The recent financial crisis produced some great writing; every financial crisis does. I would of course recommend Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short about the recent credit bubble; Burrough and Helyar’s 1990 Barbarians at the Gate and Lewis’s Liar’s Poker about the late Eighties leveraged buyout/junk bond craze; I’m still looking for a great book about the 1929 Wall Street crash or the Japanese Eighties real estate bubble. These books typically have a single shimmering image of excess on which the book stands or falls, something that in retrospect should have been a clear sign that things had gone too far.
Some people read parts of the biblical book of Daniel the same way; in particular, his accounts of the Three Hebrew Children (Daniel 3) and Belshazzar’s Feast (Daniel 5). But I digress.
I would beg the reader to consider the following passage from the Grassley investigation in the same vein:
John Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Jesse Duplantis of New Orleans, Louisiana, announced their “gift” and presented Kenneth & Gloria a giant cardboard check for the total received up to that date. However, they then said they were trying to surpass a higher financial goal of $2mil, and wanted to give the ministers present (and the ministries they represented) a chance to add to the total then represented on the check. They brought in two KCM employees with credit card terminals, and began taking not only check and cash contributions, but also credit/debit card transactions towards the same IN THE SANCTUARY ITSELF while the band played music. The transactions were done through KCM processes and were performed by KCM employees, but it was plain that it was to be personally given to the Copelands. They made periodic “update” announcements from the platform of the running total, but I believe it was about 90-minutes or more later before they announced they had concluded the “offering” and continued the rest of the “40th Anniversary” service from there. (page 25; all punctuation etc. in original)
Unlike a lot of the information in the report written by staffer Lynda Simmons, this anecdote is credited neither to Ole Anthony nor to an anonymous source, but to someone named Rich Vermillion [link]; he is described as a former ministry partner of Copeland.
The story above is almost too perfect, what with its giant cardboard check and telethon atmosphere, credit card terminals in the church sanctuary and of course the obvious tax implications of taking charitable contributions toward a personal gift. It’s difficult for me to imagine what the participants thought they were doing, and why exactly anyone apart from the younger Copeland, Dollar, and Duplantis would think it was a great idea to write the elder Copelands a big check.