6 Famously Awful Televangelists Who Are Somehow Still Around
Just because wacky televangelists aren't a staple of the news cycle anymore (the Joel Osteen follies notwithstanding) doesn't mean that this particular breed of huckster has become a thing of the past. Some of these guys who became wealthy faith-healing superstars in the '80s and '90s are still around ... and their act has gotten much weirder.
Benny Hinn Regrets His Prosperity (As The IRS Closes In)
Like many "healers" and basic cable holy men who've been in the game for a while, Benny Hinn has no shortage of the kind of controversies and debacles that might cause a reasonable person to doubt his supernatural abilities. Most recently, a legally blind recipient of one of his "BAM you're healed" spectacles actually came forward to reveal the unthinkable: He still couldn't see for crap. Worse, not only was the the promise of a cure a lie, but money that was raised for his treatment somehow seems to have not gone to him, but was instead delivered straight to church coffers.
Hinn is a longtime proponent of the prosperity gospel (aka "If you donate to me, God will make you rich" -- it's kind of a spiritual cryptocurrency scheme), but after all the years of pretending that his flying jacket heals the infirm, perhaps the man does have some decency and shame after all. After the death of Billy Graham, Hinn expressed remorse at accumulating more cash than eight Pamela Andersons: "We get attacked for preaching prosperity, well it's in the Bible, but I think some have gone to the extreme with it sadly, and it's not God's word what is taught and I think I'm as guilty as others."
Unfortunately for Hinn, any change of heart regarding siphoning outrageous funds from the gullible had little effect on the IRS and U.S. Postal Service inspectors who raided his North Texas headquarters last year. Considering the organizations involved, chances are slim that investigation had anything to do with Hinn's son beating the snot out of a handicapped man in Brazil a few years ago (a hefty payoff appears to have solved that one). And it's doubtful the feds would be interested if he were truly living like some Dickensian guttersnipe now, as he claims to be. (He's even *GASP* flying "commercial just like anyone else.")
Yeah, although there's no confirmation yet, the smart money would be on tax evasion. However, you can't rule out a more exciting Scorsese-style scenario, as Hinn's own nephew describes his "twisted" family as a combination between a "royal family" and the "mafia."
Creflo Dollar "Tithes" Parishioners For Airplane Money
Creflo Augustus Dollar Jr. may not have a name that's as immediately recognizable to those of us who grew up with the Orals, Falwells, and Popoffs of the world, but his success as a preacher is indisputable. If you measure success in the holy realm by the "dancing on piles of money" metric, that is. As another devotee of the "prosperity doctrine," cold cash is both Pastor Dollar's Alpha and Omega. And the more you give (specifically to him and his "World Changers Church"), the better your chances of dodging the clutches of Beelzebub. And the better the chances for him to live like this:
That's an aerial shot of Dollar's home in Fayetteville, GA. Your immediate reaction is probably one of sadness, as you ponder, "It's such a big backyard. Why doesn't this poor man have a plane in it?" Well, because it's against the residential code, probably. But he did have a private jet parked at the nearest airport. Unfortunately, Creflo and his wife Taffi Dollar (whose name we would never suggest is reminiscent of 1970s pornography) had been using it to "Share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide" since the late 1990s, and in 2015 it was a bit the worse for the wear. And thus was launched "Project G650" (G650 being Gulfstream's fanciest model), with the goal being quite straightforward: convincing his followers to pony up $300 each so he could afford the $65 million price tag.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to hit up 200,000 people for the approximate sticker price of an Xbox One, especially when facing unsavory allegations about using a fake name (no!) and reports that members of his flock had to show their W2 forms like entry passes. Not to mention the charges that he "punched and choked" his teenage daughter during an argument (he denied any violence took place and all charges were dropped, even though the victim's older sister corroborated the incident). In spite of all these challenges, Dollar was routinely met with resounding applause every time he took to the pulpit, where he would proclaim that these were all attempts by the devil to discredit him.
