"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it."

- Joseph Goebbels


Televangelists have made millions by using the name of Jesus to market phony products and promises.

Superficially this would suggest that followers of Jesus must constitute the greatest proportion of victims; hence they aren't very smart; hence belief in the Bible is foolish.

A closer look at the situation, however, reveals a somewhat different conclusion.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them..."

- Matthew 7:15-16a NIV



Who are the ones getting cheated by televangelists?

"A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity towards fanaticism."

- Carl Sagan

"Sitting in a pew no more makes you a Christian than sitting in a garage makes you a car."

- Billy Sunday


It has been suggested that the ability of slimy televangelists to prosper is evidence of the ignorance of the typical Christian. In the words of Michael Weisskopf in a front page article of the Washington Post (different subject, same idea), Christians are as a rule, "poor, uneducated, and easy to command". This conclusion assumes among other things that 1) Christians are ignorant, and 2) it is mostly Christians who are being cheated. But are they?

What believers and nonbelievers often fail to do is distinguish the proper worship and exaltation of Christ from humanity's sometimes poor or fraudulent exercise of it. Too many people accept any particular person's quote of a verse or unevidenced profession as identifying that person as a Christian.

If someone preaches that God blesses in proportion to the amount of magic prayer cards purchased from a post office box in Hollywood, California, what makes that preacher a Christian by any biblical definition? If they claim you can receive physical healing by placing your hand on the TV screen during their show, what's their biblical reference for that? The point is that there is zero support for such stage acts.

So how are such characters even mistaken as Christians?

By failure to discern a true follower of Christ and failure to discern accurate biblical interpretation. These failures do hold dangers for believers, but perhaps hold worse dangers for nonbelievers.

The danger for believers who fail to discern the authenticity of someone's profession of faith is that they can end up following people who have no business leading them. This can not only lead to the big mistakes of falling for cult leaders and charlatan televangelists, it could also lead to the more subtle and common mistakes of taking the advice of sincere but uninformed friends, or joining a church whose doctrines have strayed from the window of proper biblical interpretation.

The danger for nonbelievers who fail to discern the authenticity of someone's profession of faith is that they risk erroneously linking that person's actions or teachings to belief in God or the Bible. If nonbelievers make such mistaken associations, they will consequently be less inclined to read or study the Bible for themselves. They will thus avoid learning of the true nature of Scripture, and the goodness of God, and all the blessings that can come from that.

Charlatan preachers and false organizations cheat millions out of millions. But insofar as more nonbelievers are associating slimy televangelists with Jesus and the Bible than are well Bible-grounded Christians, it is the nonbelievers whom are being cheated the most - cheated out of hearing the true gospel message and the derivative benefits thereof; both now and in the life to come.

Lastly, know that accepting whatever you hear on television to be true is foolish regardless of what you think about God. Television, just like newspaper and radio, exists primarily to sell advertising time; to make money. That's ultimately why NBC faked truck test explosions, why CNN covered up atrocities to maintain access to a hostile regime, why a New York Times journalist could invent lengthy and detailed interviews that never took place, perhaps why CBS aired the Superbowl half-time they did, probably why NPR more often attacks the party that would defund them, definitely why shock jocks exist, and partially why politicians so often do or say whatever it takes to win or hold office.

All of this, and yet some people will still place more faith in a ten-second soundbite from any of those scheming profit sources than in free literature that has been scrutinized inside and out for the last 3,400 years. I agree, someone is definitely getting cheated.


(top of page)

next objection

See also:

What is "faith"?

What is "Christian"?

Printing Tips, Contact, Search,
Links & Bibles,
The Gospel