Preaching for Profit

An eye-opening L.A. Times story sheds light on Trinity Broadcasting Network cheifs Paul and Jan Crouch (yep, he’s the old guy with the bolo tie and she has the purple hair). Their doctrine is a health-and-wealth gospel, and it makes them lots of money:

Much as Ted Turner did for TV news, the Crouches have created a global infrastructure for religious broadcasting. But that is just one element in their success. Another is a doctrine called the “prosperity gospel,” which promises worshipers that God will shower them with material blessings if they sacrifice to spread His word.

This theme — that viewers will be rewarded, even enriched, for donating — pervades TBN programming.

“When you give to God,” Crouch said during a typical appeal for funds, “you’re simply loaning to the Lord and He gives it right on back.”

Though it carries no advertising, the network generates more than $170 million a year in revenue, tax filings show. Viewer contributions account for two-thirds of that money.

In addition making God out to be like your next door neighbor who comes over to borrow a post-hole digger, TBN’s prosperity gospel is patently unbiblical. Giving isn’t set out in Scripture as a tit-for-tat program, resulting in greater monetary wealth for the giver. Rather, wealth is found in the generosity itself (see 2 Cor. 8:1-15). Giving to God is not a loan, as he owns it all anyway (does one charge God interest to yield a higher return?).

It’s just as frightening the type of disciples the Crouches are making:

Devoted viewers say the Crouches have nothing to apologize for. Indeed, the ministry’s material success is part of its appeal to believers — proof that the Crouches enjoy God’s favor.

“The fruit of God is on their life,” said Tennille Lowe, a computer analyst in Phoenix City, Ala., who is in her 20s and watches the network every day. “If they weren’t prospering, I’d say, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t see any evidence [of God’s blessing] in their life.’ ”

The last time I checked, the “fruit of God” consisted of some quite different apples:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [Gal. 5:22-23]

Mere monetary success could be just as indicative of a swindler as a saint (“how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom…”). Tell Jeremiah, a prophet who went through no small amount of angst at the behest of God, that a life of luxury is the only life for the servant of the Lord.

I’ll be interested to see if this article causes any fallout at TBN, given the recent revelation that Crouch paid off a former employee $425,000 to hush allegations of a gay tryst with Crouch.

4 thoughts on “Preaching for Profit”

  1. I have a number of friends who work (on the technical side) for these people. You wouldn’t believe the lifestyle the Crouches are living. Private jets, dual mansions in all the cities the broadcast from (Miami, Dallas, L.A., etc.), gold bathroom fixtures (not gold-plated, mind you; GOLD), and on and on. They make Elvis look like a Friar monk.

  2. Oops, I posted before I read the article you linked to, which lays all that out and more.

    It’s about time it came out in the media. It’s been a dirty secret in religious broadcasting for all too long.

  3. Great little passage on this; Luke 12:13-21

    Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
    Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
    And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
    “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘
    “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
    “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

  4. Just driving by their Dallas area compound on Texas 183 in Irving is all the evidence I need of where their priorities lie. Thank you for commenting on the largesse of their fraud.

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