it sounds masculine but I guess it’s freaking people out,” says Lovett. “I wonder if I’ll hear from the NSA next.”

In Spokane, where Jerry Nuell leads an ISI group at a coffee shop on Tuesday mornings, some patrons objected to the ISI logo on his Bible study binder.

“One lady thought I was starting a domestic arm of ISIS and no amount of explanation would appease her,” Nuell says. “She pointed her finger at me and said, ‘I always knew you religious radicals would team up — all you Muslims, evangelical Christians and homeschoolers.’”

Nuell’s church is considering changing their ISI groups’ names to “Man Up” for the time being.

“For guys who aren’t sure about studying the Bible anyway, the fact that ISI is one letter away from a crazy terrorist organization doesn’t help,” Nuell’s pastor, Gary Whittaker, says. “We’d rather keep the door open.”

Kelly, who leads the ISI group at work, was allowed to keep his Bible study but is having to do “a little damage control,” he says. “We try to explain to people that we’re not about violence or cutting people’s heads off. We sit around, eat pizza and discuss the book of Proverbs.” 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Apostate Church Now Hosting Drag Queen Gospel Festival Insisting God Is a Woman

Apostate Church Now Hosting Drag Queen Gospel Festival Insisting God Is a Woman

First Church Somerville on Easter. (Facebook)

Yes, this even shocked me.
First Church Somerville United Church of Christ has issued a public service announcement from its "drag-queen-in-residence." (Yes, I just wrote the words "drag queen" and "church" in the same sentence and it doesn't have to do with a powerful testimony of deliverance from darkness.)
James Adams, also known as Serenity Jones, begins his public service announcement declaring a bit of truth—God is good all the time—followed by a blasphemous lie that God is a "diva" and a "girl." In true Pentecostal preacher style, asks "Can I get a witness up in here!? Can I get an amen my sistahs and my brothahs!?"
Friday, Oct. 16 marked the beginning of the fifth annual Drag Gospel Festival, a weekend sponsored by First Church Somerville, Old South Church and The Imperial Court of Massachusetts emphasizing the United Church of Christ’s acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Over 100 guests packed into the backroom stage of Club CafĂ© in the South End for a drag show hosted by New York-based drag queen Sapphira Cristal.

Um ... no. No, you can't.
The twisted "public service announcement" goes on to say the church will become "Fierce Church Somerville" for two days in October and will see congregants worship, praise and use their God-given musical and artistic talent, creativity and fashion.
"What do drag queens or drag kings have to do with Jesus or the gospel? We at FCS believe 'God don't make no junk,'" Jones writes. "So whether you are straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered or still playing hard to get, Jesus loves you and so do we! Amen, baby! So come and get yours at this here church!"
This so-called Drag Gospel event is the brainchild of Adams. According to the First Church Somerville website, Drag Gospel first launched in 2011 and is now an annual event.
"It is our way of demonstrating the radical welcome that we believe Jesus offered to all kinds of people—especially people exiled to the margins just for being the people God made them to be: queer or straight or a little bit of each, male or female or a little bit of each," Adams writes, emerging from his "Serenity" persona.
The Drag Gospel kicks off with a benefit concert and drag show to raise funds for the LGBT Asylum Task Force. Jones himself will perform at Club Cafe, along with other area drag queens and kings.
The main event, though, takes place during Sunday morning worship. Yes, we've moved from the club to the church with this perversion, which features Jones in full drag attire as the liturgist for the day.
Apparently, his "pastors"—sometimes also known to appear in drag—will join him in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with a "distinctly loving message for LGBTQ-add-your-letter-here." An after party promises "kids running around in feather boas, straight men in skirts, people who never thought they'd be in a church basement hollering Hallelujahs!"
In March, I released a prophetic word about a tsunami of perversion rising. This is one wave of the rising tide and it's crashing to shore. Jones is right that God is good. Jones is right that Jesus offered a welcome to all kinds of people—especially people exiled to the margins. But he's wrong that Jesus sanctioned a soulish state that would leave them separated from Father forever. God is love, and love does not condone perversion.
We're seeing the rapid rise of perversion even now but I believe this is just the beginning. We'll see the rise of false prophets who deceive many because, Jesus said, of the increase of wickedness (see Matt. 24:12). The mystery of lawlessness was working in Paul's day (see 2 Thess. 2:7) and that mystery is revealing the depth of its wicked plot in our day.
While this perversion grieves me, with every story about throuples, bestiality, and the like, I know we are getting closer to a Great Awakening. I know this because, as I've written before, the Holy Spirit told me in 2007 that things would grow darker in this nation before His light shines brightly again.
I believe things are on a course to grow very dark very rapidly. But I also believe in the power of prayer and faith-inspired action. I also believe in the power of preaching the gospel. I also believe God wants to bring transforming revival—a Third Great Awakening—to this nation.
It's up to us to stand in the gap. It's up to us to make up the hedge. It's up to us to weep between the porch and the altar. It's up to us to pray without ceasing. It's up to us to decree and declare God's will on the earth. It's up to us to speak the truth in love. It's up to us to take the gospel to our city. Yes, I believe it will grow darker and the perversion will rise, but I believe the glory of the Lord will rise and shine upon us again if we are faithful to obey His commands.
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For the darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord shall rise upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you. The nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Is. 60:1-3). Amen.

