The Televangelists' Hall of Shame!
-- 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!
"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!"
"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
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.]
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.
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.)
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
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.
- Radio evangelist TROY SNOWDON never really made it to
the big time, but his fall earned more than its share of style points.
Snowdon raised money by claiming that he ran a chicken farm; people would
actually call in to 'sponsor' chickens. But the chickens didn't exist, and
the Feds just didn't have a good sense of humor. They prosecuted Brother
Snowdon for mail fraud, wire fraud, and violations of the Mann Act (for those
of you who lead sheltered lives, that's transporting women across state lines
for purposes of prostitution).
- The leader of the National Baptist Convension USA, HENRY LYONS,
came to national prominence because his wife allegedly torched the $700,000
waterfront home he bought with "business partner" (and purported mistress)
Bernice Edwards. And I suppose it should really come as no surprise that
he is still the leader of the American Baptist Convention. Since the
story broke, Lyons has been charged with embezzlement, and his lawyer expects
a federal indictment on money laundering and tax fraud charges to be
handed down soon. Allegations of other sexual improprieties have surfaced;
this story is far from over, and the St.
Petersburg Times will be giving us a front-row seat.
Speaking of wacko Baptists, FRED PHELPS is back in the news,
displaying his unique brand of "Christian compassion" in picketing
the funeral of gay murder victim Matthew Shepard. Perhaps it is because I
don't have a Th.D., but it seems to me that while God seems to hate fags,
he sure loves 'dem adulterous radio preachers....
Like most of his counterparts on this page, the good Rev has
a colorful past. Reporter Jon Bell uncovered more than his share of family
secrets in his book-length expose, "Addicted
to Hate," but the local fish-wrap was evidently too terrified of Phelps
to print it. Truly a gem of a human being ... is anyone really surprised
that Phelps used to be A LAWYER? ["Addicted to Hate" can
also be found here.]
- "She has never had a facelift." After having had her husband deny
the obvious -- not just to anyone, but to yours truly -- JAN
CROUCH finally admitted in the June, 1998 edition of Charisma
magazine to having had cosmetic surgery. Uh, trust me, Jan, it was
- Now that football season is in full swing, we can't overlook the Minister
of Defense: REGGIE WHITE. Proving that he had taken one too many head-slaps
during his illustrious career, Reggie distinguished himself by giving a speech
in front of the Wisconsin state legislature that would have made David Duke
cry. There's a divine reason why you have thirty Spics in a house, and
the Japs can turn a television set into a watch. CBS was so embarrassed
by his speech that they rescinded an offer to make him a television commentator,
and extreme right-wing commentators like Janet Parshall were so enamored
by his fag-bashing that they defended him. But look at the bright side: Packers
fans are delighted. [Tragically, White passed away
in late 2004, at the all-too-young age of 43.]
- JUST BLOW ME!!! BENNY HINN attained
notoriety by actually knocking people over with his breath.... His theology
(including his infamous 'nine-person Trinity' statement, and the claim that
Adam could fly) is bizarre enough to warrant inclusion in the Rogues' Gallery,
but the swarthy-haired one has already more than earned his keep. Big Benny
survived a recent two-part CNN/Time expose, where his flight on the Concorde,
his chartering of a Gulfstream jet to travel to one of his domestic crusades,
and his high six-figure compensation package raised barely more than a yawn
in Evangelical circles. Rick Ross has been keeping tabs on The Swarthy One.
- To this point, current Bible Answerman HANK HANEGRAAFF
hasn't faced much more than a plagiarism scandal ... and has only been caught
lying about the price of his $731,000 hovel. The once-dignified Hanegraaff
has recently taken to Bob Larson-esque high-pressure fundraising tactics,
including direct calls to supporters to shake the money tree. But if my
sources are correct, more excrement is about to hit the propeller, and Hank
has a chance to become televangelism's 1998 poster boy. He doesn't have
the financial resources to survive a serious scandal, and has cultivated
some powerful enemies.
- No, we haven't forgotten PETER POPOFF, who became famous
for discovering that that God's
frequency is 39.17 Mhz. He's STILL selling "Miracle Spring Water!" So
The Rogues' Gallery
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
"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!
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
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