Wednesday, August 19, 2015

John Oliver Versus Prosperity Gospel

In yesterday's post I mentioned that, to Jim Bakker's credit, he renounced the "prosperity Gospel" that he once preached. I've posted a number of articles about this misguided interpretation of Christianity, but recently HBO's John Oliver presented the most epic takedown I've ever seen. I've posted the whole video above, and while it is twenty minutes long it's well worth watching.

Oliver uses footage to show just how mercilessly televangelists prey on their viewers. Some even try (often successfully, sadly) to convince their cable congregation that they should use money that they don’t have to donate to the church. They claim that God will eventually wipe out their debts and that the “seeds” they plant will be sown.

The message has apparently been heeded. Using still more clips of actual televangelists, Oliver shows where that money is going. One church leader, Mike Murdock, proudly proclaims that he bought a private jet in cash, and then a bigger one — also by paying cash — and that others should act happy over his “blessing.”

“‘I bough a jet — cash. I bought a bigger jet — cash. F**k the haters, act happy for me,'” paraphrases Oliver. “That’s not a sermon; it’s the first draft of a Rick Ross single.”

The segment goes on to examine how churches uses these funds, how easy it is to become a church, and how little oversight there is from the IRS. It’s so easy, in fact, that Oliver was able to consult with a tax lawyer to legally create his own church. Like other televangelists, he urges viewers to send their seeds (aka money, of course) and provides the church’s contact information.

It's very clear that this whole thing is a scam, and not only that, it's a scam that targets people who can least afford big donations. In the video, Oliver details seven months of correspondence with "prosperity Gospel" evangelist Robert Tilton. Tilton sent "holy oil," prayer cloths, and even dollar bills, all of which were supposed to be sent back to Tilton along with more money. The whole thing is ridiculous.

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