The Televangelists' Hall of Shame!

"Jesus wept."

                -- John 11:35



  Next to disco, the game show, and the Energizer bunny, the most unforgivable American contribution to world culture has been the common televangelist (cockroachus Evangelicus everbrokus). While this slippery creature's normal habitat includes Mercedes Benzes, exclusive vacation spots, and Republican Party fundraisers, he can at times be found in gay bathhouses, massage parlors, and cruising through your local red-light district. This page honors those who have taken so much to contribute to the immaculate reputation of this ignoblest of species.
  Gentlemen (and ladies), we salute you!!!

NOTE: This page is still under development, and deserving inductees will be added as time and space permits. If you would like to nominate an evangelist for induction, please see our induction criteria listed below.

Meet Our Newest Urban Legend!

Brother Terry    "Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, step aside!" That was how TV legend David Frost introduced TERRY SMITH on Inside Edition. The pastor of Canyon Creek Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas, Dr. Smith refuses to ask local businesses for a pastor's discount ... as he appears to prefer the five-fingered kind. The good reverend was actually convicted of shoplifting condoms from a local grocery store -- and he certainly had a need for them. According to a 1989 ruling by Texas District Court judge Catherine Crier, he was having extramarital affairs with church members who came to him for marriage counseling. It is therefore no surprise that Smith has been a long-time director of BOB LARSON'S ministry.

NOTE: For a local pastor to earn "urban legend" status, he has to do something pretty spectacular. If you know of a local pastor who deserves recognition on this page and can document your charges, contact me at Ranger57@concentric.net. If the scandal in question hasn't gone public yet, also contact Trinity Foundation at tfi@flash.net; they are the experts in bringing these scandals to the attention of the major networks.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards

   We must start by paying homage to the living legends: three men who have done more to demolish the reputation of the modern American evangelist than Madalyn Murray-O'Hair could have done in her wildest dreams: Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Oral Roberts.

Jim Bakker

Room 538 of the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater, Florida will go down in history -- not for the view or ambience but rather, for the historic union which took place there. It is there that, in December of 1980, an attractive twenty-something church secretary named Jessica Hahn got to know Jim Bakker and John Wesley Fletcher -- in a Biblical sense. And that close encounter of the threesome kind defined American televangelism. The ambitious, high-living, wild-spending Bakker has truly became a American icon.

Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts' claim to fame came from what he didn't do, as opposed to what he did. He showed the heathen what Christian salvation really meant when he locked himself in a tower and tearfully proclaimed that, if his ministry didn't get $8 million in donations by a specific date, God would "call him home." As you know, Oral got his money, and when you think about it, that was a damn shame. If God had called him home in dramatic fashion, Oral would have saved more souls in that one day than Billy Graham, Campus Crusade, and the entire Catholic church have saved in the last thirteen generations.

Jimmy Swaggart

When you look at it objectively, Jimmy Swaggart's most famous transgression doesn't quite measure up to those of many of his counterparts. But what it lacked in substance, it more than made up for in style. Swaggart was immortalized by his tearful televised confession ... but some time later, he was stopped while driving in his rented Jaguar with yet another "lady of the evening." At last report, Bro. Jimmy is enjoying God's anointing on his life, and a veritable blizzard of blessings (including a fleet of Mercedes Benzes) -- irrefutable evidence that God endorses legalized prostitution.

The Grizzled Veterans

Here, we pay respects to those aging stars of televangelism who might not have achieved legendary status, but have made significant and lasting contributions to their profession's lawyer-like reputation.

Pat Robertson

  Marion G. "Pat" Robertson is the undisputed Michael Jordan of televangelism. Speaking of lawyers, Pat is a graduate of Yale Law School, and most of the time, he plays the part -- but he also seems to suffer from an Evangelical version of brucellosis (foot-in-mouth disease). When the game is on the line, and you need to count on someone to say or do something incredibly stupid, there's no one you'd rather pass the ball to than good old Pat.
 Pat's accomplishments -- including use of his Operation Blessing hospital ship to visit his diamond mines in Zaire, and his sale of The Family Channel to that godly Rupert Murdoch -- and statements (e.g., calling Muslims "insane") have already earned him borderline legend status, and his recent Orlando-area "weather forecast" will do nothing to jeapordize it. But unless he gets into the White House (or, gets caught in bed with co-hosts Ben Kinchlow and Terry Meeuwsen), Jim Bakker has nothing to fear.