Drag Gospel Festival embraces every identity, supports LGBT refugees

Why Every Church Needs a Drag Queen


A tattooed, profanity-loving Lutheran pastor believes young people are drawn to Jesus, tradition, and brokenness.

“When Christians really critique me for using salty language, I literally don’t give a shit.”

This is what it’s like to talk to Nadia Bolz-Weber, the tattooed Lutheran pastor, former addict, and head of a Denver church that’s 250 members strong. She’s frank and charming, and yes, she tends to cuss—colorful words pepper her new book, Accidental Saints. But she also doesn’t put a lot of stock in her own schtick.

“Oh, here’s this tattooed pastor who is a recovering alcoholic who used to be a stand-up comic—that’s interesting for like five minutes,” she said. “The fact that people want to hear from me—that, I really feel, has less to do with me and more to do with a Zeitgeist issue.”

America’s church-y “Zeitgeist issues” are many, including the alleged decline of religion; the seeming lacklusterness of mainline Protestantism; and the backlash against religious institutions that have themselves sinned, against children or LGBT folks or those who gave their money to support ministry. But Bolz-Weber was referring to something simpler, and more pervasive—to use her word, “bullshit.”

“I have this hunch that people really find Jesus compelling, and they see what Christianity really could be. But what they see instead, so often, is an institution that tries to protect itself and promote itself,” she said. “I think they want to have a place where they can speak the actual truth about themselves in the world and they don’t have to pretend.”

As a performative pastor, Bolz-Weber might seem New Age, but her ministry is actually focused on something old school: sin. It’s a somewhat surprising bent for a mainline pastor—and a thought-provoking model for churches that have been bleeding young people for more than a decade.
* * *
“Sometimes I can be an asshole, but it’s almost as though I can hear Jesus saying”—here, Bolz-Weber cleared her throat a little and moved her voice one half-step lower, perhaps trying to imitate bro-Jesus—“‘uh, that’s okay, it’s not that I, like, love you and claim you despite that. I love you and claim you because of that.’”

Perfectionism is deeply embedded in American Christianity. The Puritans performed piety in hopes of being part of God’s chosen elect, and their efforts were followed by three centuries of purity balls and pushes for temperance and church culture that revels in polish. At the church she planted in 2008, The House for All Sinners and Saints, Bolz-Weber has upended many stereotypes about Christianity; the church is open to gays and lesbians and atheists alike. But she’s especially committed to defying the assumption that church is for people who have it together.

