I’d love to eavesdrop on St. Peter the day he grills TV evangelist Paul Crouch outside the Pearly Gates. Based on his body of work, Pastor Crouch probably will slip in, but that doesn’t mean St. Peter has to give the guy one of the better tables.
Crouch probably considers himself a shoo-in, based on the worldwide ministry spawned by his Trinity Broadcasting Network. He’ll claim credit for millions of otherwise lost souls, and St. Peter will be forced to say, “All right, you’re in.”
If St. Pete is the judge he’s cracked up to be, though, he’ll take Crouch aside and whisper in his ear, “But was all that begging for money really necessary? Did you ever consider that continually hitting up needy widows and welfare recipients for contributions might be a bit over the top?”
We can only hope he’ll say that.
I realize full well that earthly people hold no sway over Crouch and other showbiz kids in TV evangelizing, where a shtick is just as important as it is for the World Wrestling Federation.
However, while some legitimate ministries and teachers (those who adhere to the orthodox teachings and practices of historical Christianity) appear on TBN, the network promotes such an incredible amount of heretical material – including extremist Word-Faith teachings – that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”
But maybe if St. Peter (or one of his superiors) asks Crouch why he keeps plugging for money even as his empire has accumulated more than half a billion dollars in net assets, the preacher will get the message.
Crouch and his TBN empire were the subject of recent stories in The Times by William Lobdell. Orange Countians already knew of Crouch’s penchant for lavishness: The ministry’s showcase studio near the San Diego Freeway is a monument to overkill. But the money TBN makes, coupled with the luxurious lifestyle that Crouch and his wife enjoy, would shame most mortals.
Ah, but not the rich and opulent, for they shall be shameless.
“If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed … you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven,” Crouch said in a 1997 broadcast.
In his telethons, Crouch suggests that being a bit strapped shouldn’t hinder giving.
“He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands,” he told viewers last year. “He’ll give millions and billions of dollars.”
Sure, he was caught up in the moment, and viewers still have the ability to see through the nonsense, but how does the man look himself in the mirror?
If Crouch were scraping by, you could forgive him.
But Lobdell reported that the network has averaged surpluses of $60 million since 1997.
It generates more than $170 million a year in revenue, of which viewers accounted for two-thirds.
Meanwhile, he and his wife, Jan, draw $765,000 in combined salary, travel the world in a turbojet, drive luxury cars and oversee a ministry that owns 30 homes, including two Newport Beach mansions, a retreat near Lake Arrowhead and a Texas ranch.
They have been truly blessed. At least, that’s the message their opulence is meant to convey. They subscribe to the “prosperity gospel” (and why not?), which says if you’re doing well, God must be shining his light on you.
Big House and Big Revenue mean Big Favor from the Big Guy. No wonder the folks at the Playboy mansion are so happy.
TBN officials say the surplus is needed to keep the ministry running and expanding.
Many, many other religious leaders decry TBN’s continuing solicitations. And they are quick to argue that the prosperity gospel isn’t rooted in Scripture.
That won’t stop Crouch. He and others like him are on a mission.
It offends me, partly because people like my brother and college roommate are the kind of people who, in a sense, compete for the dollars Crouch gets.
My brother runs a Christian-based “Street School” for high school dropouts who want a second chance. My roommate for years flew missionary supplies into impoverished Mexican villages.
Yes, both of their groups ask for donations, but they don’t lay guilt trips on anyone.
I don’t know about my former roommate, but my brother and his wife drive a 2003 Saturn and a ’91 Oldsmobile.
But mostly it’s the gall of the Paul Crouches of the world that offends me.
St. Peter will pick up on that, won’t he?
When Crouch comes knocking, I’m not asking that St. Peter turn him away.
Just lead him to a seat way, way in the back.
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