Why Creflo Dollar Needs His Dollars| 11/08/2007
Every time we write about Creflo Dollar we have to point out that this is not one of those fake news articles we've sometimes managed to foist onto the public, and that the name Creflo Dollar was not used by Charles Dickens to describe a wheezing barrister in a pub, nor was it invented by a heavy-handed satirist attempting to lampoon a greedy Ukrainian.
No, Creflo Dollar is a real person, one of the six televangelists who got letters from the Senate Finance Committee on Monday, asking them to send in detailed accounting statements proving that they're not converting church money to their personal use.
More specifically, Creflo Dollar is the pastor of World Changers Church International of College Park, Georgia. Presumably he chose that name himself, completely free of fear that it would be soon be better known as Money Changers Church International by the 30,000 members who weekly enrich its coffers and make it possible for Creflo to maintain the two jets—one Gulfstream 3 and one Lear—that he uses to shuttle back and forth between Madison Square Garden (where he does a Saturday night service for an audience of 6,000) and Atlanta (where he does a Sunday morning service), not to mention occasional visits to his offices in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Nigeria.
Creflo's wife Taffi Dollar—and here we remind you once again that we are not lapsing into fiction at any point during the creation of this article—Taffi Dollar is responsible for the household budget at the $3 million Dollar mansion in Atlanta, and the more modest $2.44 million Dollar condo overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.
Asked about the Dollar dollars by CBS News yesterday, Dollar said it was untrue that he had two Rolls-Royces (we'd actually heard it was two Rolls-Royces and one Humvee, but who's keeping track?)—that he only had one Rolls and it was given to him by his congregation as a surprise. He also said he did not give $500,000 of church funds to fellow "prosperity gospel" evangelist Kenneth Copeland on the occasion of Copeland's 40th wedding anniversary—although he did not say how much he did give—so we want to be very careful when we say that the annual budget for Dollar's operation, his overhead dollars, is about $80 million. (Note to Creflo: Get back to us if we're a little off on that number.)
The interesting aspect of this story, however, is that so many of these prosperity-gospel guys do funnel money back to Copeland in so many ways that it almost looks like a pyramid scheme. Actually that's too harsh—what it really resembles is the marketing structure of Mary Kay Cosmetics, set up so that every time a salesperson recruits another salesperson, he or she gets a cut of the commission. And the reason that all roads lead to Copeland—see our summary of Copeland's organization in the investigative cartooning feature "Lifestyles of the Rich and Religious"—is that he's the granddaddy of what goes by many names—like "positive confession"—but is most commonly called "Word Faith."
If you look for the theological origins of "Word Faith," you end up in Tulsa, of course, and specifically at RHEMA Bible College in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which was founded by Kenneth E. "Papa" Hagin (1917-2003), the man who pretty much created the American-style health-and-wealth preaching so familiar from late-night television. Copeland was a student there, as well as at Oral Roberts University, which veers close to RHEMA in its theology but is not always on the same page. (Truth be told, every prosperity preacher is his own theology school, since part of the basis for the teaching is direct special revelation from God, which makes all these guys the heirs of the original gnostics.) But if RHEMA had a creed, it would go something like this:
- God's covenant with Abraham means that God has to deliver on his part of the deal, so anything you ask for in the name of Jesus, God is required to give you. (Should we quote some Janis Joplin lyrics here?)
- Man is equal to God in every respect. Or, in the words of Copeland, "You don't have a God in you! You are one!" (Tom Cruise would like this one.)
- Jesus was not the son of God, he was a man empowered by God to be just like God, and everyone who knows this can do the same thing. (We're not sure we have this one exactly right, but it's basically "Be Jesus, go ahead, He won't mind, you're soulmates.")
- Jesus went down into hell where he took on Satan's nature, until he was born again, and re-emerged to start the church. (Presumably they preach this one on Halloween.)
- Anything you speak and believe, with understanding, will come true just as you want it. (Yes, this seems like it's the same as number one, but that one is about what God has to do, and this one is about what you have to do. It's the "positive confession" part, the idea that your thought processes can command God to act.)
- God promises in Isaiah 53 to heal every physical illness of anyone who has faith. (As our mentor Ole Anthony once said, "Then why aren't there thousands of 200-year-old billionaires in Tulsa?")
- Any Christian who believes in poverty is outside God's will. (Well, take that, you cloistered loser in the hairshirt.)
There are more, but these are the biggies. I would imagine that at this point you're starting to see why taking away Creflo Dollar's dollars could amount to more than just a little lifestyle adjustment. It pretty much goes to the heart of the whole Kahuna.