You see if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money. – Old Man Potter, “It’s A Wonderful Life”

In 2020, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act established the Paycheck Protection Program, creating a $350 billion kitty of forgivable loans for small businesses. The intent was pandemic relief for recipients to keep workers on the payroll and stay open in the near-term. The massive bailout program was rushed out, and hidden in a veil of secrecy, with the Treasury Department declining to disclose how it spent the funds or who the PPP recipients were. Eventually, the recipients were revealed – but only vague dollar ranges instead of specific awards were published. For example, records show that a family-owned shipping business related to McConnell’s wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, received a loan somewhere between $350,000 and $1 million. Chao disavowed any connection to the business or knowledge of the loan, although the New York Times reported that in the past, she had repeatedly used her official position to bolster the business. Their net worth is estimated between $25 and $35 million dollars. Meanwhile, the slipshod administration of the loan program opened the door to massive fraud, waste and abuse, with the Government Accounting Office declaring “the limited safeguards and lack of timely and complete guidance and oversight planning have increased the likelihood that borrowers may misuse or improperly receive loan proceeds.”. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner received million$, along with many in their orbit – even a golfing buddy.

Other friends of Trump made out like bandits – and evangelicals were especially keen on cashing in on free government money to the tune of $17.3 million. Joel Osteen’s megachurch received a $4.4 million check. Members of the President’s evangelical advisory board were exceptionally well-rewarded for their loyalty, with Paula White’s ministry receiving between $150,000 and $350,000, and Robert Jeffress’ church getting between $2 million and $5 million. Prestonwood Christian Academy, associated with Trumpist Jack Graham, received between $2 million and $5 million – but reported zero jobs being retained. There were numerous other ministries tied to the President that reaped a financial bonanza.

Like Daystar Television Network’s Marcus Lamb, who bought a Gulfstream V just two weeks after receiving a $3.9 million PPP loan. Ostensibly an operating expense to spread the Gospel, Inside Edition reported it was used like an airborne RV for family beach vacations. Lamb’s organization denied using the PPP loan to buy the luxury aircraft, although hastily repaid the loan.

There are so many questions here that nobody is asking. What did America buy with this bailout? Should taxpayers be obliged to underwrite debt-free ministries with plenty of cash to maneuver? These figures are so gargantuan that one questions why such an immense budget? Like the ministry leaders pulling down million dollar salaries – can’t they cinch up their belts a bit to keep the lights on, like most American households are forced to do. And why, oh why, are they considered too big to fail?

In 2008, when General Motors desperately needed financial aid to continue, the government authorized emergency loans to continue paying bills and making payroll, but tied strings to the bailout. GM would have to go through a bankruptcy reorganization, auction off assets to raise cash, reduce management ranks and cut executive pay. The CEO was ousted, shareholders like me were left penniless, and a new company emerged from bankruptcy to continue making the same old crappy cars.

The point is, if you are too big to fail, you should nevertheless pay a price for surviving on the public dole. The government doesn’t operate on grace, and everyone else shouldn’t be forced to keep a bunch of religious goofballs living the high life. The government had the leverage that Chuck Grassley wished he had in his 2008 investigation of tax-exempt religious organizations. Maybe we would have seen some genuine reform of tele-vangelism. Instead, we got shafted by people who shoot pool with some employee here.

I could have ended there, but can’t resist this apt quote about virus relief from Mitch McConnell: “Socialism for rich people is a terrible way to help the American families that are actually struggling,”

Old Men Yelling At Clouds

It may take a while sometimes, but most people can spot a phoney. And they want nothing to do with them. That describes the sad state of contemporary “evangelicalism”. They see wealthy telepreachers billing themselves as financial deliverers and tricking ordinary people to send in their hard-earned cash – some so brazen as to start a new year off by demanding the January paycheck or face consequences from God. They see the hypocrisy of evangelical leaders, most recent being a Trump sycophant and high-living Christian university president accused of sexual ‘games,’ and self-dealing.

