Many people who believe in God or a higher power turn to their faith to maintain their mental health, sobriety, peace of mind, and purpose in life. The prevailing wisdom is that pastors are anointed by their higher power with the ability to reach out to others in ways that the “average” person may not be able to. But frankly, pastors are far from being saints. And it is hard to accept the judgment of those pastors when they fail—or refuse–to see how their actions influence others.
To become a pastor, most are not required to attend a college. Though many denominations prefer clergy with a theological degree, many so-called pastors acquire a following by sharing their struggles, relying on intuition and promotional skills, developing a solid knowledge of biblical teachings, and honing the ability to persuade and entertain.
In the late 1970s, a comedy called “Good Times” was popular in many African-American homes. The show revolved around the Evans family: Florida and James, as well as their children J.J., Thelma, and Michael.
The family struggled to pay rent and to afford quality clothing. The kids were getting a poor education, and the family had no health insurance. In the episode God’s Business is Good Business, James’ high school friend, now a preacher, offered him $100 to join his crusade, spreading the word of God. How could he pass that up?
Right when James was ready to walk out of the door with the preacher, another man in the preacher’s crew knocked on the door and told both men to hurry; they needed to catch their flight for the next gig, in which the man would play the wheelchair guy. The preacher’s job was to “lay hands” on the man, who would suddenly demonstrate his ability to walk again. J.J. recognized the “wheelchair guy” and told James he wanted to join his father for the gig.
The preacher told James he had room for one more and J.J. could join them. The audience watched as James faced a dilemma: was the money or the moral more important? In the end, James’ morals and his strong conviction about steering his kids the right way won out, and he told the pastor that neither he nor J.J. would be ruined over money.
Thankfully, that was just TV, and no preacher would actually stoop that low; that is, until Benny Hinn came along. At one time, Hinn was a wildly popular preacher, with over 20,000 members attending his church. And how did he spread the message of the word of God? By doing exactly what James’ preacher friend did: “laying hands” on people who were suffering from blindness, paralysis, hearing loss, etc. Hinn outrageously said that God had given him special abilities, including the ability to swing his jacket like a lasso as 15 or more churchgoers fell at once, the holy spirit overtaking them.
During one of his healing events, a 15-year-old boy was brought on stage who had been in a fire and now had trouble speaking. Hinn walked to the kid and pushed him forcefully. The boy and his family members fell to the ground, and the boy revealed he could now speak with no problems. One person could not walk since childhood. Hinn touched her head forcefully, and she got up and started dancing, filled with the holy spirit, and ran around the stage with her hands raised to the ceiling.
Hinn’s services were watched by millions, and he was able to buy a mansion, nice cars, and fancy clothes, all from the money he received from members’ tax-free donations. In a Nightline interview many years ago, the interviewer said, “People have called you a con man and fraud. Let me asked you bluntly, are you taking advantage of people who are profoundly religious or in pain?” Hinn, with a defiant smile, said, “I would not do this for money…if people think I would do this for money after all of the misery that I had to go through…” The misery he referred was people calling him bad names and questioning his integrity. When further pushed, Hinn shifted all responsibility for his choices onto God, saying God does the healing and not him.
Another YouTube video, from 2014, involved a pastor on trial for some of his actions. During the deposition, David “The Apostle” Taylor made for popcorn-worthy entertainment. When Taylor was questioned by the prosecutor, it was difficult to believe that God would ever have called Taylor to represent Him.
For example, when Taylor was asked about the church building he was leasing for $2.8 million and claiming as an asset, he said, “That was probably a mistake.” When questioned about the $6,000 he had spent on clothes from Louis Vuitton and asked whether he saw any issues with buying luxury brand clothing when dealing with the needy and sick, he said, “
I said that ain’t something I purchased all of the time. I am very fugal…” Yet he had spent $30,000 on clothes. Finally, he reasoned, “Oh, yes, it was probably because I was traveling so much and sweating through my clothes… [The new clothes] have a better TV appearance.” He admitted to having a Mercedes, a BMW, a Bentley, and a Range Rover.
He had also paid $50,000 to convert one of the cars into a limo. Why? For picking up “high profile people” and bringing them to his church services. How about the $6,000 Disney Resort vacation? He claimed the money came from the church board. He did not, however, know how many members were on the board, even though he was one of them.
Creflo Dollar is another popular preacher who lives in a mansion has a private plane, and also was jailed for punching and choking his daughter. The day after he was released, at his church service, which over 5,000 members attended, he said, “She was not punched or choked, and there were no scratches on her neck.”
In a despicable move, he then made a video asking members to give him 10%of their checks because he wanted to buy a $65 million jet airplane; the plane he had built in 1984 was falling apart, and he could not fly commercial, he explained. Really? Michael Jordan would be hounded at an airport. 99% of people would never recognize Creflo Dollar.
Another high-profile scandal involved the late Pastor Eddie Long, who condemned gay marriage and was openly homophobic, yet three men accused him of abusing them sexually when they were underage. He denied it, but he settled out of court. Later on the Steve Harvey show, he told the host he had done so because “Sometimes even in life you gotta figure, ‘do I need to win the battle or do I need to win the war’? I had to make a decision to save me, save my family, and save the church.” Harvey asked Long whether he could answer the question, did he engage in sexual acts with the boys? Long-only said that the terms of the settlement would not allow him to comment.
The majority of pastors are honorable and dedicated to their church members. They have high morals and want the spotlight to remain on their higher power’s greatness. It is such a shame that we have the Longs, Dollars, Hinns, and Kenneth Copland (not satisfied with a private plant, he has his own airport). These people pretend to help while lining their own pockets. They tarnish the reputation of the preachers who are truly doing the Lord’s work.