March 23, 2007

"Christian" TV Con-Men: An Axis of Evil

(revised)

Two "Christian" con-men Ė Peter Popoff and Robert Tilton Ė are still in business and raking in millions of dollars in spite of the fact that they are as obvious as they can be. They both buy airtime on BET  and smaller networks and still manage to deceive people out of their widow's mite. Discerning viewers of those stations wouldn't give them the time of day  so they hone in on the poor and uneducated and those who either do not have personal computers in their homes or do not know how to do a Google search. If they did, they would find oodles of information on these scoundrels and their cover would be blown.

Popoff was featured in a recent episode of Inside Edition in which the reporter tried to talk to him as he was getting into his $100,000 car. Popoff almost smashed the manís arm holding the microphone with his car door. They reported that Popoff brought in $23 million in 2005 and pays himself an annual salary of $600,000 with an equal amount paid to his family members on the payroll. He lives in a 2.1 million dollar mansion. He uses the same old tired con jobs of offering free miracle water Ė which isnít really free, it only works its miracles if a seed faith offering is paid. Says Popoff: "Itís not the water, itís your obedience to the prophet of God."

The Inside Edition piece ended with Amazing Randiís comment: "Flim flam is his profession so naturally heís going to go back to that." They presented the update on Popoff as if he was just now getting back into business since his 1987 bankruptcy filing, but the truth is he never really got out of the con game. Back in 1994 we discovered him in small venues doing the same thing. In an article I wrote back then I told of how we gathered some Christians together and handed out information to those attending his rally to dissuade them from writing him any checks. We reminded them that "Popoff is well-known for faking so-called words-of-knowledge via an electronic listening device hidden in his ear, dictated by his wife as she learned people's identities and ailments. The discovery was made by the agnostic magician, the Amazing Randi, who brought the recorded evidence on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show in the early 80's."

Axis of Evil #2

Robert Tilton, the man thoroughly exposed by Diane Sawyer in 1991 on ABCsí Prime Time Live, hasnít missed much time in fleecing old women and welfare recipients out of their last mites. Heís been using the legal system to fight back against those who expose him for the fraudulent thief he truly is. This past week his lawyers threatened the popular online video website YouTube to remove a parody that included clips of Tilton. The video was a remastered production of the Trinity Foundationís ten-year old classic, "Channel Surfing Through Religious TV," Ole Anthonyís first crack at religious satire before producing GodStuff for Comedy Centralís The Daily Show and publishing The Wittenburg Door magazine.

The guy who uploaded the video to YouTube received a threatening letter from them that read in part: "This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Reverend Robert Tilton claiming that this material is infringingÖPlease Note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account. In order to avoid future strikes against your account, please delete any videos to which you do not own the rights, and refrain from uploading additional videos that infringe on the copyrights of others."

He was forced to edit Tilton out of the video so that he could place it back on YouTube. He replaced every Tilton clip with an image of the three monkeys who "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." And he put a disclaimer in the opening scene explaining how he was forced to get rid of Tiltonís likeness. A real blow to freedom of expression!

He shared a letter with me from a woman who had written him thanking him for making the video available online because it opened her eyes to these con-men. She seems particularly upset with TBN, but as bad as they are, they would never sell airtime to Popoff or Tilton.  I end with that letter:

"I probably watched that YouTube video more times than anyone else and I miss it greatly. I wish there were some way to have a copy of it. You see, my parents were duped by them, and for years, it was my only "Church." I had an abusive, controlling husband and did not get to go to Church. My parents watched TBN and thought it was great, giving large offerings of their meager retirement income.

I didn't get to watch it too much, so I missed the worst of the things they said on TBN. I did not agree with the bits I heard from some of them about us being little gods, nor did I think you got big bucks each time you gave to God. But I did have what I felt was a type of limited interaction with other Christians when I watched, and I could not believe that people would give false teachings on purpose. However, it did not take long to know there was something very wrong with Robert Tilton when I saw him years ago when he first began.

Because I felt so close to the people on TBN who I thought were bringing me God's Word, they were as dear to me as friends. I prayed for them. I gave money to them. I wanted the whole world to have an opportunity to hear about Jesus. I moved away to a place where I could not receive Christian television. When I was finally able to see it again, I really saw a difference. I would watch a ministry a few times and think it was sounding alright, when suddenly, there would be things they taught that I knew could not be right according to God's Word. One after another, I saw the same pattern of false teachings.

Finally, I prayed for God to show me the truth about them (and other things in life that just didn't make sense). Almost immediately, I saw your TBN video, and it was truly an answer to prayer. I had never seen those clips before, and as I watched, I knew I had been right to doubt what I heard on TBN, to feel like something was very wrong with that network and their "preachers."

When I saw your video, I cried. I watched it over and over that first night and just sat there and cried. I watched it daily. I cried each time I saw it for many days. In the early days when I had watched TBN and felt so close to them, I had cared deeply about them. In your video, I was seeing that it was all a front, a lie. They were not the kind of Christian people I had thought they were. I felt like part of me had been ripped out through the betrayal, the deception. I felt cheated.

It was not that I had followed a man instead of God. You have to realize what a lonely life I had been living with a mean husband, and I was so hungry to hear preaching and teaching since I could not go to Church. I read and studied the Bible daily on my own, but because I had been abused and put down all my life, I just assumed I needed help to understand it, and TBN was the only preacher I had.

Now I am out of that abusive situation. I still study God's Word daily, but now I see now that God has already given me His Holy Spirit to help me understand His Word, even when I don't have a true pastor or teacher.

Your TBN video is greatly missed because it reminded me to ask God for understanding instead of doubting my understanding and listening to the wrong people. It reminded me to be careful who I listen to, and to always use the Bible to test what is preached by others. It helped me to get over the hurt of betrayal and to move forward. In an odd way, it just plain helped me to be strong so that it never happens again, and to watch out.

Is there any way I could have a copy of it, just for me to see? Or a way to watch it on your website? I want to thank you for making that video and to compliment you on a job very well done. I started to write to tell you that several times, but kept putting it off.

Your profile says you are a pastor. I pray that God will guide you and bless you to teach and preach His Word in truth.

(Indianapolis, Indiana USA)"

♥♥♥

"Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." 
(Jude 1:11-13).
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