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Pope Of Prosperity Gospel Dies

Paul Crouch, who founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network with his bewigged wife Jan, has died [1] at 79. He leaves behind a religious broadcasting empire and a badly broken family, one of which has much to do with the other. [2] Excerpt:

The prosperity gospel preached by Paul and Janice Crouch, who built a single station into the world’s largest Christian television network, has worked out well for them.

Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.

The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.

Now, after an upheaval with Shakespearean echoes, one son in this first family of televangelism has ousted the other to become the heir apparent. A granddaughter, who was in charge of TBN’s finances, has gone public with the most detailed allegations of financial improprieties yet, which TBN has denied, saying its practices were audited and legal.

More:

Relatives and former employees agreed that Paul and Janice Crouch seem to have deep spiritual feelings and believe they are doing the Lord’s work — a belief, according to a former employee, Troy Clements, that seemed to justify almost any extravagance.

Mr. Clements, a former executive at Holy Land Experience, said that when employees questioned decisions like remodeling the cafe three times in six weeks, Mrs. Crouch said, “No one has told me ‘no’ for 30 years, and you’re not going to start now.”

Mr. Clements, who was sales and then personnel director at Holy Land, said that he resigned in frustration in 2008 and that working for Mrs. Crouch had often been “surreal.”

No one has told me ‘no’ for 30 years. Well, there’s your prosperity gospel. Read the whole thing and learn about Jan pushing her lapdogs around in pink strollers, and renting luxury hotel rooms for the pampered pooches. Tammy Faye was dollar-store compared to this woman.

In 2004, the LA Times reported on TBN’s paying $425,000 in alleged hush money to a former employee who claimed to have had a gay affair with Paul Crouch [3], but who came back later demanding much more money in what appeared to be an extortion attempt. The network’s lawyers denied the allegation. The LAT also reported separately on the Crouchs’ ultra-luxurious lifestyle [4], and how it is funded. Excerpt:

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.

Lower-income, rural Americans in the South are among TBN’s most faithful donors. The network says that 70% of its contributions are in amounts less than $50.

Those small gifts underwrite a lifestyle that most of the ministry’s supporters can only dream about.

And:

Workers there deal with a daily avalanche of mail from around the world — poems, prayers, testimonials and donations in a variety of currencies. With surveillance cameras overhead, employees process the mail in an assembly-line-like operation, separating donations from prayer requests. The Spartan decor and brisk pace suggest a bank processing center.

In an adjoining room, employees enter the letter writers’ names and addresses into the direct-mail database, which has 1.2 million names. An in-house printing and mailing operation generates thousands of letters a day asking the faithful to give.

Sheryl Silva of Anaheim is among those who do. She says the network has been a source of strength during difficult times, including a period of homelessness.

“I love to give whenever I can — at least $15 per month,” said Silva, 46, who has glaucoma and gets by on a monthly disability check of about $900. “I give because I don’t want them to go off the air. They might be the only thing good on TV that day.”

What a life Paul Crouch had. That’s the most neutral thing I can muster. If you sell people hope and meaning, you can make millions.

69 Comments (Open | Close)

69 Comments To "Pope Of Prosperity Gospel Dies"

#1 Comment By rr On December 1, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

quote: “As to people who make a great living telling people what they want to hear, I haven’t noticed that people on “the left” make anywhere near this kind of money off of voluntary donations from the faithful.”

Uh, Michael Moore is a millionaire. I bet Bill Maher is as well. Granted, they don’t take up donations, which doesn’t put them on the same level as TBN (a.k.a. the heresy channel) ilk. Nonetheless, many of the folks on EddieInCA’s list were right-wing commentators, who earn their money from their work (or propaganda if you will) and not as t.v. preachers asking for donations. In other words, in the same boat as Moore, Maher, etc.

I guess the closest thing on the left to the TBN folks would be preachers of another kind, namely race-husslers such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. So yeah, there are plenty of characters, and wealthy ones at that, to go around on both sides of the political aisle.

#2 Comment By Bernie On December 1, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

I can foresee the possibility that church leaders (and perhaps many others) will engage in non-violent protests if the Supreme Court rules that the ACA can force the Church to pay employees’ health insurance covering contraceptives, especially those that can induce abortions. As we all know, such protesters can be arrested and put in jail.