They see preachers tell their congregations NOT to get vaccinated against COVID-19, because “that’s what Satan wants.” Or COVID-19-denying preachers dying, giving Holy Spirit immunity, or even shout “Hallelujah” when their church is ravaged by COVID. They hear lurid accounts of ballot-stuffed suitcases in Georgia, thankfully “caught” by Rudy Giuliani. The allegations were debunked as ridiculous – and the only thing Giuliani actually caught was a case of COVID virus. They may have seen him testifying (accompanied by what suspiciously sounded like him squeezing out a few farts), and then trying to shush his wacky “star” witness. They hear a Presidential advisor shouting an incantation of “victory, victory, victory, victory”, sounding more like a demented sorceress than a charismatic prophetess. Even Rush Limbaugh admitted Trump supporters are coming across as ‘kooks‘.

That is what the empty shell of evangelicalism looks like today. Trump didn’t invent Trumpist ideology – he simply was the opportunity for fringe politicians and fringe religionists to usurp the mainstream. “And this ends up feeding doubts about religion itself,” notes David Gerson. People see evangelicals standing with racists, white nationalists, homophobes, and misogynists, and ask themselves, “is Christianity a faith I want to be associated with?” More and more people have answered “no”, including many who voted with their feet walking out the church door. Some churches are happy to see them go, like one that uses a detailed questionnaire to see if you’re a perfect enough Christian to worship with that select few. Others just discard large swaths of humanity as “unsavable” – meaning those “who are politically or socially liberal and should be eschewed”. Where is Jesus of the Gospels in that? Who, by the way, can be expected to believe the truth of the Gospel from Franklin Graham’s mouth when it is so crammed with bullshit about Trump?

Trump scores an “A” for truthfulness on the American Christian Voting Guide. Fred Clark, who writes as Slacktivist, asks rhetorically whether Trumpism is harming the evangelical witness. No, he answers himself. “It is your witness. The entirety of it, for all the world to see. And that message is coming across loud and clear.” The inmates believe Trump is the embodiment of truth, and they are running the insane asylum. And the mentally unstable can’t understand why droves of perfectly normal humans are exiting their bogus Christian brand in disgust. For them, it is the unifying message of Christ.  To everyone else, its clear that truth no longer matters to them. “It’s bearing false witness against President Trump to say he seeks to divide us,” evangelical professor Wayne Grudem comments.  We didn’t need him to divide us, our white American Jesus has been doing it pretty well already. Looks like that Jesus has finally succeeded. And it makes our faith look like Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds.

If you are an evangelical looking to bail out, I can only say I don’t blame you. But hang in there. Find someplace that is not a Patriot Church and still preaches only the Gospel. Our Wheaton concert band went on many regional tours, and we overnighted with honest, decent Christian families through “fly-over” America. I often think of ta particular church in rural Kansas, and how wonderful the people were. And I pray that they’ve remained the same. My advice is, look for a non-political congregation – they’re out there. Try the ELCA or the Evangelical Covenant churches. There is a loving home for you to recover your wounds and heal.

You Broke It, You Own It

November 3, 2020. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Tomorrow is the beginning of the end of a national travesty. It’s a fresh morning for the least of these: the poor, the immigrants, those afflicted by the epidemic, climate change, racial or gender injustice, to name a few.

