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Recently, members of congress have asked that a number of TV Evangelists disclose their financial records due to the many complaints from viewers. How legitimate are these guys anyway? Read on and find out who's duping who.
LETíS FACE IT folks, this is the question of our life and times. Forget about The DaVinci Code or The Secret, this is far more important and a lot more intriguing. I mean, how many times have you been lured into one of these Bible-thumping, foot-stomping Tele-crusades? (Okay, Iíll admit theyíre on my favorites menu.) They are after all magnetic, captivating, and dare I say--inspiring.
Iím as torn as you are. I just canít put my finger on it--what theyíre up to that is. Are they really hard-core preachers that live and breathe every Bible verse they spew out of their mouth? Or are they just a bunch of phonies in it for the money? Honestly, depending on who youíre watching, I think itís a little of both. Who's to say?
I once tuned-in to a Jesse Duplantis revival and he was talking about Heaven. I mean he was really getting into heavy detail about what Heaven was like and describing the vision heíd seen about it. I must admit, Iíve never heard Heaven described that way before. How Heaven is so much more than streets paved with marble and gold. It was some really heavy stuff, and I believed it. Call me naÔve, foolish, or even gullible, but out of all the televangelists I think heís the real deal. Funny thing is heís always on the defensive about how upbeat he always is. Come to think of it, Iíve never, ever seen him frown before. This guyís cup really runneth over my friends. And it appears to be legit. Question is, is he so happy and elated all the time because of all the millions heís raking in--or does he really have the joy of the Lord running through his veins? Again, probably a little of both.
Jesse himself is the first to admit heís a blessed man. And heís earned all the riches our mighty Lord has bestowed upon him. Just the other day he said his Ministry was completely debt free. Demonstrating of course how they are good stewards of Godís money. (Providing theyíre not cooking the books, you know.)
Itís almost impossible not to be a skeptic. It seems these kind of preachers have a built-in mechanism for being flashy, or flamboyant. They all have it. Some more than others. In fact, and I hate to admit this, but I often watch just to see what theyíre wearing. Hoping theyíll tone it down a bit and redeem themselves but thatís wishful thinking. Most of the time Iím really distracted by all the pin-stripped Armani suits. The gold cufflinks, and the pink hankies so artistically tucked into their breast pockets, pointing sharply towards the Heavens. Is that where my tithes and offerings (excuse me, love-gifts) are going? Hmmm, good question. But then again, the fair person that I am, I do the right thing and put myself in their alligator-skin shoes. How would I dress if I were a popular and very charismatic televangelist? Would I settle for an off-the-rack warehouse special when I can afford the very best? Another good question. Not sure since I do appreciate fine name-brand suits and nice leather shoes. (Iíll pass on the colorful hankies though. A tad too gay for me. Who says I'm homophobic?)
But you get the idea. Itís always a tough call with some of these guys. Others are a lot more predictable. Take for instance those who wear those quasi holy robes. You know, the ones usually reserved for the Pope and his Bishops. The garb theyíve bastardized with long split tails running down the back. Where do they get this stuff? Is there a Holy Joe Evangelist Specialty Store we donít know about, catering to their every fashion whim? Iíd really like to know.
Personally, I think their wives have a hand in all this. The ones that donít preach anyway. We all know some of these married couples tag-team their sermons too. Which now brings me to Joyce Meyer. (Don't spill your cappuchino) Here we have the opposite. Where the woman is the Preacher and her husband works behind the scenes. Itís almost like a bait and switch routine. At least it appears that way to some of the chauvinists/skeptics out there. (Not me, I swear.) But just like Duplantis, in my own mind, I think Ms. Meyer is on the level. We all know about her troubled past and how she rose above it all after so many years of personal struggle. Sheís a true survivor. Nevertheless she comes across as a hard-nosed, staunch upper class Christian. Not that she hasnít had her share of criticism along the way herself. Sheís even admitted to plastic surgery of some kind. (Did I help pay for that too?)
I recall her demeanor on a trip to Jacksonville, Florida not too long ago. My wife practically dragged me there just to get a glimpse of her at a book signing at a local WalMart store. It was all so bizarre. She was ushered into the parking lot by a screeching Fire Engine, dropped off in front of the door where she made her very uneventful, quiet, unassuming entrance into the store.