This wasn't Dollar's first run-in with the legal system. He'd previously been held in contempt of court after refusing to reveal his income during divorce proceedings between one of his ex-wives and ... Evander Holyfield? He was never convicted of anything, as he seems to definitely know how to play his cards right when dealing with the law. Case in point: When the Senate investigated Dollar and five other preachers for tax abuse, he was declared the "least cooperative." But still he soldiered on, exclaiming during a sermon, "If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me. You can't stop me from dreaming, I'm going to dream until Jesus comes."
And dream Michael Smith -- oops -- Creflo Dollar did, even after public outrage seemingly compelled him to cancel the fundraising campaign, because by golly, Jesus wanted him to have that plane. And lo and behold, his church finally announced they were "ready to purchase." We should all just be thankful that he didn't have to suffer the fate of fellow evangelist Kenneth Copeland and settle for buying Tyler Perry's shitty old Gulfstream V in cash. Hey, speaking of which ...
The Copelands Hate Science As Much As The Devil
Husband and wife Kenneth and Gloria Copeland are together responsible for a level of gibberish dissemination that's much greater than the sum of their individual, meticulously coiffed parts. Their public utterances fly in the face of scientific reality so aggressively that they could cause flat Earth conspiracy theorist B.o.B. to tearfully beg Neil deGrasse Tyson for forgiveness. And the main gist of the lesson they'd like to impart upon the faithful is essentially "Who needs medicine when you have the GLORY OF GOD?"
Let's start with Mr. Copeland, who is in his own words a "Christian extremist" (and a "faith advisor" to the president, by the way). He's a strong supporter of the military, or rather those members who happen to be True Believers. He's gone on record stating that if you believe in Jesus hard enough, there is no such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mrs. Copeland Is similarly opposed to rationality and reason, taking the anti-vaccination argument to places that would make Jenny McCarthy do a spit take: "We got a duck season, a deer season, but we don't have a flu season. Jesus himself gave us the flu shot. He redeemed us from the curse of flu." This was a particularly irresponsible thing to say, as the region in which she resides saw 70 people die that year in one of the worst flu epidemics in recent history. Tragic that they didn't believe hard enough to keep the virus at bay.
But while they may advocate for Holy Ghost inoculations and savior-based mental illness proofing, the couple's anti-science stance doesn't extend to the field of advanced aeronautics. They have a solid appreciation for traveling via private jets, as they consider commercial airlines to be infested with the hosts of Hades. After all, you can't conduct the Lord's business with the unwashed hordes coming up and asking you to pray for them all the time. As Kenneth Copeland described, "You can't manage that today. This dope-filled world, and get in a long tube with a bunch of demons. And it's deadly." Which is actually a pretty understandable take on the situation if he had recently flown JetBlue.
Jim Bakker Has Risen Again To Sell You Doomsday Kibble
During the 1980s, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were televangelism's brightest, weepiest luminaries. But multiple scandals led to divorce and sent mascara-streaked Tammy Faye into obscurity and a terrified Jim to prison. After serving a 45-year sentence that was drastically reduced on appeal to a mere few years, he returned to the free world in 1994 and wisely laid low. Staying under the radar for a few years was probably his only option, as many in his community of holy rollers considered him a deviant liar and thief, as well as "the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history." The release of a 647-page mea culpa in 1996 did little to improve his public image.
And then, suddenly, after 30 years of skulking in the shadows of shame and degradation, Jim Bakker rose again like a bald, creepy-looking phoenix to bring the world a new message from a compound located somewhere deep within the Ozarks of Missouri: Doomsday is coming soon. But all is well, gentle readers, because he's got buckets of slop to carry you through what he and his new Tammy Faye doppelganger of a wife Lori will happily sell you for anywhere in the vicinity of $100-$10,000. Perhaps you've seen Vic Berger's helpful re-edit of Bakker's sales pitch:
Since Lord knows what may befall us in the near future, be it widespread destruction in the form of Kim Jong-un's godless hordes or some kind of irradiated gay zombie situation, you'll appreciate the utility of a product that can serve both as furniture and a portable toilet (both features for which the buckets are advertised, and not anything we made up). Perhaps the saddest part of this spectacle (aside from the thought of the people actually handing over their credit card numbers) are the clearly talented musicians who agreed to perform mangled cover versions of classic songs. Such as "My Girl" by The Temptations, with the following lyrics:
I've got burgers made with beans, they're never fried
Saw the chips and salsa to keep you warm way deep inside (oh yeah)
I guess you'd say, Jim and Lori helped me be prepared today
For End Times.