Trump’s insistence on a round-the-clock spotlight on himself has seen to it that the election is a referendum on himself. We have not voted on America so much as on a needy Donald Trump. It’s also a referendum on an evangelical Christianity that anointed him King of America. Evangelical media outlets have been puffing a Trump landslide and dissing Biden as demonic, ramping up a spiritual offense against the forces of evil seeking to win the election. If you followed Charisma News – not that you would ever want to – you would see the firehose of prophecy pouring forth, announcing Donald Trump’s anointed victory lap:

  • Hank Kunneman Prophesies Donald Trump Will Win 2020 Presidential Election
  • Trump Win Will Be Third of My Recent Prophecies to Be Fulfilled, Prophet Jeremiah Johnson Says
  • Sid Roth Predicts Trump Will Be a ‘2-Term President’
  • R. Loren Sandford Prophesies Trump Will Be Re-elected by a Wider Margin Than Expected
  • Prophetic Word: Trump Will Fulfill the Lord’s Will for US, Israel
  • Spirit-Filled Pastor Prophesies, ‘We’re Headed for the November Surprise’

They’ve made a huge investment in Donald J. Trump, except their trades are made in spiritual currency. Trump loses the election; they lose their moral credibility. They may not be on the ballot, but they likewise own the result. Perhaps that is why so many Media Christians embrace Trump. He’s come out of as many bankruptcies as they have. “I blow the wind of God on you.” Kenneth Copeland, another Luftballoon, last April executed judgment and declared COVID-19 destroyed. This is November, and here in the real world, Dr. Deborah Birx warns the pandemic is entering its most deadly phase.

Many evangelicals laugh these pronouncements off as performance art; the stock-in-trade of religious hucksters. Many others are nevertheless enticed by prophecies that are “a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.”[i] When I hear these false prophets come up short on their prophecies, I marvel that they are never held accountable. I always wonder, did God fail you, or did you fail God?  That question isn’t even an afterthought with this crowd.

Losing is never easy. Not for me, it’s not,” says Trump. Neither is it for failed prophets, who never admit they’re wrong. Like a TV serial, each episode ends in a dangling cliffhanger which resolves itself in the next episode, and so on. One might assume there is some benign complicity on God’s part; he’s like the Divine parent who lovingly watches his kid get an occasional hit, but usually strikes out. There’s always the next game, Son.

I, for one would feel I made a total ass out of myself for fabricating words in God’s mouth, let alone a legacy littered with failed divinations. And then there’s the Bible, which condemns one speaking presumptuously in the name of God to death.[ii] That would seem to be quite a negative incentive. On holidays, whenever we went into a gift shop, I always hovered over the kids in fear they’d touch something we would be forced to buy. And just like Trump, these false prophets never pay for the things they break. They won’t own this one either.


[i] Jeremiah 14:14

[ii] Deuteronomy 18:20

More Coronavirus Ironies

Let’s Not Meet The Lord In The Air:   Televangelist Kenneth Copeland casts the threat of Coronavirus into his own brand of spirituality. “You get your tithe in that church if you have to go take it down there and drop it off or stick it under the door or something”.[i] He runs a high-overhead business funded by ordinary people sacrificing their paychecks. If his marks are broke, he’ll be broke too. Never mind you’re unemployed; you need to keep giving him the Lord’s money even if you may not see another paycheck for a long time. Maybe a better money-raising idea for him would be to put his fleet of private jets on the block. This is Coronavirus lock-down time; no one’s flying anywhere. As he once protested against his flying commercial – “This dope-filled world, and get in a long tube with a bunch of demons. And it’s deadly.”[ii]

Guess the Country Quiz: “________ have been put at risk by the callous policies of _____________ that values retaining power, protecting its image, and safeguarding its own economic, political, and ideological interests over public health.”[iii] If you guessed this was some rational person talking about Trump, you’d be wrong.

Pooping out Christian lawyers into an oversaturated market satisfies the Fundamentalist itch to save America. Liberty is the go-to pipeline to fill out the Trump administration; they have that working for them. Perhaps its best that the University preferred a law school over a medical college. Given the prevalence of anti-vaxxers, even if a vaccine were found, these tribalists probably wouldn’t support it. Being anti-science is a quaint religious belief, until it starts killing other people.

