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Born Again Inc. : Preface

Conservative Christians conveniently ignore Bible passages like those cited below which I’m sure some of you remember from your Sunday school days. In a society based on greed such as ours, clearly no one was expected to take them seriously.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:19-24

...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, be liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.  1 Timothy 6:17-18

"'for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'" Matthew 25:35-36


                                   Born Again Inc.

                         Senate Investigations of Six prophets for Profit

To one who had never made more than five thousand a year himself, it was inspir­ing to explain before dozens of popeyed and admiring morons how they could make ten thousandfifty thousanda million a year, and all this by the Wonder Power of Suggestion, by Aggressive Per­sonality, by the Divine Rhythm, in fact by merely releasing the Inner Self-shine. . . .

—Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis

Tithe-happy televangelists and their luxurious lifestyles are once again facing scrutiny. The Senate Finance Committee is investigating six top prosperity preachers and their ministries' nonprofit status—a potential shield allowing millions to flow unchecked into some of those ministries.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), for­mer chairman and ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee and avowed Christian, intends to hold these tax-exempt "churches" financially ac­countable. "I'm working to weed out the wrongdoers among the vast majority of do-gooders," Grassley said in a letter posted on the committee's Web site December 3. In fact, Grassley, who said he's not interested in discussing "doctrinal" issues in connection with this investigation, has a long history of calling non-profits of all stripes to account.

"Whether it's using a private jet, driving a Rolls Royce or Bentley, or installing a $23,000 commode, there is obviously money going down the toilet," Grassley said in a letter about the probe.

The prosperity gospel has reached fever pitch among televangelists' elite cadre as their ministries flourish to the tune of billions—in fact, Americans give nearly $300 billion every year to chari­ties, and many of those billions line the pockets of "faith-healers" like Benny Hinn, whose ministry is under investigation by Grassley. Churches, unlike most non-profit  organizations, don't have to file Form 990 with the IRS, a primary report requiring detailed income sources and expenditures.

The other five ministry leaders under investigation are Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla.; David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Missouri; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, New Jersey; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Georgia; Creflo and Taffi Dollar (appropriate name don’t you think?) of World (Money?) Changers Church Internatii and Creflo Dollar Ministries of Col Park, Georgia.

The fortuitously named Creflo Dc head of World Changers Ministries its eighty million dollar yearly business said his church gave him a Rolls Royce as a gift. And he isn't ashamed of owning least two mansions, including a j Manhattan crib valued at $2.5 mil according to a New York Times report. Dollar also flies a little closer to heave his private Gulf Stream jet, one of jets owned by his church. His mini however, gets an 'F for financial transparency according to MinistryWatch .com.,a faith-based group devoted to revealing the fiscal shenanigans of tax-exempt religious groups.

"Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey," Grassley said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Do these ministers really need Bentleys and Rolls-Royces to spread the Gospel?"

Paula White, the popular, stiletto-healed, blonde bombshell preacher whom Donald Trump called "All that," owns a $3.5 million condominium in New York's Trump Tower and recently purchased a half-million dollar home in San Antonio, Texas. When she was still married to husband Randy, the two arrived at their Without Walls church together in a blue Mercedes sedan.

A chic chameleon, White delivers financial advice with soft-spoken confidence, but preaches as if she was raised in the African American church tradition—her appeal among Blacks is huge. Trump's first-ever "Christian" television appearance explaining money-getting to the little people was on White's show. In response to questions about the senate probe from Larry King, White posed a question of her own: "Why is our faith being targeted as part of an inquiry?"

Grassley's letters to the six are extremely detailed requests for financial information, and although they follow a generic form, do get personal. In a letter to the Whites, he asks for proof of repay­ment of a personal loan of $170,000 from an elderly congregant. The loan, according to media reports, was nearly all of the life savings of a now very disenchanted Ruth McGinnis, who lives on a fixed income.

Grassley gave the ministries until Dec. 6 to respond to his request for proof of tax-exempt status, but only two ministries delivered materials to his office (Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Joyce Meyer Ministries) by the deadline, with Dollar and Long declin­ing to volunteer any information, ac­cording to a report in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Posted on Dollar's Web site (featuring no less than seven photos of himself in various poses on its home page) is the full text of the response sent to Grassley's office, which includes this comment:

[W]e believe that the religious doc­trine and practices of a church should not be held out for the world to evaluate as a result of responding to Congressional inquiries. We are concerned, for example, that some of the information requested would not be in the public domain even if churches were required to comply with these same filing requirements as other charitable organizations. In this instance, we are acutely aware of the potential for some members of the general public to disparage or belittle the Church's sincerely held religious beliefs, and we want to protect the Church and its members from this possibility.

Fond of focusing only on the scriptures appearing to support the prosperity gospel many of the ministries in question ignore  the cautionary maxims regarding Both the Old and New Testament are clear about believers and their money: if you have it, share it.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had . . . were no needy persons among; (Acts 4:32, 34-35).

In fact, Dollar's eighty million alone could easily make a dent in all the hunger of the approximate 24-27 million who receive emergency assistance yearly in the United States. Stores in food pantries nationwide are at an all time low, according to news reports.

Regarding debt, Dollar says Web site: "Many years ago God revealed to me that Satan wants Christians to remain heavily burdened by debt because it hinders their ability to finance the Kingdom of God. Think about it, if all your money is tied into bills, it be difficult to support the Church!” Besides, somebody has to polish Dollar’s gold-domed church in Atlanta.

God also spoke to Kenneth Copeland at a convention in 2006 about prosperity. In a teaching letter titled “Get Your Mind on the Harvest," in which he refers to Oral Roberts as his “spiritual father," Copeland says the Lord told him that:

"There are those of you 1 begin to experience an outflow and overflow not only of anointing to minister to people, but in the financial realm also. And the increase will come not of more work, or more effort on your part, but because of the intensified flow of the Holy Ghost. Not by might, not by any other way except Spirit, sayeth the Lord. ... So jump in and enjoy the swim for the time has come."

Where do I sign on?

Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 32, No. 2 (March/April 2008)


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