The Internet has been abuzz this week with mind-boggling footage of two prosperity preachers defending their need to have private jets. In a recent episode of Kenneth Copeland’s “Believers’s Voice of Victory” talk show (Dec. 29, 2015), he and guest Jesse Duplantis began with the relatively reasonable argument that it would be difficult for a much-in-demand speaker to fly commercial to speaking gigs in different cities several days in a row — though they elevated “difficult” to “impossible.” Copeland claimed to be “very conservative” in predicting he would have to stop 75-90 percent of what he does if he had to fly on commercial airlines.
The pair’s primary arguments went in other directions, however. The conversation began when Duplantis tried to introduce a reading of Amos 6:1 — ironically, a critique of smug and wealthy religionists “who are at ease in Zion” — with a story about how God spoke to him directly about spiritual stagnation as he was flying back from a crusade, leading him to unbuckle his seat belt and stand up to address God.
Copeland interrupted: “You couldn’t have done that on an airline,” apparently implying that one cannot converse with God quietly, in the presence of a seat-mate, or without standing up and moving around. Citing Oral Roberts’ position, Copeland said God-given private planes should be recognized as a sanctuary that protects the “anointing” of the evangelist.
“This is so important,” Copeland said, referencing himself, Duplantis, and fellow prosperity preachers Keith Moore and Creflo Dollar by name: “The world is in such a shape, we can’t get there without this. We’ve got to have it.”
Just wondering: does the unshapely world’s future hang on the ability of pander-vangelists to convince larger numbers of people that God also wants to make them rich? Would they really be flying to all those rallies if there was no payoff from gullible audiences who fill the coffers of their “ministries”?
The most disturbing aspect of the pair’s conversation is an apparent belief that preachers of their stature are on such a spiritual level that they need speak only to God and not be bothered with actual people.
Famous folk like them couldn’t fly commercial, Copeland said dismissively, because people would be coming up and asking them “to pray for ’em and all that,” which would “agitate the spiritual.”
“In this dope-filled world,” Copeland said (to Duplantis’s enthusiastic agreement), boarding a commercial airline is “to get on a long tube with a bunch of demons, and it’s deadly.”
“We got a dying world around us,” Copeland added. “We got a dying nation, and we can’t even get there on no airline.”
“That’s right,” agreed Duplantis.
Is that right? Are the hoi polloi who fly commercial inhabited by demons, too dangerous or too lost for self-styled spiritual giants to encounter? Does this dying world depend on preachers of a perverted gospel who can’t be bothered by actual people as they jet around, talking only to God and to faceless crowds?
Is there really a wealthy Nigerian prince who wants to share his millions with us, if only we’ll send a few thousand dollars in legal fees?
C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape and his cronies must be chuckling into their mile-high martinis.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.