See how they love one another!  It’s been widely reported that Jerry Falwell Jr. is not shutting down in-class studies at his Liberty University, implying that the coronavirus outbreak only affects the elderly and infirm. “I think he is dangerously wrong here and seems unable or unwilling to recognize it,” an LU professor had the temerity to write.[iv] Brother Falwell is right one respect – mortality from the virus is more prevalent among vulnerable populations. And yet, any one can be an asymptomatic carrier – and we have no idea how many people have the virus but have not been tested. We’ve always been told that brotherly love is infectious. We’ll see how Typhoid Mary plays out in the Liberty dorms.

“You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” Committed evangelical and Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick was speaking on behalf of all AARP-age people.  He said he and other American seniors would be willing to die from the coronavirus in order to save the economy. Patrick was mimicking Trump, who was mimicking Fox News. “My message is: Let’s get back to work,” he said. “Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”[v] Moral Triage: If the price is a few dead old people, so be it. Like the Nazis thought, they are simply “useless eaters” anyway.

David Brody now on Enemies List? As political reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network, David Brody has had carte blanche access to the President. Maybe not so much anymore, after two negative tweets accused the President of providing “… false information about testing…multiple times! Invoking hyperbole in certain situations may be permissible but false statements about the #Coronavirus is sloppy & dangerous.”[vi] Does this signal an evangelical divorce from President Trump? No, but Trump will etch this disloyalty into his very stable genius. He never forgets a slight, and forgiveness is not in his moral vocabulary.

What do you say to these beans? They’re magical. Plant them overnight and …”, Jack protested to his mother. Never mind that Jim Bakker can’t sell his miracle silver Kool-Aid any more. Now he’s peddling “some of the most common and powerful medicinal herbs that can be readily grown from seed”. You can buy a bucket’s worth of this medicine exclusively from him for $99. Or you can get a similar one on Amazon for $20. You have to hand it to Brother Bakker. He may be greedy, but at least he’s resourceful.[vii] 


[i] Michael Stone, “Televangelist Copeland Commands Unemployed Followers To Keep Giving”, Patheos, March 19, 2020. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2020/03/televangelist-copeland-commands-unemployed-followers-to-keep-giving/  (accessed March 23, 2020).

[ii] Jessica Chasmar, “Televangelists Defend Private Jets: Commercial Planes Full Of ‘Demons’”, The Washington Times, January 5, 2016. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/5/kenneth-copeland-jesse-duplantis-defend-private-je/  (accessed March 24, 2020).

[iii] James Phillips and Nicole Robinson, “Iranian Regime’s Reckless Disregard Made the Coronavirus Outbreak Worse, Daily Signal, March 20, 2020. https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/03/20/iranian-regimes-reckless-disregard-made-the-coronavirus-outbreak-worse/ (accessed March 24, 2020).

[iv] Marybeth Davis Baggett, “Dear Liberty University Board: Please Stop Jerry Falwell Jr. Before It’s Too Late”, Religion News Service, March 22, 2020. https://religionnews.com/2020/03/22/dear-liberty-university-board-please-stop-jerry-falwell-jr-before-its-too-late/  (accessed March 24, 2020).

[v] Jonathan Tilove, “Dan Patrick’s Coronavirus Sacrifice: I’ll Risk My Own Life To Keep Economy Humming”, Austin Statesman, March 24, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20200324/first-reading-dan-patrickrsquos-coronavirus-sacrifice-irsquoll-risk-my-own-life-to-keep-economy-humming  (accessed March 24, 2020).

[vi] Sky Palma, “‘A Major Failure’: Evangelical Pundit Turns On Trump For ‘Confusing People‘ With His Coronavirus Lies”, Raw Story, March 12, 2020. https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/a-major-failure-evangelical-pundit-turns-on-trump-for-confusing-people-with-his-coronavirus-lies/   (accessed March 24, 2020).

[vii] Hemant Mehta, “Jim Bakker, Unable to Sell Virus ‘Cure, Promotes ‘Make Your Own Medicine’ Plant”, Patheos, March 20, 2020. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2020/03/20/jim-bakkers-at-it-again-chat-post-2/  (accessed March 24, 2020).