Bob Larson

  Denver-based radio shock jock Bob Larson is the Dennis Rodman of televangelism. He doesn't get the stats or recognition he deserves, but he has more than made up for it in balding hypocrisy. Never fearing to push the envelope, Larson bears the distinction of being the only ordained minister ever bleeped on The Phil Donahue Show for the use of "colorful metaphors."
  Larson's specialty is in making excuses, for which he has shown a truly Rodman-esque flair. When he was caught in his money, ghost-writing and sex scandal, he insisted that he was the victim of the same grand Satanic conspiracy that brought down Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Robert Tilton. He later opened new vistas in the excuse field, claiming that demons have physically impersonated him. This means that if you see Bob walking out of a gay bathhouse or arm-in-arm with a boy toy named Bruce, or taking yet another secretary on an unchaparoned junket to the Disney Yacht Club Hotel, it was really his demonic double -- the REAL Bob was at home listening to Vivaldi, reading Scripture, and having milk and cookies.
  When Larson fell from grace, he started having visions -- like the one where God told him to raise $1,890,000 to "revive Christian radio." And in the most remarkable leap of faith ever taken by an American televangelist, he had his chief financial officer check God's math!  Beggin'Bob has blamed everyone in sight for his downfall, but his primary target has been the Christian media: in a 1995 appearance in Peoria, he proclaimed that "Satanists are more to be trusted than Christians in the media." And ever since he has been relegated to heading up the Trinity Broadcasting Network's prime time lineup in the Kingdom of Tonga, he has had to service the $1,000,000 mortgage on his vacation mansion in Vail as a more-or-less full-time exorcist.

  Truth be known, we're starting to worry about Bob. The latest (and as yet unconfirmed!) report we have out of Dallas is that his dementia has become so severe that he actually suffered a sudden bout of honesty. One attendee of his '1998 Ectoplasm Tour' reported that Larson held up his wallet and proclaimed, "This is the most sacred aspect of this ministry!"

Robert Tilton

  "Komo badde soto ha!" If Bob Larson is televangelism's Dennis Rodman, then Robert Tilton is its Magic Johnson. Before his unfortunate 1991 dumpster-diving accident involving ABC's Diane Sawyer, the tongues-wagging Tilton was THE definition of "over the top." According to Trinity Foundation's Rev. Ole Anthony, Tilton had ordered prayer requests sent to him thrown in the trash -- before they were even read. And he ought to know: he dug some of them from the dumpster of Tilton's Tulsa bank.
  Tilton distinguished himself with his innovative response, which probably had the virtue of never having been tried. Adamantly denying PrimeTime Live's accusations, he even went so far as to claim that the prayer requests were planted in the dumpster, and that he had prayed over them so hard that the ink on the requests had invaded his bloodstream, causing several small strokes. The treatment: plastic surgery to fix the bags under his eyes.

  Billy James Hargis

  "One sacred chicken to go...." He's still going ... but remarkably, is all but forgotten. The Wilt Chamberlain of televangelism, in the Seventies Hargis stood head and shoulders above the crowd. This fire-breathing, commie-baiting one-time soda-jerk pioneered direct-mail begging, the use of books as premiums, the "send money now or we'll be forced to go off the air" fundraising pitch, and other staples of American televangelism.
  Hargis' rather spectacular downfall came in 1974, when two of his Summit Bible College students got married. On their wedding night, they confessed to each other that they were no longer virgins ... and that Rev. Billy James Hargis was the one that deflowered them. Hargis stepped down from the pulpit, and this whole sordid affair was set to be swept under the rug in customary Christian fashion ... were it not for the fact that Hargis tried to mount a comeback, and one of his male victims took his story to Time magazine.  [Hargis died in February, 2004, at the age of 79.]

Dishonorable Mention

  This section honors those televangelists and supporters who have done enough to deserve recognition, but whose transgressions have insufficient magnitude, pervasiveness, and/or style to merit more than associate membership in the Hall.

W.V. Grant

  Given how easy it is to loot a Christian ministry, Grant is probably more deserving of an award for stupidity than he is full membership in the Hall. Granted, he lives in a multi-million dollar mansion, and he and his third wife drive his-and-hers Ferraris, but that pretty much seems to be par for the course for televangelists. His recent stay in "Club Fed" for income tax evasion is thus unremarkable, but his photogenic pose and haunting resemblance to Marv ("wearing a garter and panties, exposed and aroused") Albert are worthy of mention in and of themselves.  (Latest expose: Fox 5 in Atlanta.)

