Televangelists are an easy target for mockery. Many of them are transparently fake, and they obviously do what they do because of money, not because of God. That John Oliver, a man known for his pointed and acute observations of American society, would take aim at these shysters was inevitable.
That one minister would think that she could swing back against the criticism, however, makes the joke that much better.
Call 1-800-Jesus for your free Heavenly consultation today!*
* Offer not valid outside of United States, when combined with other offers, or for certain individuals. Void where prohibited.
On Sunday (fittingly enough), John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, took aim at a distinctly American phenomenon: televangelists.
When someone thinks “televangelist,” Uncle Pat Robertson probably comes to mind, along with Joel Olsteen and others. It goes hand-in-hand with another key element of American Christianity: the megachurch.
While televangelists seem like a distinctly 80s thing, but they’re not; the first televangelists got their start as tent revivalists who turned to radio, like Aimee Semple McPherson. McPherson was a media personality and evangelist who turned to the radio in the 1920s and 30s and built one of the first megachurches, Foursquare Church. Other names from the 1920s and 30s include Billy Sunday, an outfielder turned moral crusader and pioneer of the 18th Amendment, and Monseigneur Charles Coughlin, a Catholic protofascist and promoter of Antisemitism and anti-Communism.
The 1970s saw the birth of the televangelist proper, though: Billy Graham, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others, taking advantage of government deregulation of the media, a meaningless tax code, the ready availability of cable and the large Christian population, made it possible.
And it was that deregulation that John Oliver called attention to when he slammed televangelists for their greed and extortion, and the massive wealth that they enjoy as a result. He even started his own church to show the holes in IRS tax regulation, “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption,” and named himself “megapastor” and CEO.
Like all satire, it was well earned. And like all satire, there’s always that one person who doesn’t get it and takes it seriously.
Oliver is far from the first person to criticize Televangelists. However, Oliver’s particular style of criticism has earned him a “rebuke” of sorts from Christian minister Jennifer LeClaire, who said that Oliver shouldn’t “mock what you don’t understand” and called him a “false reverend.”
LeClaire operates the Awakened House of Prayer, and while she admits that there are abusive churches, she doesn’t reject the idea of “seed faith” — that is, the idea that giving money to the church will result in more returns for the suckers who coughed up the dough, writing, “[W]e have to be careful not to paint everyone who believes for an airplane or sows a seed to get out of debt as a heretic.”
Oliver also targeted preachers who leech their congregation dry to get rich and then blame their wealth on the idea that prosperity is a sign of God’s favor. LeClaire didn’t like that, though, writing:
I do believe in supernatural debt cancellation. And I don’t believe we should mock so-called prosperity preachers, even if we don’t believe they hear from God. Nor do I believe we should insinuate that God is cursing at them, as Oliver did.
Perhaps the most prominent example of the type of pastor that Oliver was mocking is Creflo Dollar. Earlier this year, Dollar called on his congregation to give $70 million dollars so that he could afford a new private jet. To do the lord’s work, presumably, since we all know Jesus wouldn’t fly unless it was first class.
Watch Oliver Below:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y1xJAVZxXg&w=640&h=480]
Featured image via video screen capture