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Jesse [Duplantis] and I and others, Keith Moore and Creflo, the world is in such a shape, we can't get there without this. The mess that the airlines are in today! I would have to stop—I'm being very conservative.
Kenneth Copeland defends his private jet[1]
Sex and power and money is the prayerra of these priests / They bribe their way past Heaven's gates and steal a set of keys
JamesWikipedia, God Only Knows

Televangelists are greedy preachers who love bright lights, TV cameras and huge congregations that they never have to meet personally — unless, of course, that person is rich and/or powerful. They often complain of the unholiness of liberals while convincing poor people to send in their life savings in the hopes of gaining eternal salvation. They tend to avoid the unwashed rank-and-file unless they can profit monetarily from the meeting. They want everybody to be good Christians — a word that means "Christ-like" — even though Jesus was poor and homeless and never wore a Rolex or a $2,500 Italian suit, drove a $500,000 Italian sports car, flew in a $20,000,000 private jet, or lived in a 10,000-plus square foot Los Angeles beachfront estate; all paid for by contributions from faithful victims who believe that every preacher is as honest and God-fearing as they are, even if the televangelists are thinly disguised Bible-thumping sociopaths selling an overpriced a "Get Out of Hell Free" Card.

We are not talking "salt of the earth" here, people. It's more like cinnabar or arsenic.


The word televangelist is a portmanteau of "television" and "evangelist", used to describe the preachers on the TV. The phenomenon really took off in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when preachers were on TV all the time[citation NOT needed] claiming direct links with God, the ability to lay on hands, and even the ability to prophesy.

However, many of the ones who claimed these supernatural powers turned out to be frauds, and even many of the ones who didn't were found to be utter hypocrites who engaged in the very sin they told their watchers to avoid. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker were among the worst of the latter group, while Peter Popoff was one of the former, being publicly exposed as using secret radio-transmissions from his wife to provide him information that he pretended came to him directly from God.[2]

Televangelists (most notably Pat Robertson, Mike Murdock, Rod Parsley, Joyce "five mansions" Meyer, and T. D. JakesWikipedia) can still be found on both the TBN and DayStar religious networks, as well as some late-night local programming.

One who managed to redeem herself was Tammy Faye Bakker (later Tammy Faye MessnerWikipedia), who devoted her last years to the cause of gay rights and fighting homophobia.

In what is perhaps an intriguing if not cynical example, the late Irish Catholic priest Patrick PeytonWikipedia gained controversy when it was found out that his Family Rosary Crusades in Latin America were funded and, to some extent, directed by the Central Intelligence Agency who were intent on countering left-wing movements in the region.[3]

In 2015, talk-show host and comedian John Oliver, as part of an episode examining televangelists and the prosperity gospel, tried to start his own ministry called "Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption" to see if he could meet the IRS' requirements to become a church for the purposes of tax exemption. With help from a tax lawyer, he was able to get away with claiming his studio as a place of worship and his audience as his flock, incorporating as a church in Texas despite living in New York, and "having congregants silently meditate on the nature of fraudulent churches" as a form of ritual and worship.[4]

Perhaps due to pervasive American influence and its status as a former colony, the Philippines also has its fair share of televangelists, from the likes of Mike VelardeWikipedia and Eddie VillanuevaWikipedia whose business and political ventures are the subject of scrutiny and criticism, to over-the-top cranks such as Apollo Quiboloy who has the gall to claim himself as a supposed Messiah and cry persecution when criticised. Televangelism isn't limited to just Christianity either; notorious Indian Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik gained notoriety and became a wanted fugitive in his native country for financial fraud.

See also[edit]

Further reading listening[edit]

  • Genesis, "Jesus He Knows Me", We Can't Dance, Atlantic Records, 1992.
  • Metallica, "Leper Messiah", Master of Puppets, Blackened Recordings, 1986
  • Ozzy Osbourne, "Miracle Man", No Rest for the Wicked, Epic/CBS Records, 1988
  • Ray Stevens, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex", Crackin' Up, MCA Nashville, 1987
  • Suicidal Tendencies, "Send Me Your Money", Lights… Camera… Revolution!, Epic Records, 1990.
  • Frank Zappa:
    • "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk", Broadway the Hard Way, Barking Pumpkin, 1989.
    • "Texas Medley", 1988 tour.[5]
    • "Lonesome Cowboy Burt (Swaggart Version)", The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, Barking Pumpkin, 1991.[6]
    • "More Trouble Every Day (Swaggart Version)", The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, Barking Pumpkin, 1991.[6]
    • "Penguin In Bondage (Swaggart Version)", The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, Barking Pumpkin, 1991.[6]
  • Iron Maiden, "Holy Smoke", "No Prayer for the Dying", Barnyard Studios, 1990.
  • Depeche Mode, "Personal Jesus", Violator, Mute Records, 1989.
  • Bobby Bare, "Praise the Lord and Send Me the Money", Ain't Got Nothin' to Lose, Columbia, 1982.
  • Dire Straits, "Ticket to Heaven", On Every Street, Vertigo Records, 1991.

Further reading[edit]

  • James Morris, The Preachers, St. Martin's Press, 1973. ISBN 9781199227737
  • James Randi, The Faith Healers, Prometheus Books, 1989. ISBN 0879755350
  • Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996. ISBN 0785271368 (In which Bakker explicitly renounces the "Prosperity Gospel" theology before taking up other televangelical scammery)


  1. Bradford, Kenneth, Televangelists Say They Need Private Jets Because ‘Demons Fly Commercial’(Not The Onion), Bipartisan Report, 1 January 2016.
  2. Al Seckel, God's Frequency Is 39.17 MHz: The Investigation Of Peter Popoff. Science and the Paranormal, 1987.
  3. Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2008], pp. 182–96 .
  4. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: "Televangelists"
  5. Texas Medley,
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Jimmy Swaggart,