A three-year investigation into financial improprieties at six Christian ministries whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles has concluded with the formation of an independent commission to look into the lack of accountability by tax-exempt religious groups.
The investigation report
issued this week details the ministries’ luxury homes and cars, trips on private jets and expensive gifts, including two Rolls Royces that a third party reported was given to the Dollars as a gift from the church.
To its supporters, who include some of the country’s most powerful people, Rhema is a welcome coming together of two of South Africa’s favourite pastimes, conspicuous consumption and Christianity.
To its critics it’s a prosperity cult
Trinity Foundation, an evangelical watchdog led by Ole Anthony has been investigating evangelist Jesse Duplantis.
Investigator Pete Evans says ‘Donors expect the money they donate to the church to go to the poor and needy. Not to build mansions for the pastor.” Duplantis is building a mansion, owned by the ministry, that has 35-thousand square feet of covered space.
Despite the economic downturn, the prosperity gospel
remains alive and well. Pastors like Cowan or televangelists like the Rev. Creflo Dollar
and the Rev. Kenneth Copeland
continue to promise that financial blessings will follow donations to their ministries.
But it faces a challenge from a new austerity gospel, which says God blesses those who work hard, save their money and pay off their debts.
America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now.
Known as the prosperity gospel
, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.
In the same issue of The Atlantic
: Lead us not into debt
: Finance guru Dave Ramsey wins followers with a simple message: find God and lose your credit cards.
Even in an economic downturn, preachers in the “prosperity gospel” movement are drawing sizable, adoring audiences.
Their message — that if you have sufficient faith in God and the Bible and donate generously, God will multiply your offerings a hundredfold — is reassuring to many in hard times.
Has the so-called Prosperity gospel
turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis?
While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom.
Benny Hinn preaches a version of the prosperity gospel, which holds that God wants his followers to have financial wealth. To become prosperous, one must give money to God, who returns it multiplied.
If this scam worked as advertised, Benny Hinn and others like him would be giving you
The Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether Living Word Christian Center violated the law for favorable compensation and loan dealings it gave to church founder and pastor Mac Hammond
The church has resisted demands by the IRS to open its books for an audit, and the agency filed a petition in United States District Court ordering the church to comply.
Popular televangelist Kenneth Copeland is considered by many Christians to be a heretic. A key promoter of the so-called Word-Faith movement, which teaches that you can speak things into existence, and if you are sick it is because you don’t have enough faith.
Such faith is preferably expressed by sending money to teachers like Copeland. But Copeland does not have enough faith to allow a full investigation of his financial dealings.
Sen. Charles Grassley has provided an update on his investigation into the financial dealings of several televangelists
Mr Copeland certainly practises what he preaches. According to a report into the pentecostal charismatics, commissioned by the Senate, the ministry built Mr Copeland and his wife Gloria a mansion “the size of an hotel” and enabled him to acquire a $20 million ( £10 million) Cessna Citation to help him to spread the word of God across the US.
“There’s a lot of doctrine that teaches that you’re not a good Christian unless you’re poor. But that’s not our doctrine, that’s not what we believe,” the younger Copeland told KTVT-TV.
Nearly two-dozen conservative Christian leaders have signed a letter to the Senate Finance Committee questioning an investigation into six large ministries that preach a gospel of prosperity.