“We have this socially progressive church, all these queer people, everyone’s welcome,” she said. “And you know what we have in our liturgy every Sunday? Confession and absolution. Let us confess that God is God and we are not.”

The cast of real-life sinners she describes in her book are diverse: the Sandy Hook shooter, kids who committed suicide, a grieving pastor who drank a little too much and accidentally killed a woman with his car. These are the sins of life and death; it’s easy to look at people like this and feel judgmental. But Bolz-Weber counts herself among them; her sins are of a different scale, but she names them with equal parts relish and remorse. In her theology, just as Adam Lanza needs forgiveness, so does she.

“I don’t want to be in bondage to the fact that I can be an asshole,” she said. “So for me, the best path toward some sort of freedom from being absolutely bound to it is to admit that I need grace.”

“If you don’t have a drag queen in your congregation, you should get one.”

In no sense has Bolz-Weber claimed to reinvent Christianity, magically discovering the secret of sin and forgiveness that’s preached endlessly in the Bible. For her, it’s more that this idea is often obscured in delivery.

“There’s a cultural wrapping around a lot of mainline Protestantism where the church has confused the gifts and the wrapping,” she said. “The sort of slight formality and nicey-nice chit-chat and dressing up a little and not going too deep, but just being nice, good people who do some volunteer hours.”

Even though she’s part of a progressive, mainline Lutheran denomination, with this particular jab, Bolz-Weber sounds a lot like many American conservatives and evangelicals. Mainline Protestantism is dying, it’s sometimes said, for exactly this reason: It’s Christian identity, not Christian theology. But both mainline and evangelical traditions have reason to worry about losing Millennials, she said. Young people are “either passively consuming a mediocre rock concert”—as in the amphitheater environs of most American megachurches—“or passively consuming a formal liturgy, instead of being a community of creators.”

Her solution is a combination of new and old. She encourages active member participation in church services and the creation of new rituals, like baking cookies in honor of saints. She’s also deeply invested in tradition, using a liturgy she says is orthodox. It’s an unusual mix: a stated commitment to socially progressive values, and a stated commitment to tradition. But perhaps this misconception—that progressive values and traditional worship can’t mix—is one reason why some Americans have felt like they don’t have a place at church.

“For the population I serve, I sense that there’s a lot of chaos in people’s lives,” Bolz-Weber said. “The liturgy runs so deep, and is so unchanging ... that it’s a comfort to have that one thing that’s regular and predictable every Sunday in their lives. It’s language that generations of the faithful have worn smooth through their own prayer.”

“On the front, it’ll say: ‘This shit ain’t free.’ And on the back, it’ll say: ‘You better tithe, bitches.’”

It may also be that this act of church reinvention is necessary because of the sins of churches past. Bolz-Weber says most of the people she serves are people who have fallen away from Christianity for one reason or another; for example, roughly a third of her congregation is gay, lesbian, or transgender. But there are joys to be found in recovering lost souls.

“If you don’t have a drag queen in your congregation, you should get one,” Bolz-Weber said. One such man in her congregation was working with her on soliciting donations, she said, “And he goes, ‘Well we should make a T-shirt.’ And he goes, ‘On the front, it’ll say: This shit ain’t free. And on the back, it’ll say: You better tithe, bitches.’ Oh my God, it just makes church better.”

Ultimately, that’s what Bolz-Weber is trying to do: make church better, with the caveat that church is a place for humans, and humans are sinful. As the drag queen from Bolz-Weber’s church might say: You better repent, bitches.


As the drag queen from Bolz-Weber’s church might say: "Christians Are Leaving Jesus in Droves"


Thursday, October 22, 2015

TBN Family Battle Offers Look Inside Lavish TV Ministry


The Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Fla., is part of the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s operations.CreditBrian Blanco for The New York Times

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — For 39 years, the Trinity Broadcasting Network has urged viewers to give generously and reap the Lord’s bounty in return.
The prosperity gospel preached by Paul and Janice Crouch, who built a single station into the world’s largest Christian television network, has worked out well for them.
Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experiencetheme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.
The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.


