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Jewish Journal

Rod Parsley: firebrand and gonif

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 20, 2008 | 12:41 pm

I strongly disagree with Rod Parsley‘s characterization of Islam (based on “revelations from demon spirits” and “an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world”), but as someone who believes there is Truth and not just religion, he has the right to be divisive. But to what end?

More troubling to a God-fearing Christian—me—is that Parsley appears to be a purveyor of the Prosperity Gospel, that vile distortion of the Bible infamous for conning little old ladies out of their social security checks. (Though it may be true in a different context that giving makes you rich.) From the Huffington Post:

You’ve probably seen the prosperity gospel on television if you’ve surfed past the Trinity Broadcasting Network, where you could see Parsley, John Hagee, who also endorsed McCain, or Kenneth Copeland, who supported Mike Huckabee. Prosperity preachers tell their followers that if they “sow a seed”—in other words, donate to the televangelist—they will “reap a harvest,” or get a supernatural return on their investment. The promise of God’s blessing in return for lining the preachers’ pocket is the movement’s organizing principle, bolstered by promises that believers are “little gods” who possess “revelation knowledge” entitling them to ignore the media and academia, and the ability to positively confess things—that is, just say, “in the name of Jesus, that Cadillac is mine!”

Operating their churches with an iron hand and complete secrecy around their finances, these televangelists command their troops by declaring themselves prophets, God’s “anointed,” not to be criticized or questioned. “Touch not mine anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm,” a verse from Psalms, is invoked as their autocratic shield. It’s that secrecy that provoked a Senate Finance Committee investigation into the financial affairs of six of them, including Copeland, who continues to refuse to cooperate with Congressional investigators. Because they view the world through the prism of spiritual warfare, anyone who questions their doctrine or their wealth must be instruments of Satan.

Revelation knowledge lies at the heart of this autocratic movement’s powerful hold. Don’t let Satan eclipse what revelation knowledge tells you. Revelation knowledge always trumps reason. If this movement’s followers believe that they only need to listen to God’s word, as delivered through the mouths of their pastors, and that the media, scholarship, and reason are to be ignored, what does this say about the political choices, not to mention the life choices, followers of this movement make?

The embrace of these televangelists by Republican politicians—exposed in my new book, God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters—elevates them in the eyes of their followers and promotes their ideology as moral and pure. Parsley, whom McCain called a “moral compass” and “spiritual guide,” proudly boasts about how presidential candidates seek his advice. Hagee claims the admiration of the White House, members of Congress from both parties (Joe Lieberman has compared him to Moses), Republican Party officials, and even the former director of the CIA, James Woolsey. When President Bush compared Barack Obama to Nazi appeasers last week, he was tipping his hat to Hagee, who routinely charges political enemies with appeasement as well, while portraying himself and his followers as modern-day Churchills.

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If you were to turn on your television and watch Parsley or Hagee, you would undoubtedly see them pleading for money. But you might also see Parsley calling for spiritual warfare against Satan, faith-healing homosexuals from the “bondage” of their sin, or prophesying a bloody apocalyptic showdown with Islam out of secret codes in Genesis. You might see Hagee proclaiming that he doesn’t care if someone who doesn’t work starves, because welfare is satanic. He might be calling environmentalists “wackos” or feminism witchcraft or describing the Bible’s plan for men to maintain authority over their wives or predicting God’s wrath on the United States if it supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Watching Word of Faith on television, though, is nothing compared to experiencing it—sitting in the pews while everyone stares you down for not waving your offering envelope in the air, watching a televangelist demand money while people are in an ecstatic religious state; or being crushed by a euphoric crowd at a faith-healing service, during which Parsley claimed he had healed a baby born without a brain, and moments later bragged about how he’s a coveted guest in the halls of Congress.

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