#3 Comment By TWylite On December 2, 2013 @ 1:01 am

This is the one true Prosperity Pope:

#4 Comment By Richard Parker On December 2, 2013 @ 1:29 am

“As to people who make a great living telling people what they want to hear, I haven’t noticed that people on “the left” make anywhere near this kind of money off of voluntary donations from the faithful”

Al Gore and Oprah pop instantly to mind as snake oil salesmen of the left. Oprah, in particular, runs a ‘cargo cult’ for gullible soccer moms. Al Gore certainly doesn’t live like someone who actually believes in global warming.

#5 Comment By Aegis On December 2, 2013 @ 2:18 am

“I foresee the possibility of religious leaders engaging is non-violent protests if the Supreme Court rules that their institutions must pay for contraceptives, especially those that can induce abortions. Non-violent protesters can be arrested and sent to jail.”

Ok, so we aren’t talking about something that might occur in the future if things keep going a particular way, we’re talking about something that has been going on for about forty years, what with the Catholic priests and nuns jailed for protesting the Vietnam war and the School of the Americas.

#6 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On December 2, 2013 @ 5:59 am

@Richard Parker, Oprah runs a cult of personality, not a cargo cult. Cargo cults were a phenomenon in the Pacific islands where the natives appropriated superficial aspects of Western culture or technology.

Although Oprah convincing soccer moms to build an airstrip to summon Prince Philip, would finally make her show bearable to watch.

#7 Comment By JonF On December 2, 2013 @ 6:01 am

Re: People of all religions are so often misled, confused, and ignorant of the virtues and attributes that comprise sanctity, that we live in a largely post-Christian (and generally post-religious) era as Rod has said.

Money-grubbing among churchmen is not exactly new. The indulgence sales in Germany that set Luther off were conducted with such razzle-dazzle and rube-wowing that they resembled a carnival.

#8 Comment By Puller58 On December 2, 2013 @ 6:26 am

It might serve a purpose to point out that our foreign policy missteps have been championed by the various Elmer Gantrys on the snake handler circuit. That alone is enough to condemn these charlatans.

#9 Comment By JP On December 2, 2013 @ 9:16 am

@Ageis:

Jane Hartley (a future Obama ambassador and top Obama bundler),George Soros, Peter Lewis, ALGORE, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine, Bill and Belinda Gates etc…

All of these people are fabulously wealthy. And they advocate everything from the nationalization of health care to punitive taxation of the energy industry through the EPA. Most push for expansive federal controls of agriculture, banking, commerce, and labor. Almost all are pro-abortion/sterilization, and back an aggressive LGBT agenda.

#10 Comment By Aegis On December 2, 2013 @ 10:22 am

“Jane Hartley (a future Obama ambassador and top Obama bundler),George Soros, Peter Lewis, ALGORE, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine, Bill and Belinda Gates etc…

All of these people are fabulously wealthy. And they advocate everything from the nationalization of health care to punitive taxation of the energy industry through the EPA. Most push for expansive federal controls of agriculture, banking, commerce, and labor. Almost all are pro-abortion/sterilization, and back an aggressive LGBT agenda.”

None of them are Marxists, though. None of the things you ascribe to them are features of Marxism, though perhaps in some instances Marxists have advocated them as part of a broader political program.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for next time you think about accusing somebody of being a Marxist: Ask yourself, “does this person advocate the people seizing control over the means of production.” If the answer is no (as is the case, as far as I can tell, of all of the individuals you cited), then the person in question isn’t a Marxist and you are going to look kind of dumb if you accuse them of being such.

My community service for the day.

#11 Comment By Richard Parker On December 2, 2013 @ 10:55 am

“Oprah runs a cult of personality, not a cargo cult. Cargo cults were a phenomenon in the Pacific islands where the natives appropriated superficial aspects of Western culture or technology.”

I understand the difference and choose my words specifically. She runs both.

Show up in her studio audience and ‘goodies’ like magic descend on the natives.

Jesus and more specifically his followers used the mass media of the day.

#12 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On December 2, 2013 @ 11:50 am

@Richard Parker, fair enough, but I still want to see the soccer moms build an airstrip before I’ll watch her show.

#13 Comment By Bobby On December 2, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

@JP

What qualifies as an “aggressive LGBT agenda”? What specific initiatives are these people proposing that are particularly “aggressive” or that constitute an “agenda”?

Most of us just want to be left alone to live our lives and be permitted to enjoy the same legal freedoms that everyone else enjoys.

Of course, if your analysis of this issue is no more credible than your averments of Marxism, I suppose that I should prepare myself not to be knocked off my feet.

Frankly, this kind of silly alarmism just makes you look ridiculous, and probably even makes it easier for any would-be agenda-pushers to get their way.