Mike Warnke

  Claiming to be the former high priest of a 1500-person Satanic coven, Warnke did more to shape the Christian view of Satanism than any Christian leader of his generation. But his multi-million dollar per year gravy train came to a screeching halt when Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein of Cornerstone magazine actually checked out his claims, finding them to be totally fraudulent. Tales of unbiblical divorces, extramarital affairs, and enormous compensation packages didn't help matters, but friends like Bob Larson came quickly to his defense. (FWIW, Mike is still married to fourth(?) wife Susan.)
  Warnke bears the surprising distinction of being the last Evangelical leader (1992) to fail to survive a scandal of this magnitude. According to the folks at Trinity Foundation, Robert Tilton was still milking his mailing list, Larry Lea moved on to start a church in San Diego, and W.V. Grant was somehow able to run his ministry while in the slammer. Tilton has returned to cable television, and Bob Larson even got promoted to a prime-time slot on TBN (he was later demoted, evidently for poor ratings). Only the legal profession has done less to police the rogues in its card-carrying ranks.

Paul Crouch

  Aside from some allegedly garden-variety fraud in an application for an FCC license, Crouch has for the most part kept his nose relatively clean. But he deserves special recognition for his tireless work in preserving the species, providing a profitable habitat not only for senior citizens like Bob Larson and John Avanzini, but up-and-comers like Casey Treat and Creflo Dollar. Without great men like Paul and his Trinity Broadcasting Network, this page might not have been possible.
   UPDATE: The word on the street had always been that Paul was "as queer as a three-dollar bill," and our good friends at the Trinity Foundation finally caught him dead to rights.  The Los Angeles Times reported in September of 2004 that Paul had had a homosexual encounter with one Enoch Lonnie Ford, entering into a Bob Larsoneque "confidentiality agreement," under which Ford agreed not to discuss whether he had sex with Crouch.

Other Urban Legends

  This section honors those who don't meet the criteria for induction, but have otherwise distinguished themselves in the religion business through particularly notorious acts. But we'll have to draw the line at people like Herff Applewhite and David Koresh, or this page could go on forever.
  This section honors those who don't meet the criteria for induction, and haven't been caught in compromising positions, but have made lasting contributions to the weird world of televangelism in less tangible ways.

Gene Scott

  "You will add Gene Scott to the page, AND YOU WILL DO IT NOW!" Occasionally mistaken for Beggin'Bob Larson on account of his incessant high-pressure fundraising appeals, the irascible, disheveled-looking, cigar-chompin' "Doc" is televangelism's best entertainment value. Whether he is cavorting on-screen with curvaceous cuties, showing off his(?) Arabian horses during breaks, or just letting loose one of his trademark rants, "Doc" is clearly the people's choice.  For all you fans of his delightful over-the-top rants, "Doc" is still in the house!

Ernest Angley

  Picture Liberace as an evangelist. It's a frightening mental image ... and a good first approximation as to what Ernest Angley looks like. The barrel-chested, pastel-suited Angley prances around the stage, speaking with a noticeable lisp, while repeating simple phrases with the intensity of a stage hypnotist. In contrast to Bob Larson, who prefers drawn-out Technicolor exorcisms, Angley can cast out two score of demons with a touch of his hand. Just put your hand on the computer screen, and you will be HHHEEEAAALLLLLEEDD! ... or at least, thoroughly entertained.
  Angley goes especially well with cheap distilled spirits; a Guinness Stout may be too heavy. Johnny Profaci had put together a thhhpecccial Angley page, but it has been taken down, and the address now contains a Wonder Woman fan site. And again, thanks to Craig Barnhart for the tape. I might even get a picture up one of these days.

Criteria for Induction:

  To earn induction into the Hall, a candidate must: (1) achieve national prominence (2) either as a radio or television evangelist, or in a directly related field, and (3) engage in a pattern of immoral conduct (4) which tends to bring Christendom into disrepute. What's more, he or she has to do it with style.

  The Hall is NOT about theology. It doesn't matter whether you're pre-trib, post-trib, or simply read The Daily Planet; all that matters here is that you present yourself to the world as a Christian, and are generally regarded as a Christian. (Since Mormons aren't into televangelism, we don't have to delve into that potentially thorny question.) Nor is it about gross incompetence or stupidity, as incompetence alone doesn't translate into the level of mental culpability necessary to earn induction.
  Avarice or tackiness alone won't cut it, either; if that were a consideration, we'd have to call it the Paul and Jan, honoring today's undisputed living legends. The antics of the "blab it and grab it" crowd may be a just cause for scorn, but in the wacky world of religion, there is almost nothing that will stop separating fools from their wallets. When Jesus called his followers "sheep," it was not a compliment.
  Finally, the award will not awarded posthumously. It would defeat the purpose of the award -- to rebuke and reprove.


Copyright 1998 Kenneth L. Smith. All rights reserved. Copying is permitted for non-commercial use only. Please direct your questions to the author at Ranger57@ix.netcom.com.