A SIDE BUSINESS The theme park is run by Janice Crouch, a TBN  founder.CreditBrian Blanco for The New York Times

Now, after an upheaval with Shakespearean echoes, one son in this first family of televangelism has ousted the other to become the heir apparent. A granddaughter, who was in charge of TBN’s finances, has gone public with the most detailed allegations of financial improprieties yet, which TBN has denied, saying its practices were audited and legal.
The granddaughter, Brittany Koper, and her husband have been fired by the network, which accused them of stealing $1.3 million to buy real estate and cars and make family loans. “They’re just trying to divert attention from their own crimes,” said Colby May, a lawyer representing TBN. Janice and Paul Crouch declined requests for interviews.
In two pending lawsuits and in her first public interview, Ms. Koper described company-paid luxuries that she said appeared to violate the Internal Revenue Service’s ban on “excess compensation” by nonprofit organizations as well as possibly state and federal laws on false bookkeeping and self-dealing.
The lavish perquisites, corroborated by two other former TBN employees, include additional, often-vacant homes in Texas and on the former Conway Twitty estate in Tennessee, corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each and thousand-dollar dinners with fine wines, paid with tax-exempt money.
In the lawsuits and interviews, Ms. Koper, 26, also charges that TBN has spent millions of dollars in sweetheart deals with a commercial film company owned until recently by a son of the Crouches, Matthew, including poorly monitored investments made after he joined the TBN board in 2007.
“My job as finance director was to find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses,” Ms. Koper said. This is one way, she said, the company avoids probing questions from the I.R.S. She said that the absence of outsiders on TBN’s governing board — currently consisting of Paul, Janice and Matthew Crouch — had led to a serious lack of accountability for spending.
Ms. Koper and the two other former TBN employees also said that dozens of staff members, including Ms. Koper, chauffeurs, sound engineers and others had been ordained as ministers by TBN. This allowed the network to avoid paying Social Security taxes on their salaries and made it easier to justify providing family members with rent-free houses, sometimes called “parsonages,” she said.
The company did not always succeed. Last year, officials in Orange County, Fla., turned down TBN’s application to register the adjacent lakefront houses in Windermere as parsonages, saying they served no religious purpose, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The designation would have resulted in religious exemptions and saved TBN roughly $50,000 in taxes a year.
Ms. Koper said that the company run by Matthew Crouch, 50, who is her uncle, had received an estimated $50 million in TBN money over the years, with little oversight, to finance religious film projects and television shows. TBN recouped only a small fraction of its loans and investments, sometimes forgiving large sums in return for broadcast rights of limited value, she said.


MAJOR ROLE A souvenir of a park actor depicting Jesus. Performers are said to be ministers playing roles. CreditBrian Blanco for The New York Times

She also questioned the justification for providing rent-free houses for Matthew, now a TBN vice president, and his wife, Laurie, and separate houses for their young-adult sons in Costa Mesa, Calif., including one that Ms. Koper said was remodeled at company expense with wall-mounted Transformer robot figures costing several thousand dollars, a putting green and an indoor basketball court.
Ms. Koper and her husband, Michael Koper, 28, who formerly managed sales of TBN airtime, said they were fired last September after writing memorandums to the elder Mr. Crouch about questionable spending. They showed a reporter for The New York Times what they said were copies of the memos.
“People have been conned by my grandparents,” Ms. Koper said.
But TBN said the pair made their charges only after the company confronted them with evidence of embezzlement. TBN later filed and then dropped a civil lawsuit accusing the Kopers of fraud, and this week filed a new suit in a California court, repeating only a few of the original allegations. No criminal charges against the Kopers have been filed.
Mr. May, the lawyer, offered a broad defense of TBN and the Crouches. He said that TBN had indeed ordained hundreds of people who felt a true “ministerial call” and that performers at Holy Land Experience, for example, were “ministers playing roles.”
He said that all contracts with the film company that Matthew Crouch led until mid-2010, Gener8Xion Entertainment, had been at “arm’s length” and provided good value to TBN.
Mr. May added that TBN owned so many homes because traveling employees and guests used them. He said that the remodeled house, in the Lifestyles complex in Costa Mesa, was not occupied, but used as a set for youth television programs, with the Transformers serving as props. Matthew Crouch, through the company spokesman, declined an interview request. But Gilbert J. Luft, president of the Lifestyles Homeowners Association in Costa Mesa, said that the sons were familiar residents and that the association does not permit filming there.
Extolling TBN’s prominence and programs, Mr. May said the spending that some call opulent “is necessary to convey the ministry’s position of accomplishment.”
The Gospel of Prosperity

