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*Excerpts taken from my third book, “The Falsehoods of Christianity: Volume 2.

In The Beginning

Before the “Pirates of Christianity” (with their cult of personalities) became televangelists and took hold of our minds, bodies, souls, and wallets, there were mentors to their beginning. These were individuals who would lay the groundwork for all to follow. They were the pioneers who gave birth and breathed life into the prosperity gospel theology that would lead to Televangelism’s birth and what our distant ancestors would look upon as mass hysteria. Three women would stand out among the many who would go on to influence many but become mentors to only a few.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience … (1 Cor. 14:34).

Maria Woodworth-Etter: Was born on July 22, 1844, and died on September 16, 1924, in her early teens. He was born again in Ohio. She was married twice and lost 5 of 6 children to diseases, and was one of the first to draw mass crowds to her tent revivals which would exceed 25,000.

Considering this was the mid-1880s, it was impressive for anyone to achieve such drawing status, especially a woman. Her massive drawing power was due primarily to her controversial claims to have hearing and visions of God that went along with her majestic methods of laying of hands to heal the sick (start of the health & wealth gospel), followed up by her fiery sermons that made her unpopular with the traditional evangelicals of the day. This would ultimately lead to her downfall among the pillars of evangelicals and the loss of her license to preach.

She was full of piss, vinegar, and stubborn; she upped and moved to Texas and intertwined with Pentecostalism. She received acclaim for her healing powers and controversial ways of preaching, which became the prototype for the health and wealth gospel known as the prosperity gospel.

Maria Woodworth-Etter is known today among a handful of religious historians—like the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement.

Aimee Semple McPherson: Was a Canadian born on October 9, 1890, and died September 27, 1944, of an overdose—in Oakland, California.

Aimee was born-again when she was 17, after being smitten by both Jesus Christ and the evangelist minister Robert Semple whom she married and within two years, moved to China to spread the gospel. Shortly after their arrival, Aimee’s husband grew ill and died one month later, leaving her pregnant. Aimee would give birth to a baby girl.

Aimee returned to America and, two years later, ended-up marrying Harold McPherson an accountant from Rhode Island, and within a year, gave birth to a baby boy. According to Aimee, it was not long after that she felt deathly sick and started seeing visions and hearing the voice of God calling her to go out and preach the gospel. This sickness went on for weeks until miraculously (as Aimee points out) I was healed when I agreed to obey God’s calling.

In 1915, Aimee was baptized and, by 1918, obtained a Methodist and Baptist preaching license. By 1912, her husband divorced her due to a lack of interest in their marriage caused by Aimee’s extensive road trips to preach the gospel across America with her mother and two children by her side. Eventually, she would end up in Los Angeles, California.

Undeterred by her divorce, Aimee felt she was on a mission from God (she claims). With donations raised through her many tent revivals crisscrossing America, she was able to build a large church on an empty lot and called it “The Foursquare Gospel Church,” and shortly after that opened a Bible school and started broadcasting weekly fiery sermons on the radio with a bit of dramatics thrown in. It wasn’t long before Aimee became a Hollywood celebrity in her own right.

Like a Hollywood script, and amid all her success and accomplishments—Aimee would up and vanish for several weeks without a trace. It was rumored that Aimee had run off with a married man whose wife would file for divorce in 1926. Aimee claimed unknown villains had kidnaped her. Unfortunately, the public wasn’t buying it, and her popularity took a huge hit until the great depression came to her rescue. She would be redeemed in the eyes of her constituents—when she would feed the hungry out of her pocket.

Aimee’s theatrical-style performances in and out of the church did not go unnoticed by two secret admirers, an immigrant named Benny Hinn and another by the name of Kathryn Kuhlman. She was a bold upcoming star amongst religious evangelicals circles at the ripe age of 23 that would mesmerize and influence Benny Hinn’s personality—for the rest of his life. 

One thing that has gone unnoticed by the modern-day pirates of Christianity was Aimee’s generosity towards the poor. During the great depression, Aimee spent many donations to feed the poor and hungry in and around the Los Angeles area by establishing soup kitchens. In some locations, she would provide clothing and shelter.

She set the standards for all other Christian ministers to follow. Instead, they ignored the poor and chose to follow the beast’s mark—called “the greed of capitalism.”

Aimee’s incredible generosity to the needy put a financial strain on her and her ministry. Shortly afterward, another suitor came along, which ended in divorce. This also would add to her financial and legal worries and place undue stress on her health, and in 1944, she died of an overdose of drugs.

The Foursquare Gospel Church that Aimee Semple McPherson built in the mid-1920s—is still standing today.

Once more, a woman would become a silent mentor to many – followed by few.

Kathryn Kuhlman: was born on May 9, 1907, and died on February 20, 1976; and became an evangelist, faith healer, and revivalist extraordinaire who had a flair for dramatics while preaching and the convictions of a Hollywood starlet.

Kathryn was born again at the age of fourteen and,, by the age of twenty-three, was out preaching with the help of a few evangelical friends amongst the family tree. This included her brother-in-law, who just so happened to be an ordained evangelical minister.

By the time she was twenty-eight, and after crisscrossing Utah and Colorado, she decided to settle down in Denver, where her evangelical status took hold. She began to enjoy a large following of constituents with deep pockets. With her on-stage performances that seemed like a modern-day rock concert, along with her long flowing white gowns and her flair for the dramatics when delivering her sermons that resembled a Broadway actress—she soon became the envy of Hollywood producers.

Kathryn was known to build up her church-going constituents into a religious crescendo (while claiming to be under the power of the Holy Spirit) whereby she would walk by touching them, and they would fall over by the dozens or by the hundreds into a state of religious delirium.

During this time, Kathryn met and fell in love with an evangelical minister called Burroughs Waltrip from Texas, who divorced his wife and left his two sons behind to marry Kathryn. This did not sit well with her constituents or the religious establishment. On her wedding night, Kathryn up and left Waltrip, never to return or marry again. Shortly afterward—she upped and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Kathryn Kuhlman lived a lavish lifestyle that included expensive clothes, jewelry, fine dining, luxury hotels, and traveling first class. She would become the mentor to many evangelical preachers, who would become multimillionaires and, in some cases, billionaires.  She became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Oral Roberts University.   

It is said that Benny Hinn, to this day, still visits Kathryn’s mausoleum in California occasionally to recharge his batteries.

Summary

Maria Woodworth-Etter planted the seed, Aimee Semple McPherson laid the foundation, and Kathryn Kuhlman wrote the script for all Prosperity Theologians to follow.

Good, bad, or controversial, this three-woman laid the groundwork for the success of the “health and wealth gospel that became also known as the prosperity gospel, which became the Bible of our modern-day Televangelist—known as the “Pirates of Christianity.”

Ivan Peter Kovak

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