Match That Quote THE LAST WORD By Ole Anthony Issue #160 September/October 1998 In this issue, we're going to play "Match That Quote," where the odds, the prizes and the sense of amazement increase exponentially with every missed answer. Ready? Can you guess who made the following theological statements? QUOTE: "When I read in the Bible where He (Jesus) says, "I am," I just smile and say, "Yes, I am, too." SPEAKER: (a) C.S. Lewis, Christian intellectual. (b) Bill Clinton, Baptist politician. (c) St. Augustine, church father. (d) Reinhold Neibuhr, theologian. (e) Kenneth Copeland, TV evangelist. If you guessed Copeland, you get to spin again. QUOTE: "You don't have a god in you, you are one. Pray to yourself because I'm in your self and you're in My self. We are one Spirit, saith the Lord." SPEAKER: (a) The Lord, His Ownself. (b) Allah, Muslim Supreme Being. (c) Friedrich Nietzsche, presumptuous philosopher. (d) The artist formerly known as Prince. (e) Kenneth Copeland, TV evangelist Yep, it's Copeland again. Pearls of ignorance like these are one of the perks of 25 years of monitoring televangelists and religious TV. The other perk is getting sued. Trinity Foundation started keeping tabs on these mavens of religious media about 25 years ago. The first 17 years we did occasional surveys on the amount of time they spent in on-air fund raising, noting their theological persuasion and ascertaining the actual size of their audience compared to what they claimed. We did this because the original mandate for Trinity Foundation was to counter the boring and unimaginative religious programming of that time. We produced a radio program back in 1973-74 that received 33,000 letters. Based on a formula for determining audience size, in which one letter equals 1,000 listeners, we supposedly reached 33 million people. But there were only four million in our market area. It was a popular show, but not that popular. For the past eight years we have taken a more pro-active approach to monitoring. (Some say it's a more prophylactic approach, but we actually counsel total abstinence when it comes to televangelists.) We have sent in undercover employees to various televangelists' ministry organizations, dug around in their trash bins, used hidden cameras, nurtured informants, and set up a national help line at 1-800-229-VICTIM for those who feel they or their loved ones have been victimized by religious scam artists. But one of the most enlightening aspects of all this monitoring activity has been to simply watch the televangelists on their own programs and make a written record of what they are saying and claiming as fact, all with the underlying purpose of getting you to send them more money. The most entertaining claims are by W.V. Grant of Dallas. In 1994 Grant claimed, "I have seen services where 31 people got out of wheelchairs in one service... we were in Dayton, Ohio, and 79 deaf ears were healed at one word, and I'm not exaggerating. I have seen people raised from the dead. I've had four different occasions when people died in our service. Doctors pronounced them dead, and God raised 'em from the dead." Always be wary when someone says, "I'm not exaggerating." And, hey, is the fact that four people died while you were preaching something to emphasize? More interesting still is Grant's miraculous healing voice. The story grows in the telling: In 1992 the story changed again, "First of all, I want to sing a song that I sang last Tuesday night at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind., and there was about 4,000 people healed during the song." Finally: "First of all, I'm going to sing a song that I sang in Orlando, Florida this time last month, and we saw 7,000 people healed during this song." Hey, a few more choruses, and people will start having their teeth filled. Oops. Grant claims that happened, too, in August 1994. Grant also claimed in 1992 that a man's plastic hip implant had disappeared. "He says his hip joint has been replaced by a natural hip joint, a creative miracle and it's tremendous, tremendous... it's documented. His healing has been documented by the doctor right now... he's going to send us the documentation." Of course, why God would want to do that is a mystery. But that's never much of a consideration for this crowd. Even so, televangelists are personal friends with Jesus. Kenneth Copeland says that "God is a being that stands somewhere around 6'2" or 6'3". (I guess being any more precise would take some of the mystery out of the divine presence.) Robert Tilton, on the other hand, saw two seven-foot-tall angels in his church. Does that mean God needs some help in the stature department? Many times televangelists' trip all over themselves trying to be theologically correct. In trying to emphasize that the Jews are God's chosen people, Grant inadvertently slanders the whole race. In 1993 he broadcast this statement: "It makes no difference what they do. God is going to keep his word ...some of my best friends are Jewish people. I know some Jewish people (not all of them) but I know some Jewish people that have shady business dealings. I know some Jewish people that stab their neighbors in the back, try to take their best friend's wife out and they're still blessed." Branching out into sociological pronouncements can be even more embarrassing, like when Grant claims, "there are more lesbians in the news media than there is on the pro-tennis circuit." Economics is one area in which televangelists claim to be experts, and actually succeed. Trinity Broadcasting Network's Secretary of the Treasure, John Avanzini assures us (let's choose quotes from 1991 as examples) that "Jesus had a nice big house" and "Jesus wore designer clothes." See, this is information most preachers don't let you in on. If you add up all the free give-aways like Peter Popov's miracle water from Chernobyl (!) and Gene Ewing's anointed shower caps, you can see why televangelists really are masters of voodoo economics. Now, you'd think the televangelists would thank us for disseminating their powerful, godly message. But no. They sue us. In fact, we've been sued so many times the stack of depositions is taller than I am. Maybe even taller than Jesus, according to Copeland's measurement (see above). As entertaining as all this is, the church should be outraged because the innocent are being victimized in the name of God. We have suggested to a congressional committee and others in government that the FCC code should be amended to include a statement that "any claims made on the air waves which are made by any living person to induce others to give something of value must be verifiable." This is based on a British code and was recently used to take evangelist Morris Cerullo off the air there for making unsubstantiated claims. This would not only affect televangelists, it would probably stop the psychic hotlines and many of the more outlandish infomercials. Unfortunately, when the Republicans took over congress in 1994, they stymied efforts in this direction. They apparently equate televangelists with the Religious right (not true). And because they fear being sued, most religious leaders – right, left or muddled – refuse to speak out forcefully against these abuses. Another approach is for a self-imposed standard, something along the lines of the late evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman's guidelines concerning publication of testimonials of healings. She wrote that testimonials must meet these guidelines: 1. The disease or injury must be organic or structural in nature and must have been medically diagnosed. 2. The healing must have occurred instantaneously or at least very rapidly. These changes must be abnormal and not the kind that could result from suggestion. 3. The healing must be medically verified by more than one doctor. At least one of the doctors must be the patient's personal physician. 4. The healing must be permanent or at least of sufficient duration (six months) so as not to be diagnosed as a "remission." Televangelist Benny Hinn, Kuhlman's disciple, has said that if he had to meet those standards, he wouldn't be able to air anything on TV. That's the point, Benny. The first century Christian manual called The Didache instructs: "If any one comes to you in God's name asking for money, shun him as a false apostle." Now, there's a quote the televangelists should get laminated and keep in their thick wallets.