On the air, the Crouches combine uplifting talk with encouragement to give to the Lord, and so be repaid. This “prosperity gospel” is shared by several televangelists who appear on TBN. But many conventional Christian leaders regard it as a sham.
“Prosperity theology is a false theology,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Between its message and its reputation for high spending, Mr. Mohler said, “TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.”
While TBN said it provided tens of millions of dollars’ worth of free advertising time to conventional charities like the Salvation Army and a few million dollars in some years for aid to disaster victims, it is forthright about its overriding purpose: “to spread the Gospel to the world” through its cable systems, satellite transmitters and, now, via computers and smartphones.
Janice Crouch, called “Mama” on the air, is known for her pink-tinged wigs, which look like huge swirls of cotton candy, and for talking emotionally about the Lord’s blessings. Mr. Crouch, or “Papa,” is relentlessly upbeat as he quotes flurries of Bible verses on signature programs like “Praise the Lord.”
Clearly, many viewers have heartfelt responses. In 2010, TBN received $93 million in tax-exempt donations, according to its tax report. The company also had $64 million in additional income from sales of airtime and $17 million in investment income that year.
It spent $194 million operating its far-flung network and investing in new programs. The company was in the red for the year, but could draw on its cushion of $325 million in cash and investments.
Rusty Leonard, an independent tax expert and the leader of Wall Watchers, a charity watchdog group that has long criticized TBN for financial secrecy, said televangelists often escape penalties for extravagant spending because the definition of taxable “excess benefits” is subjective, and authorities are reluctant to challenge religious groups.
Marcus S. Owens, a tax lawyer with Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, said that lavish spending by nonprofit organizations could raise red flags for tax officials. “The law says that any compensation must be reasonable, and the value of a house is part of that,” he said. “Dinner on the company every night could be an issue too.”
At the same time, Mr. Owens said, churches have considerable latitude under the First Amendment. Regarding the ordination of untrained workers, he said, “absent clear fraud, the government is not going to touch that.”