Random Evangelical Thoughts on the Coronavirus

The President of a large Christian nationalist university wondered on national television if the Coronavirus was a Chinese and North Korean conspiracy, premeditated to make President Trump look bad. He echoed his political hero, who himself repeatedly pointed the finger at China for spreading the virus, referring to it as the “Chinese Virus”. By that logic, history books should be obliged to teach that the smallpox epidemic that decimated American Indian tribes be called the “White Man’s Pestilence”.

At that same large Christian nationalist university, its President reportedly remarked that students aren’t treated like family but rather “like customers”.[1] Suggesting that Coronavirus was a hoax perpetrated to undermine President Trump, he kept in-person classes open, just as students were returning from Spring break. The decision contradicted the advice of health experts on safeguarding students and staff. But the university was a business, and the students were not family – just customers. Your family is precious and you protect them, but you can always get new customers.

A well-known televangelist/telemarketer reportedly went on-air to say his silver concoction could kill pathogens like SARS, HIV, and some strains of coronavirus. The miracle elixirs disappeared from his television show after several states filed lawsuits alleging false advertising. Hawking a fake cure was only a sideline, and he fell back on his survivalist food buckets. It’s a win-win deal. He finally got the great disaster to move his Armageddon rations, and his prayer partner-customers could sit back and gloat, “the world is dying and we’re having a breakfast for kings!”[2] It pays to stick with what you know.

Despite the country teetering towards financial meltdown, the White House refused to postpone its rule change imposing strict work requirements onto SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance. The White House projected that 700,000 would be kicked off the food stamp program even before thousands lost their jobs when Coronavirus measures took effect. Magnanimous display of empathy when unemployment could rise to 20%.

Wheat stockpiles are at an all-time high. The Government is sitting on a 1.39 billion-pound stockpile of cheese. Producers are sitting on 2.5 billion pounds of frozen meats. We’re running out of warehouse space to store it all. How is it then, that anybody in this country can go to bed hungry?

The average Fox News viewer is 67 years old. The average evangelical church-goer is 50. These are not normal times for the 55-to-dead demographic. It would make sense that pastors would be concerned that encouraging old folks to attend church invites them to get the virus and die. Not all of them get it. A pastor in Louisiana is not unusual in claiming the blood of Jesus would protect his church. He got the great idea of passing out “anointed handkerchiefs”. People could sneeze and cough their lungs out with no risk to the congregation.

In the midst of the pandemic, Florida tele-preacher and Presidential horse-whisperer Paula White made a pitch for $91 donations from her contributors. As she explained, she was in charge of a hospital – a spiritual one.  Meanwhile, sick people in Florida were headed into real hospitals. Many were losing their sources of income. Here’s a thought – why not dip into your millions and pay each of your congregants $91 instead. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,’ but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16 (NET Bible).

Here’s another thought: If prosperity gospel is based on faith, it should work both ways. Tele-preachers call upon their audience to give in faith. The prosperity gospel should work both ways. The preacher should take a real step out in faith to accept only $1 lottery tickets. If he has the faith of a mustard seed, God’s blessings should flow over each prayed-over and mailed in ticket; same as cash! Such an anointing could rake in millions!


[1] Zachary Petrizzo, “Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.: ‘We Treat Students Like Customers’”, Mediate, February 12, 2020.

https://www.mediaite.com/tv/liberty-university-president-jerry-falwell-jr-we-treat-students-like-customers/ (accessed March 21, 2020)

[2] Kylie Mohr, “Apocalypse Chow: We Tried Televangelist Jim Bakker’s ‘Survival Food’”, National Public Radio, December 5, 2015. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/03/456677535/apocalypse-chow-we-tried-televangelist-jim-bakkers-survival-food (accessed February 2, 2019).