Jennifer LeClaire Rebukes John Oliver on Prosperity Preachers

From Jennifer LeClaire at Charisma magazine:

I now know that [John] Oliver, a satirist who has taken on the name “Megareverend” and “CEO of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” is the host of Last Week Tonight. He aired what could be best described as an exposé on preachers like Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Mike Murdoch and Robert Tilton.

…No, I don’t endorse manipulative sermons with the sole purpose of wringing pennies (thousands of them) out of your pocket. I see the abuses. But I do believe in the concept of seed faith. I do believe God wants us to prosper and be in health even as our soul prospers (3 John 1:2). 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…

Oliver used some extreme examples—and some of them were so far out of context that they manipulated reality. He also sought out people who were hurt because they (or someone they loved) didn’t get the miracle they believed for when they sowed into the Copeland’s ministry. But I’ve never heard Kenneth or Gloria Copeland promise anyone that if they sowed enough money God would heal them, as Oliver hinted.

The Prosperity Gospel is one of the easier targets when it comes to mocking the excesses of religion, particularly when the concept is conveyed via the preposterous showmanship of Robert Tilton – fund-raising correspondence that Tilton’s ministry sends out apparently includes an outline of Tilton’s foot that believers are asked to trace their own footprint around and send back to him, along with a donation.

However, LeClaire’s rather qualified defence of Prosperity preachers is perhaps a bit less strange in the context of a religious tradition which emphasises that God will meet the needs of believers, and it should be noted that the wider discourse of the movement also includes a lot of  motivational self-help and practical financial advice. LeClaire appears most keen to defend the Copelands, whose influence and status within the “Religious Right” is much wider than just the subject of “prosperity” (last year, Copeland even managed to facilitate a message from the Pope to Pentecostals).

LeClaire’s defensiveness can be contrasted with the Christian Post, which was sporting enough to embed the programme on its site (albeit with a warning about “offensive language and lewd comments”), while a contributing editor at Christian Today has gone further, asking “Why does it take a comic to do the Church’s job?

I actually saw one of Oliver’s targets in London a few years ago: this was Mike Murdock, who was speaking at Westminster Chapel. I recall he had a heartwarming story about a couple who had agreed to pay an elderly lady a certain amount each month, in return for owning her home following her death. The couple were struggling, but they donated to Murdock’s ministry – and the old lady was promptly called to her own new heavenly home. Murdock comes to the UK fairly regularly, and he will be speaking in Maidstone just next week, at the invitation of Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo.

Murdoch and Ashimolowo were also recently in Lagos, where Murdock gifted a million dollars and a Rolls Royce to Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA (Commonwealth of Zion Assembly).