LA Times Digs Deeper into TBN's Prosperity Gospel Message
LA Times details TBN's richesand the theology that brought it
When the Los Angeles Timesbroke the news of allegations that TBN founder and president Paul Crouch had engaged in homosexual sex with an employee, several Weblog readers and friends expressed sorrow. The sadness was largely for Crouch and his accuser, but they were also sad that Crouch's leadership was being challenged because of unproven claims of a one-night standnot because of his troubling theology, which he televises daily.
Los Angeles Times reporter William Lobdell seems to understand this, and in Friday's and Saturday's editions devoted far more space to Crouch's faith and finances (along with some business issues) than the paper did to the tryst allegations last week. While there are signs that a bit more care could have been usedan incorrect use of the word fundamentalist here, a misspelling of Pentecostal thereit's clear that Lobdell spent much time reporting these stories, trying to get the details correct.
Those details including descriptions of several of the Crouches' spending sprees and 30 homes are astounding. But the overall picture is one that's evident from anyone who has channel surfed past their "Praise the Lord" show. If one word had to describe TBN and the Crouches, it's opulence.
The numbers: Paul Crouch receives a $403,700 salary. His wife, Jan, gets $361,000. "Those are the highest salaries paid by any of the 12 major religious nonprofits whose finances are tracked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy," Lobdell notes.
The network nets about $60 million a year and has $583 million in assets. Viewers donate $120 million annually to TBN, and 70 percent of those donations amount to less than $50 each. However, TBN is apparently also hoarding cash, spending 46 cents of every dollar it receives. (That's from MinistryWatch.com, not the Times.) The board consists of the Crouches and Paul's sister and apparently doesn't hold regular meetings.
In other cases where ministry extravagance has been questioned, ministries have responded by either explaining the need for such expenses or by dramatically reducing costs. (One recent example is Joyce Meyer.) But in the Crouches' case, such conspicuous affluence isn't in opposition to ministryit's evidence that God's hand is on it.
Donors won't be upset with the Crouches' $7.2-million Turbojet, $10,000 wine cabinet, or tanning bed because the Crouches teach that riches are directly proportional to faithfulness. The more faithful you are, the more rich you will be. The poorer you are, then, the less faith you have.
"The fruit of God is on their life," twentysomething viewer Tennille Lowe told the Times. "If they weren't prospering, I'd say, 'Wait a minute. I don't see any evidence [of God's blessing] in their life.'"
Where would Lowe get such an unbiblical idea? Lobdell has an answer:
During one telethon, Crouch, 70, told viewers that if they did their part to advance the Kingdom of God such as by donating money to TBN they should not be shy about asking God for a reward.
"If my heart really, honestly desires a nice Cadillac would there be something terribly wrong with me saying, 'Lord, it is the desire of my heart to have a nice car and I'll use it for your glory?' " Crouch asked. "I think I could do that and in time, as I walked in obedience with God, I believe I'd have it."
Other preachers who appear on the network offer variations on the theme that God appreciates wealth and likes to share it. One of them, John Avanzini, once told viewers that Jesus, despite his humble image, was a man of means.
Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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