Thursday, July 30, 2009


The New York Times reports that Reverend Ike is dead.

When I was of high school age in the late 1960's, I sometimes listened to the Reverend Ike on the radio late at night. We moved a lot, and a lot of the time I had insomnia, so I would listen to the radio at night, turning the volume so long only I could hear it on the clock radio next to my head.

Back then we only had AM stations as far as I knew. Late at night, the less powerful stations would fade away and powerful stations, especially clear channel stations, could be heard from far away. Many of the broadcasts were religious.

I had nothing else to do.

Ike's full name, it turns out, was Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II. He was loud and made a lot of bold assertions about his power to heal and make you rich. I remember him selling prayer cloths. Once, he evidently had a revival tent of some sort. He cut it up into pieces. If you sent in an offering, he would send you a piece of the tent as a prayer cloth.

He promised he would wear each piece next to his body, then you could wear it next to your body and be healed. I remember he said "bod-day", as in "I will wear it next to my bod-day, and when you wear it next to your bod-day, you will be healed of any disease in your bod-day."

Ironically, even as a teenager, I never took him seriously, thinking he was a con man or, as we called it in West Texas, a snake oil salesman. Yet, enough people believed him, or hoped, to send him millions of money to heal them or make them rich.

It turns out, old Ike also was one of the original prosperity preachers, long before I even knew what that was. Even as a teenager I had the Puritan work ethic deeply instilled. Prosperity came to those who worked hard, not those who mailed in money to radio preachers in some sort of celestial lottery. And you did not really seek to be rich, just comfortable.

Ike called his "theology" a “positive self-image psychology”. I'm wondering if Joel O'Steen was listening, too.

Even the New York Times realizes the so called prosperity gospel contradicts the Bible. They said "The philosophy held that St. Paul was wrong; that the root of all evil is not the love of money, but rather the lack of it." Why is that the NYT can see this but the modern Pentecostal church cannot?

Here is another quote that would ring today on so called Christian television: “This is the do-it-yourself church. “The only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”

Like many modern televangelists, he flaunted his wealth with expensive cars, houses and clothes. In contrast, Jesus told a rich young man to sell all he had and follow Christ. He also said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

I guess Ike knows by now. He died rich, but he is still dead and facing his eternal fate. Ike had his own take on that. He said “If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven, think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.” I always heard you cannot take it with you. So, I'm not sure how you can bribe the gate keeper.

One way or another, Ike knows.
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