It’s the oldest story in the book: the creepy televangelists who enjoy a life of indulgence while fleecing the faithful. Ah, greed masked by religious piety! Even Jesus walked among such con artists, and he was not amused:
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” — Matthew 21:13
Today’s New York Times has an expose on the latest Christian charlatans, the obscenely wealthy Crouch family. You’ve probably seen them while flipping through the channels late at night: the perennially weepy Janice Crouch with her cotton-candy pink hair and Paul Crouch, who alway set my creep-o-meter into overdrive. Paul and Janice Crouch sit at the helm of Trinity Broadcasting Network, a global religious empire that might even rival Pat Robertson’s. They own the former Twitty City here Middle Tennessee and The Holy Land Experience Bible theme park in Orlando. The Crouches are the poster children for wringing all meaning and sincerity from Scripture, packaging this empty religion in a neat little box, and selling it like a bag of potato chips.
The Crouch family story is unfolding in the expected way, with family infighting, lawsuits, allegations of impropriety and fraud. What makes this story so juicy is that the person spilling the beans is the Crouch’s granddaughter Brittany Koper, who was TBN’s finance director. In return, the Crouches accuse Koper of embezzlement. Ain’t no feud like a family feud ‘cuz a family feud won’t quit, amiright?
Do head over to the Times to read this story. It needs to be turned into a Hollywood movie except I bet some critics would carp it’s too cliche. His-and-hers-mansions in California and Florida? A $49 million corporate jet? Nobody would believe such excess! Oh, but it gets better:
In 2008 and 2009, as Mrs. Crouch began remodeling Holy Land Experience, she rented adjacent rooms in the deluxe Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando — one for herself and one for her two beloved Maltese dogs and clothes, according to Mr. Clements and Ms. Koper. Mrs. Crouch rented the rooms for close to two years, they said.
Anyone who tries to buy a ticket to heaven by giving these people their money is an idiot. This is perhaps the only time you will see me agree with the arch-conservative Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.”
And I loved this part:
“Others may do things differently, and may criticize TBN for how it operates, its look, its doctrine and belief,” Mr. May said. “But what is absolutely clear is that TBN, with God’s grace, has succeeded where most others have failed.”
Really? I guess that depends on what your definition of “success” is.
These things are hard to predict but I expect this story will end much as they all do: with someone going to jail.