#14 Comment By Bernie On December 2, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

JonF, I agree with you 100%!

#15 Comment By Bernie On December 2, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Aegis, that’s correct. It could happen.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 2, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

I must give credit where credit is due. Aegis has provided an excellent standard for political discourse:

Here’s a good rule of thumb for next time you think about accusing somebody of being a Marxist: Ask yourself, “does this person advocate the people seizing control over the means of production.” If the answer is no … then the person in question isn’t a Marxist…

So true. I think Hector St. Clare would agree.

Michael Moore… catapulted to fame and fortune making an excellent documentary on a very low budget, which made money because so many people wanted to see it (Roger and Me). The rest of his movies were not up to that standard, and don’t seem to have made as much money either. I suppose he might have been telling people from Flint, MI, “what they wanted to hear,” but mostly working class people from Flint thanked him for “telling our story” quite effectively to the world at large. Not in the same category as spewing epithets at straw men for the pleasure of a fan club.

George Soros made his money speculating in currency (Lenin advocated summary execution for speculators and profiteers). Oprah Winfrey may have made her money telling people what they wanted to hear, but she meets no definition of a leftist, socialist, Marxist, and she’s not a liberal either. Its all about Oprah.

“Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine, Bill and Belinda Gates…” all made their money by engaging in capitalism, running businesses, floating IPO’s, building up stock value… not a shred of Marxism to it, nor “telling people what they want to hear” as modus for making money. (I suppose anyone selling stock is “telling people what they want to hear,” but its a different crime from Rush Limbaugh’s.

Al Gore may be a better example, but he fails the Aegis test also — he is no kind of leftist. He has told every possible electoral constituency what they wanted to hear… remember when he was the pro-life congressman from Tennessee?

Bernie… I take no Cosimanian glee in saying this, but if priests and bishops engage in direct unlawful interference with the legal rights of employees of employers, but physically obstructing the operation of a law which requires employers to fully fund their employees’ health insurance, those priests and bishops deserve to go to prison, and I won’t shed a tear over it. That has NOTHING to do with freedom of religion.

#17 Comment By sdb On December 2, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

How does this get spun as a right/left thing? My [5] is that the prosperity gospel has its strongest foothold in the pentecostal movement which is the most multicultural of all the protestant sects (mainline, conservative confessional, evangelical, etc…). I suspect the politics of these congregants is decidedly purple.

In 500 years, Protestantism has gone from Martin Luther to Jan Crouch.

I don’t think this is a fair sentiment. Reformed Protestantism didn’t go to Jan Crouch. It is hard to identify these kinds of homegrown movements in other protestant countries. According to the CT article I linked above,

While the beginnings of an actual Prosperity movement only trace back to the 1970s, Bowler puts together a longer lineage that begins in the late 19th century. This earlier period brought together three influential streams—Pentecostalism, New Thought as set forth by mediators like Holiness pastor E. W. Kenyon, and the secular American belief in upward

While some RC apologists like to try and draw a connection between protestant ecclesiology and the explosion of Christian denominations in the US, it seem to me the remarkable social and political freedom we enjoy coupled with a strong sense of entrepreneurialism is really at the heart of these ongoing innovations. While the reformation may have tilled the ground for religious experimentation, the pentecostalism and holiness movements (and their revivalist forebears) were really a reaction against reformed protestantism.

#18 Comment By Noah172 On December 3, 2013 @ 12:36 am

sdb wrote:

My understanding is that the prosperity gospel has its strongest foothold in the pentecostal movement which is the most multicultural of all the protestant sects (mainline, conservative confessional, evangelical, etc…). I suspect the politics of these congregants is decidedly purple.

Eh. White Pentecostals are fiercely Republican, and incline to the hardest right elements of the party, although with nuances in factional preference (Bushie neocon, Tea Party, etc.). Black and Hispanic Pentecostals are mostly Democratic, but less so than the rest of their coethnics (e.g., the big Pew religion survey found that nearly one in five members of the Church of God in Christ, a largely black Pentecostal denomination, are Republican or lean Republican), and much more socially conservative than most Democrats.

#19 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On December 3, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

If you want to hear Democratic candidates for office giving loud public praise to “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” just go to any church in Prince George’s County, Maryland, during an election season. Democrats wouldn’t dare say anything against Christian faith in one of their best sources of votes.

I don’t quite buy the “Martin Luther to Jan Crouch” line of thinking, but I have noticed that many Pentecostals place great emphasis on obedience. It often occured to me to ask, if you are so committed to obedience, why don’t you just go back to giving your obedience to Rome?