Having grown up in a small town in the deep South during the 1970s and ’80s, I frequently viewed televangelists on weekends. Their claims were seemingly noble and altruistic, but they always asked for money to do God’s work. They wore sharp suits, had fantastic hair and convinced many that, if money was sent, then God’s glory could be delivered.
Not all televangelists were shady. Billy Graham has been an inspiration to many here in North Carolina. But there are some people who seemed to cross a line and used the Lord’s name as a resume builder, a salary raiser and a policy shaper.
I especially remember seeing Ernest Angley asking people to touch the television screen so that he could heal them through the air waves. But one day I asked myself, “If he could do that through the TV, then why couldn’t he just go down to the local hospital and heal those people for free?”
I became understandably skeptical of those who profess a strong faith but whose actions seemed to alienate the very people who needed the most help.
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There is a strong correlation between those televangelists and many we have elected to Raleigh who make the same claims of altruism and preach a common sermon that has raised massive amounts of money to do the great work that needs to be done.
These politicians need a name befitting their purpose in mixing personal politics with evangelical callings. I submit a new entry into the lexicon of our language: legivangelist.
Legivangelist: (n.) one who preaches to constituents about how holy his cause is in hopes of obtaining votes in elections to maintain power over those he claims to help
Ironically, like many of the televangelists, legivangelists are being somewhat dishonest about their true intent in helping the poor and trodden. It is not for the glory of the Lord. It is for the advancement of a political agenda.
Take for instance the Opportunity Scholarships. Many legivangelists told North Carolinians that we needed to help the poor to get a good education. Rather than fully fund public schools and competitively pay qualified teachers, they created a a voucher system that allows taxpayer money to be diverted to private, mostly religiously affiliated schools for someone else’s profit.
Legivangelists also saw an opportunity to use taxpayer money to finance privately run charter schools so that all people could have a “God-given” right to choose a school even when that charter school makes a profit and can be selective in its student body and totally bypass regulation and testing.
The holy and the hurting
It is a tactic to present oneself as holy and giving, but in reality it is hurting public school students for a profit of money and/or political power.
When a state has almost 1 in 4 children in poverty and facing hunger, homelessness and uncertainty, believers in the tenets of Christ do not adhere to exclusionary practices; they attack the source of the problems like income inequality. They certainly would not withhold Medicaid expansion from the very people, especially children, who need it most just to make a political statement.
When coal ash deposits are allowed to poison drinking water sources, real believers would not still call for deregulation and allow those companies involved to go unpunished. Simply changing the criteria for what is considered clean water does not make the water any cleaner for children to drink. That’s like changing the definition of water so that it can be called wine, and none of these legivangelical politicians could ever really change water into wine.
A judgment day for North Carolina’s legivangelists comes every election cycle when people have the opportunity to vote.
James states (1:27), “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Jesus did not discriminate, God has no grandchildren and those who profess a true adherence to Christ’s teachings let their actions speak louder than their spun words.
Just watch how they treat all children.
Stuart Egan is a teacher in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools.