Controversial televangelist dies; Nativity scene party poopers; Scientology ads

bullet Televangelist Paul F. Crouch who along with his wife Janice founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network — the world’s largest Christian television network — has died at the age of 79.

The controversial preacher had suffered from degenerative heart disease for a decade.

Many Christian leaders have praised Crouch for creating what the Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism calls “one of evangelicalism’s most successful and far-reaching media enterprises” — a platform from which many ministries have been able to spread the gospel worldwide.
Paul F. Crouch, Trinity Broadcasting Network
What started with the purchase of one television station in Santa Ana, California, in 1973, has grown into a conglomerate with 84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates.

But while many legitimate Christian ministries appear on TBN, the station also promotes such an incredible amount of unsound and offbeat teachings — ranging from the ‘merely’ aberrational to the outright heretical — that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”

Some of TBN’s most outrageous teachings have come straight from the mouths of Paul and Jan Crouch.

Crouch, who with his wife lived extravagantly — using TBN’s multimillion-dollar private jets and more than two dozen ministry-owned homes — was a prime pusher of the so-called Prosperity Gospel.

According to this controversial, unbiblical teaching, God cannot and will not bless someone until that person first donates money to him — usually by giving it to whichever teacher promotes the scam. (Remember, if it worked as advertised, the televangelists would be donating money to you, instead of the other way around).

Spending money on things other than evangelism is not a problem for TBN.

But it can lead to problems.

The Los Angeles Times says

In 2012, granddaughter Brittany Koper, who had been the network’s finance director, went public with detailed allegations of fiscal improprieties, including excessive salaries, four-figure expense-account meals and a $100,000 mobile home for Jan Crouch’s dogs paid with tax-exempt donations.

Koper’s accusations were widely covered by the mainstream press, as was a charge by her sister, Carra Crouch, who said she was raped by a TBN employee and forced by her family to cover up the crime.

Listen as Koper shares here story:

The LA Times:

The family disputes were the latest in a series of embarrassing events over recent years, including news reports in 2004 that Crouch had paid a former employee $425,000 to keep quiet about claims of a homosexual tryst. Crouch denied having sexual contact with the employee.

While many Christians lack the discernment (or interest) to confront TBN over its teachings and practices, the secular press has not nearly been as restrained in dealing with the network and its histrionic owners.

Crouch is survived by his wife; two sons, Paul Jr. and Matthew, and their children.

Paul Crouch, Architect of Prosperity Gospel Televangelism, Dead at 79

The Trouble with TBN: Amid a flurry of scandalous accusations, ministries again face the question of whether to abandon or reform the broadcaster.

bullet Ever since the 18th century, nativity scenes in Catalonia, one of Spain’s autonomous communities, has included a odd figurine referred to in Spanish as “El Caganer” — which literally means “the crapper” or “the shitter”.

Sure enough, these statuettes depict bare-bottomed celebrities and other iconic figures in the act of defecation.

The exact origin of the Caganer tradition is lost, but this Wikipedia entry lists more than a dozen possible explanations.

Here’s what the Catalan News Agency has to say on the subject (in a report from 2010):

By the way, Caganers are also found in other Spanish communities, as well as in southern France, Portugal and Italy.

The tradition is tolerated by the Catholic Church.
La Moreneta caganer
But this year some believers have been outraged by the introduction of one of the newest Caganer subjects: the Virgin of Montserrat, a black statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ.

Popularly known as “La Morenita” (The Little Dark One), it is one of Catalonia’s emblematic religious icons. She joins such figures as Elvis, Sponge Bob, Pope Francis (another of this year’s new inductees), Barack Obama, and several players of FC Barcelona.

A Roman Catholic association, “e-Cristianos”, says it plans to sue the manufacturer of the Virgin figurine for “attacking the respect and dignity of religious symbols.”

We’ll say it for you: Party poopers!

Then again, a poll running in Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia asking, “Is it okay to convert the Virgin of Montserrat into a ‘caganera’?” currently shows a majority of readers answering, “no.”