The line of mostly white middle-class women snaked around the aisles all the way to the back of the store--with her most recent book Look Great, Feel Great, firmly clutched in their hands. Several oohhs and aahhs were heard as she appeared. How lame is this? I thought. Other than that, she waved politely, took her seat in front of the gawking crowd and quietly proceeded to autograph books. And that was it. Iím not sure what I was expecting but I thought it was all somewhat understated. But then again, what can you expect from Ms. Meyer. Sheís no Juanita Bynum by any stretch of the imagination. (Nor does she want to be, I suspect) Sheís as real as they come as far as I can tell. Very poised, down-to-earth and at that particular book-signing, exhausted.
She has her moments of glory though. When sheís on a roll she seems to hit all her marks and is truly inspiring. Sheís never over-the-top. (Is she the Anti-Duplantis?) But, like all the other televangelists, she also likes high fashion. Very fond of glittery apparel and jewelry. Almost as if taunting her critics. Daring them to take a jab or two at her. Who knows, maybe itís just good P.R. for all we know.
Which now brings me to my "favorite" televangelist of all time. The man with the prayer cloth. Yeah, you know who Iím talking about. No need to mention his name.
We all know how unapologetically phony he comes across. And yes, there are many others. Like the one in the Bishopís garb that had the audacity to ďhealĒ a woman right before our very eyes. Her leg seemingly grew a few inches longer on his command. (One of my kid magic tricks) Itís not even a clever trick. Itís an outright ruse. A slap in the face, at least to my keen sensibilities. His own expression gave away the hoax. But I digress, as itís so easy to do with this topic. Back to the so-called prayer cloth. A point of contact if you will. Clever, I must say. I mean the parallel between that and the woman who lurched towards Christ in a crowd and managed to touch the hem of his garment. Heck, some televangelists claim you can touch your TV set and use that as a point of contact while they lay hands on you through the magic of television. Nice, Iíve never really tried that so I canít say if it works or not.
But back to the prayer cloth. This by far is the most transparent of all ruses. The huckster claims, excuse me--this particular televangelist claims you can solve all your financial problems by tucking this prayer cloth (a stingy strip of polyester) under your pillow at night and believing for a miracle by morning. Wow, very convenient. All you have to do is sleep on it. How easy is that?! (BTW my wife sent for it. She has since pledged allegiance to the Pagan Witches as a result of not seeing her miracle--and you thought I was gullible.)
From a marketing standpoint, I have to give this guy credit. He bases his deception on some very emotional scripture. And if you donít respond to his first invitation, not to worry. Thereís plenty more where that came from. Including the rainbow prayer hand. And a barrage of other nonsensical offers and promises.
I donít know about you, but Iím definitely not buying into that spiel. Not now, not ever. So then, that brings us to the all-important question. How real are these people anyway? I guess it all depends on who you watch and how vulnerable you are at the time. Although, as you can plainly see, some of these quacks are as transparent as cellophane. Never mind their impressive Doctorate degrees or the Bishop titles they garner from bogus Universities in third world countries or freely bestow themselves with. That notwithstanding, televangelists of this ilk need to be flogged at the very least.
How dare they presume Americans are so spiritually needy they will easily fall prey to their silly demands and yet cloak themselves under the same spiritual umbrella as a Jesse Duplantis or a Joyce Meyer.
I like to think Iím smarter than all that. Jesus himself predicted in the end times false prophets will come in his name and deceive the multitudes.
My question is this. Would any of these preachers still be in business if we stopped sending them money? Will they preach for free in their neighborhoods and take a night shift at Wendyís just to get by? Lord knows many of them started out that way. Thatís a darn good question. And your guess is as good as mine.
Did you think for one minute I had any answers? Seriously, were you expecting a resolution to this whole mess in such a short column filled with so many money-making ads? (ads omitted) Come on donít be silly--look whoís being duped now.
P.S. No need for any Holy Rollers, uh Christians (Like me?) get their holy robes in a bunch. Just having a little fun. Godspeed.