Black folk and the ‘Popoff Principle’
It’s a sad but inescapable fact that black people appear more susceptible to religious chicanery than most other communities.
Here’s a case in question: Back in the 1980s, a very wealthy televangelist called Peter Popoff, above, went bust after he was exposed by James Randi as “a blatant fake” on the Carson Show. Prior to his exposure he was pocketing an estimated $4-million a year.
In September 1987, sixteen months after the Carson airing, Popoff declared bankruptcy, with more than 790 creditors having claims against him.
But by 1998, according to Wiki, Popoff was making a recovery – “seeking to jump-start his ministry by repackaging himself for an African American audience.”
His spiel was to package and sell “free” debt relief spring water via TV commercials aimed mainly at black audiences … and the money came pouring in. This prompted a Christian website to post the following in 2013:
Water will not make you rich. The only people who get rich from the miracle spring water that Peter Popoff is selling is Peter Popoff.
These are the types of people that really hurt Christianity more than anything that atheists or agnostics do. They operate on the faith from a perspective of being on the inside and target the vulnerable. These are the very people that need the most help, the most guidance, and the above all else, the truth.
Instead, Popoff is selling little packages of water that have “supernatural debt-cancelling power”. Drink it and your financial woes are over. Drink it and get rich. Drink it and prosper.
Please, if you know of anyone who follows this ‘ministry’, talk to them. Spread the true word of God that can only be found in the Bible … Be aware.
In 2003, Popoff’s ministry received over $9.6 million and by 2005 the amount had risen to over $23 million. In that year he and his wife were paid a combined total of nearly $1 million, while two of his children were receiving over $180,000 each.
Financial data is not available for Popoff’s ministry following 2005 because Peter Popoff Ministries changed from a for-profit business to a religious organization in 2006, making it tax-exempt. Popoff purchased a home in Bradbury, California, for $4.5 million in 2007. He drives a Porsche and a Mercedes-Benz.
I remembered well the highly-publicised exposure of Popoff in the 80s, but, until today, hadn’t realised that he had made a spectacular comeback.
What prompted me to re-examine Popoff was news that another fraud had been exposed: Victor Kanyari, of Kenya’s Salvation Healing Ministry.
According to this report, he is a self-styled modern-day prophet, a “miracle healer” who has attracted thousands to his Nairobi “church” with claims of being able to cure everything from childlessness to HIV/AIDS.
But last month, the investigative news programme “Inside Story” exposed Victor Kanyari as a charlatan. The programme revealed elaborate play-acting by Kanyari and a group of devoted followers who helped perpetuate his claims by making false testimonies and staging “healings” in front of the congregation.
Such cases are not new – but the blowback this time is significant. Many Kenyans are outraged that Kanyari easily exploited widespread trust in church institutions and targeted the poor, many of whom are desperate and willing to pay small fees to get the aid Kanyari promised. The case has spurred a bid for new regulation, with the attorney general announcing last week an indefinite ban on registering any new churches.
And for mainstream Christians, it raises concerns that faith in the honesty of most religious outlets will decline.
This prompted the Friendly Atheist to comment:
Ah yes, Kenyans should trust only bona fide clergymen, right? Too bad that their ilk comprises Catholic leaders who falsely tell women not to get tetanus vaccinations because they’ll become infertile; Anglican priests who bed the women in their flock; Episcopalian clergy who impregnate nuns; Evangelicals caught stealing babies; priests who hire hitmen to dispose of religious rivals; and so on.
Exemplars of genuine godliness, all.
A while back, in article posted on on the Randi Foundation site, Nigerian humanist Leo Igwe blamed the gullibility of Africans on mainstream Christianity and Islam.
Some paranormal or supernatural claims of the two main religions of Christianity and Islam are part of the factors holding Africans hostage. Most Africans cannot think freely or express their doubts openly because these religions have placed a huge price on freethinking and critical inquiry.
Because these belief systems rely on paranormal claims themselves, Africans feel they cannot speak out against superstition as a whole, or they will be ostracized or even killed by religious zealots.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Kenya report).