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A Religious TV Empire

A Religious TV Empire

CreditThe Los Angeles Times

A TBN spokesman said executive salaries were recommended by independent consultants. In 2010, Mr. Crouch received $400,000 as president, Mrs. Crouch $365,000 as first vice president.
On the air, Mr. and Mrs. Crouch tell viewers that they have almost no personal assets. But that only underscores the problem, said Tymothy S. MacLeod, a lawyer for the Kopers. “It’s the tax-exempt company that is giving them this opulent lifestyle.”
Accounts of Extravagance
Relatives and former employees agreed that Paul and Janice Crouch seem to have deep spiritual feelings and believe they are doing the Lord’s work — a belief, according to a former employee, Troy Clements, that seemed to justify almost any extravagance.
Mr. Clements, a former executive at Holy Land Experience, said that when employees questioned decisions like remodeling the cafe three times in six weeks, Mrs. Crouch said, “No one has told me ‘no’ for 30 years, and you’re not going to start now.”
Mr. Clements, who was sales and then personnel director at Holy Land, said that he resigned in frustration in 2008 and that working for Mrs. Crouch had often been “surreal.”
In 2008 and 2009, as Mrs. Crouch began remodeling Holy Land Experience, she rented adjacent rooms in the deluxe Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando — one for herself and one for her two beloved Maltese dogs and clothes, according to Mr. Clements and Ms. Koper. Mrs. Crouch rented the rooms for close to two years, they said.
Ms. Crouch was seldom without her little white dogs, pushing them in a pink stroller and keeping a costly motor home, originally purchased to serve as an office, for two years as an air-conditioned sanctuary for her pets, the two former employees said.
In Newport Beach, according to Ms. Koper, the elder Mr. Crouch sometimes traveled in a chauffeured Bentley, which TBN says is used to ferry television guests in proper style.
First-class “working dinners” are a way of life. In pending lawsuits, the Kopers say that Mr. Crouch, Mrs. Crouch and their son Matthew each ran up meal expenses of at least $300,000 per year. Mr. May, the TBN lawyer, said this was not accurate but did not offer other figures.
A Contentious Exit
When Brittany Koper and her husband decided to join TBN in 2007 after college, they were tempted by the generous perquisites, they admit. But they said that as Mr. Koper completed law school on the side, and Ms. Koper her M.B.A., they began to feel uneasy and moved out of their company house.
Nonetheless, they did borrow company money for their down payment on a private home and the purchase of a condominium, and gave Mr. Koper’s uncle a company loan of $65,000, among other acts that Mr. May called thefts. The Kopers said the loans were authorized in writing by the elder Mr. Crouch, with clear repayment terms.
TBN says Mr. Crouch’s signature was forged. Mr. May showed a reporter letters from the fall in which Ms. Koper apologized for lying and lending herself company money.
Ms. Koper said that she had never admitted to breaking the law. She said she was pressured by TBN lawyers to show “Christian contrition” and to hand over company property and repay their loans.
In October the Kopers moved to New York. “We just wanted a fresh start,” Ms. Koper recalled.
Her father, Paul Crouch Jr., Matthew’s older brother, was also forced off the staff and quit the board.
He declined to be interviewed, but he wrote in an e-mail, “Getting caught in the middle of disputes involving my daughter, brother and parents is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure.”
As lawsuits and countersuits swirl, the Kopers are living in the basement of his father’s modest house in Elmont, on Long Island.
Mr. Crouch and an assistant, Matthew and his family, and two pilots are nearing the end of a six-week world tour in the larger company jet, visiting affiliates, taping programs and scouting new territory for evangelism in Rome, Dubai, Israel, Hong Kong and Hawaii.
“Others may do things differently, and may criticize TBN for how it operates, its look, its doctrine and belief,” Mr. May said. “But what is absolutely clear is that TBN, with God’s grace, has succeeded where most others have failed.”  

Televangelist Paul Crouch Leaves a Dirty Legacy; Evangelical Christians Look the Other Way

Televangelist Paul Crouch Leaves a Dirty Legacy; Evangelical Christians Look the Other Way

