Prosperity gospel televangelist and con man Paul Crouch is dead at age 79. Crouch made a fortune hustling gullible Christians by preaching the “prosperity gospel” - the obnoxious and absurd message that if you have faith in God and donate generously, you will profit in return.
Crouch, founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, built a financial empire by convincing gullible and desperate people that if they made substantial financial donations to his ministry God would reward them with material wealth.
Crouch and his wife, Janice, built a single station into the world’s largest Christian television network (TBN). Based in Costa Mesa, the network says it has 84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates as well as a Christian amusement park in Orlando.
Like other successful televangelists, Crouch has faced much criticism over his lavish spending of the millions of dollars in donations collected through his network. A lawsuit against TBN noted that Crouch had “13 mansions and a $100,000 mobile home just for the dogs.”
Another report indicates Crouch owned corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each and often enjoyed thousand-dollar dinners with fine wines, paid for with tax-exempt funds derived from the victims of his religious con.
Indeed, two former employees of the Trinity Broadcasting Network have accused the Crouch’s of spending $50 million of the network’s funding on extravagant personal expenses.
Crouch was guilty of promoting a particularly perverse form of spiritual magical thinking: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich. Told that wealth is a sign of God's grace and favor, his followers gave, until they had nothing left to give, all the while waiting for a god that does not exist to reward their financial sacrifice with material wealth. The whole thing would be comical if it were not so tragic.