Meanwhile, we cannot find the Virgin of Montserrat figurine — of which only 250 were produced — on Caganer.com, but Pope Francis is listed as one of this year’s best sellers.

Briefly Noted

  • Russian Orthodox Church Urges Inquiry Into Religious Cult: A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church called for an inquiry Monday into the activities of a Russian sect that he says “imitates Orthodoxy.” The unregistered Kuzya-the-God religious group, which experts say bears the hallmarks of a totalitarian sect, gained notoriety last week after its members allegedly attacked a Russian TV crew that was investigating its activities.
  • Mexican bishop takes on cultish cartel in drug war battleground state: This has been the bloodiest year since 1998 when it comes to drug violence in the Mexican state of Michoacan, and Miguel Patiño Velazquez, 75, has had enough. He is speaking out, criticizing drug gangs by name, supporting village vigilantes, and demanding that the government restore order. By leading the Catholic Church into the heart of the public debate he has placed himself in the cross-hairs of his enemy — a drug mafia whose leader, Nazario Moreno, the cult-like figurehead of the Knights Templar may or may not be dead. His fervent followers spread Moreno’s religious writings as gospel. An interesting read.
  • Jewish activists set sights on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, raising alarm in Muslim world: A small but growing movement by Jewish activists demanding the right to pray at the site of their destroyed temple, in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, is creating a potentially explosive clash with the Muslim world, which considers the spot holy and bans Jews from public worship there. Their proposals, long dismissed as extremist, are now being debated in the Israeli parliament and embraced by an expansionist wing in the ruling coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This important story includes an informative graphic of what may indeed by the most contested piece of real estate in the world. You’ll want to save this one and refer to it when events come to a head here — as they surely will. On the same subject, see Sacred Shrines Become ‘Ticking Time Bomb’
  • Family members jailed over fatal toddler exorcism: In Malaysia three family members, who were among eight people who caused a toddler’s death during an exorcism ritual, have been sentenced by the High Court to a year in jail and their fines set aside. The child’s aunt, who is believed to have initiated the ritual, was acquitted by the court due to unsound mind. She will be committed a psychiatric hospital.
  • How a disciple of Chairman Mao built his sect of ‘slaves’ in South London: Aravindan Balakrishnan, known as “Comerade Bala”, ran a community so secret that nobody realised that three women, reportedly free to come and go at will, were apparently shackled in all that time to their mercurial leader by “invisible handcuffs”. One of many articles on this odd case, According to The Independent, “Police said that ‘brainwashing‘ would be the simplest term to describe how the women indicated they had been held for more than three decades at a series of addresses in London” by the man — who had tried to convince them he was like Jesus Christ.
  • Cult-Like Coup As ‘Free Your Mind’ Billboard Pops-Up In Detroit: Hey, we pay attention when we read something about cults – religious or not. But the marketing efforts for the latest album of indie dance band Cut Copy really don’t have anything to do with cults. Freedom of Mind does.

bullet Parents in Israel are upset that ads for the Scientology cult are appearing on the Hebrew-language version of the children’s game website Webkinz.

The Hebrew-language advertisements, which were place on the website via Google’s Adwords service, reads “Get to know yourself. Get to know life. Visit our website. The Israeli Center of Scientology.”

According to Israel Hayom the Scientology Center in Israel says it has no control over where Google places its ads, and a spokesman for Scientology pointed out that the ‘church’ does not actively target children.

The newspaper notes that former members of the sect claim Scientology uses methods based on fraud and brainwashing, and that complaints against the organization include claims that Scientology practices illegal hypnosis, and exploits and harasses its followers.

bullet Really, all you need to know about Scientology is how the cult destroys families and friendships:

Lori tells your story here, and you can learn more about Scientology’s destructive ‘Disconnection’ policy here.

Now you understand why parents don’t want their kids to be exposed to Scientology propaganda.

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