[Note: Hemant and I both felt inspired to write a little remembrance of Paul Crouch. Here's his.]
Paul Crouch died of heart failure on Saturday, at 79. Forty years ago, he founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network, now the country’s most successful religious TV enterprise. In a good year, TBN takes in close to $100,000,000 in tax-exempt donations, mostly from lower-income Americans.
If you’re not familiar with Crouch and his wife Janice, they are the Jim and Tammy Faye that time forgot.
Paul and Jan Crouch
Here‘s a little flavor:
Janice Crouch, called “Mama” on the air, is known for her pink-tinged wigs, which look like huge swirls of cotton candy, and for talking emotionally about the Lord’s blessings. Mr. Crouch, or “Papa,” is relentlessly upbeat as he quotes flurries of Bible verses on signature programs like “Praise the Lord.”
The New York Times published an exposĂ© of the Crouches’ financial tricks last year. It tells you volumes about how the darling duo spent all that revenue from donations, TV rights, and investments.
The [couple's] lavish perquisites, described by [estranged granddaughter and former financial officer Brittany] Koper and corroborated by interviews with two other former TBN employees, include additional, often-vacant homes in Texas and on the former Conway Twitty estate in Tennessee, corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each and thousand-dollar dinners with fine wines, paid with tax-exempt funds.
Last year [in 2011], officials in Orange County, Fla., turned down TBN’s application to register [the Crouches'] adjacent lakefront houses as parsonages, saying they served no religious purpose, The Orlando Sentinelreported. The designation would have resulted in religious exemptions and saved TBN roughly $50,000 in taxes a year.
[F]ormer TBN employees also said that dozens of staff members, including Ms. Koper,chauffeurs, sound engineers and others had been ordained as ministers by TBN. This, she said, allowed the network to avoid paying Social Security taxes on their salaries and made it easier to justify providing family members with rent-free houses, sometimes called “parsonages.”
From Wikipedia:
Crouch family members control the boards of all TBN entities, which makes TBN “ineligible to join” the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an evangelical self-regulating group.
Why would working-class Christians give so much money to a pair of greedy preachers who live high on the hog? One answer is that
On the air, Mr. and Mrs. Crouch tell viewers that they have almost no personal assets.
Which is technically true, as the assets in question, such as homes and private planes, are provided by TBN, whose board is stacked with family members. (Also, thousand-dollar dinners, and a separate luxury hotel room for Janice Crouch’s beloved Maltese lapdogs, do not count as assets.)
Courtesy of the L.A. Times, here’s another episode that St. Peter might be quizzing Pastor Crouch about right now.
In 1989, in the wake of the [Jim and Tammy Faye] Bakker scandal, the National Religious Broadcasters, a voluntary association, investigated complaints that TBN had violated ethical standards. One of the complaints came from Marvin L. Martin, a former producer of “Praise the Lord,” who said he had been fired after questioning the Crouches’ financial practices and moral fitness.
He specifically complained that at a TBN staff prayer meeting Crouch asked God to kill a man who had petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to take over the network’s flagship station in Orange County. Crouch responded that he “probably did pray that God would kill anyone or anything that was attempting to destroy the ministry.” He offered no apology and said his prayer “has not changed.”
Steve Strang, the founder and publisher of Charisma News, was one of the few in the evangelical Christian world who was willing to say moderately critical things of the Crouches, including that they sometimes embarrassed his tribe:
Though they aren’t answerable to us, they are answerable to the Christian public who donate the millions, just as public companies must be accountable to their shareholders. In some ways the Crouches know this. They gush over how they love their TBN partners. They talk about the “little grandmas” who send in their love gift every month. But what about those who feel some things on TBN make a laughing stock of all charismatics and Pentecostals? Or that with some of the questionable programming they are spreading confusion around the world at the same time they’re spreading the gospel?
Of course, that was back in March. Charisma News‘ current remembrance of Crouch mentions not a syllable about the galling ostentatiousness of his lifestyle, nor of the barely-legal thievery and the financial scandals that he engaged in especially in the last decade of his life.
As legacies go, Crouch undoubtedly leaves a troubling one — but don’t expect most other Christians to call him on it. Per the Christian Post,
“‏We celebrate Dr. Paul Crouch’s good & faithful work on earth. May we all leave such a legacy for the Kingdom,” wrote Creflo Dollar, founder and senior pastor of World Changers Church International, on Twitter.
Crouch’s televangelist colleague Benny Hinn also weighed in:
“On this day of his glorious home-going, please reflect upon the tremendous impact of this man’s extraordinary life,” reads a tweet by Pastor Hinn from Benny Hinn Ministries.
Then it was preacher Arthur Blessitt‘s turn:
“Let’s all pray for his wife Jan and all the family. His focus was always +jesus. Tears pour from my eyes,” he continued. “I’ll miss my friend but there is joy in heaven where millions of people are thanking him for sharing Jesus with them.”
If a man with Crouch’s record goes to heaven, I actually prefer the down escalator, so I may avoid him and his ilk for all eternity.