I'm talking 'bout End Times
But what everyone is probably wondering right now is "JUST HOW DELICIOUS IS THIS AMAZING FOOD?" Well, let's just say that if you're a fan of "lingering aftertastes" and "chemical undertones," it looks like where your personal apocalypse is concerned, the real Rapture will be in your mouth.
Ernest Angley Is Keeping It Old-School And Bilking Octogenarians
Ernest Angley has the sort of classically greasy smarm you don't see much anymore outside of monorail salesmen and purveyors of nonstick cookware at country fair pavilions. But the old-timey huckster veneer is both effective and appropriate for someone in his line of work, which appears to be grifting elderly women out of enormous sums of money.
76-year-old Bridget Pollard was a widow with no children whose golden years were becoming rather depressing as dementia led to hoarding and cat lady behavior. Depressing for everyone but those who wanted to get their hands on her life savings, that is. According to public officials investigating the situation, Pollard "was essentially stalked" by Angley's church, and barraged with literature about how sending them money was a surefire ticket to the Pearly Gates. They were successful in persuading her to empty out her dead husband's pension fund and hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars in the name of salvation.
But that's a pretty standard modus operandi for professional spiritual swindlers. What's a bit more unconventional for a leading member of a trade that makes a habit out of condemning homosexuality are accusations of repeatedly groping male subordinates:
That may actually be the least shocking part of the story. Wait until you get to the part about the ignoring of widespread sexual abuse and Angley's personal habit of staring at post-vasectomy genitalia. Wanting to sneak a peek at some dong is pretty understandable if that's your thing, but who gets off on staring at the aftermath of dick surgery? According to a former associate pastor, Angley would routinely convince church members to get vasectomies and abortions (because he believed there were quite enough people on Earth already, thank you very much). And where those vasectomies were concerned, he would show up in post-op to "pray for the swelling to go away." It feels like that's a task that could be performed remotely, but I don't pretend to be an expert.
While Angley vehemently denied being gay, he absolutely admitted to the prayerful ogling of mangled wangs. Everything else, like the setting up of arranged marriages (with sex offenders), he still refuses to cop to, but he concedes ground on the sliced cock-gawking. But maybe we shouldn't judge. After all, it could all be a part of his ongoing research into the hypothesis that Jesus cures AIDS.
Pat Robertson Is Still Going On About Dungeons & Dragons
As the reigning patriarch of Satan-sockin', demon-rasslin' gospel slingers, Pat Robertson has long stood tall against the infernal menaces plaguing our great nation. Such as the people of Scotland. And yoga. But over the decades, no Stygian abomination has aroused his righteous fury more than his most ancient and legendary foe: Dungeons & Dragons.
According to Robertson (and plenty of other fervently squawking kookaburras back in the day), it wasn't just heavy metal music that could summon the darkness. In addition to serving the will of the graph paper and unnaturally-sided dice industries, this pen and paper role-playing game from the 1970s delivered countless youths into the clutches of the Dark Prince. Fear of the unholy power of RPGs was actually pretty widespread back in the 1980s. Those who were lucky enough to play the game and survive to become middle-aged dentists, certified public accountants, and A-list actors probably look back on this period and laugh. But Robertson's will has remained incorruptibly ironclad. He still thinks fantasy games are stealing kids' souls.
The fact that the games have evolved to the online realm only makes their reach all the more insidious, you see. Serving as an "invitation to demonic possession," modern MMORPGs are clearly just Mephistopheles' latest way to "capture" those foolish enough to spend their downtime pretending to be a sexy spell-casting wood elf. Now just imagine if you were listening to the sort of rock music the "Indians" use to call forth the forces of wickedness at the same time. Man, you'd really be screwed. Or even grow up to be Vin Diesel.
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