And lo, the Lord gazed upon his flock and said “Verily I shall make thee fishers of the gullible.” That seems to be the takeaway from a pretty disturbing article in the Times today, in which — perhaps not surprisingly — the Biellier clan of Mt. Vernon (in the southwest part of the state) slanders the good names of Missourians by falling for some of the most obvious charlatanism and snake oil selling this side of a Palin rally. They traveled to Texas (of course) to hear from Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, two devoted stewards of the man upstairs who have also profited quite handsomely from the meek minds of their followers. To wit:
Private airplanes and boats. A motorcycle sent by an anonymous supporter. Vacations in Hawaii and cruises in Alaska. Designer handbags. A ring of emeralds and diamonds.
“God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” preached Mrs. Copeland, dressed in a crisp pants ensemble like those worn by C.E.O.’s.
Oh, how lovely. This is obviously just what Jesus had in mind when he said this. So how could anyone fall for the smoke and mirrors proffered by people who recently organized a sickening thing like this? Well, let’s hear from the proud Show Me Staters:
Stephen Biellier, a long-distance trucker from Mount Vernon, Mo., said he and his wife, Millie, came to the convention praying that this would be “the overcoming year.” They are $102,000 in debt, and the bank has cut off their credit line, Mrs. Biellier said.
They say the Copelands rescued them from financial failure 23 years ago, when they bought their first truck at 22 percent interest and had to rebuild the engine twice in a year.
Around that time, Mrs. Biellier first saw Mr. Copeland on television and began sending him 50 cents a week.
Others who bought trucks from the same dealer in Joplin that year went under, the Bielliers said, but they did not.
“We would have failed if Copeland hadn’t been praying for us every day,” Mrs. Biellier said.
The Bielliers are now among 386,000 people worldwide whom the Copelands call their “partners,” most of whom send regular contributions and merit special prayers from the Copelands.
Hmm. Bought a truck at 22 percent interest. Thought a wise path out of debt would be sending money to a fraud. Now, staggeringly, at the century mark in debt. Hey, here’s a thought: maybe the problem isn’t with lack of divine intervention. Maybe the problem is that YOU’RE F’ING TERRIBLE WITH MONEY. And now the best solution is to spend even more money to attend a five-day celebration of swindling in another state? Seriously? Oh, but it gets so much better.
The Bielliers were at the convention a few years ago when a supporter made a pitch for people to join an “Elite CX Team” to raise money to buy the ministry a Citation X airplane. (Mr. Copeland is an airplane aficionado who got his start in ministry as a pilot for Oral Roberts.) At that moment, Mrs. Biellier said she heard the voice of the Holy Spirit telling her, “You were born to support this man.”
She gave $2,000 for the plane, and recently sent $1,800 for the team’s latest project: buying high-definition television equipment to upgrade the ministry’s international broadcasts.
Mrs. Biellier said some friends and relatives would say the preacher just wanted their money. She explained that the Copelands did not need the money for themselves; it is for their ministry. And besides, even “trashy people like Hugh Hefner” have private airplanes.
“I remember Copeland had to once fly halfway around the world to talk to one person,” she said. “Because we’re partners with Kenneth Copeland, for every soul that gets saved, we get credit for that in heaven.”
Ugh. With a debt load like that, is there no better usage for your money than donating it to an alleged holy man for purchase of a private jet? And how about that last quote? Do you think god is some kind of heaven-bound Shylock, meticulously keeping track of your recruits and awarding you points?
Nicely done, Christianity. Keep up the great work.