The Cult of Ole

Ole Anthony anointed himself the watchdog of America's televangelists. But who was watching Ole Anthony?

Holloway believed Trinity's doctrine and community was the closest thing he would ever find to biblical truth. But doubts were growing.

The last straw was personal. One afternoon in 1995, Anthony called Holloway to his office. Holloway's 7-year-old daughter, Jill, was supposed to be in a ballet recital that night.

"It's all about her high place, and I don't want her to do that," Anthony told him. "You've got to take her out."

Ole Anthony (left, in an undated photo) and members of Trinity Foundation lived in community, eating together and sharing their possessions--just like the early Christians.
Ole Anthony (left, in an undated photo) and members of Trinity Foundation lived in community, eating together and sharing their possessions--just like the early Christians.
Women were "preternaturally drawn" to Ole Anthony, one former Trinity member said. "He has a charismatic personality women find utterly fascinating."
Women were "preternaturally drawn" to Ole Anthony, one former Trinity member said. "He has a charismatic personality women find utterly fascinating."

Holloway argued; they'd spent money on a tutu and tights and a leotard. His daughter was so excited.

Anthony called down the head of the home school--one of Holloway's Bible study leaders--who agreed with him. Holloway caved. "I knew that I would be squashed like a bug if I didn't. We would have been anathema." Shunned.

He had to walk down to Jill's class and explain that "for spiritual reasons" she couldn't dance that night. "We cried and we cried and we cried," says Holloway, his voice breaking. "She put away the dancing shoes and hasn't taken them out since."

His wife, who wanted to leave Trinity, was furious. "She lost all respect for me," Holloway says. "I'm sure she knew who had the testicles." The couple would later divorce.

In hindsight, Holloway believes the incident was about Anthony showing who's boss. "I'll never get that piece of joy back into her again," Holloway says of his daughter, voice rising in anger. "It was a body part that I cut off. The son of a bitch knew it. That's the part that I hate. He knows those vulnerabilities, and he reads them with absolute exactitude. It's as skillful as a surgeon with a scalpel."

A Martyr in Pain

A Bible is open before him in the Lair, and Anthony rocks back and forth, legs propped on a chair. A microphone is clipped to his white T-shirt.

Someone passes out Gideon Bibles to the dozen or so Trinity folks up for the 7:30 a.m. study. In his measured voice, Anthony refers to Ecclesiastes 6. "What does God think the most evil thing is?" he asks. "Self-seeking, self-realization." All human effort is vanity.

For someone whose theology demands no glorification of the self--even insisting little girls put away their tutus--Anthony has managed to make himself the center of attention for decades.

A new wrinkle was added in 1996, when Trinity became the publisher of The Wittenburg Door, the magazine of religious satire. Trinity teamed with Bloom (as Joe Bob Briggs) to produce "God Stuff," a segment poking fun at TV evangelists that ran for three years on Comedy Central. On this morning in July a documentary filmmaker from New Zealand is at the foundation filming a segment on televangelists. Other TV and film producers are coming in August.

Trinity has changed in the last five years. Anthony has only recently emerged from seclusion. Pain from his electrical shock injury had him taking massive doses of prescription narcotics, what he often referred to as his "knock-out" pills.

Anthony denies he is addicted to painkillers, but financial records show Trinity was spending thousands of dollars in 2002 and 2003 on his prescription drugs. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, Anthony was injecting himself with the painkiller Nubain and taking Zanaflex and Skelaxin (muscle relaxants).

For several years, Anthony would often stay curled on his bed in a fetal position. It was well-known within the leadership, but no one knew what to do. They regarded Anthony as a martyr for Christ.

Anthony was pulled back from the precipice when a doctor at Baylor Medical Center diagnosed a lesion on his brain stem, got him into physical rehabilitation and eliminated all the drugs but a "maintenance dose" of Oxycontin. Anthony has put weight back on his frame and has started teaching and doing interviews again.

What if Trinity had found evidence in Tilton's trash that the televangelist was addicted to painkillers--and that the church paid for them? "Absolute heaven," Holloway says. "That's the kind of cannon fodder we were always looking for."

Doug Finds His Testicles

After driving around aimlessly for hours, Doug Duncan pulled Trinity's van into Highland Park Presbyterian Church in early 2000 and walked into the office. "I'm having a spiritual crisis," he said. "I need to talk to a minister."

No one got counsel "off the Block." But that morning in the Lair, two forces in Duncan's life had collided. Furious because Anthony would not bless their desire to get married, his fiancée Wendy had confronted Anthony, ending the conversation by screaming, "Your voice has gotten so loud, Ole, that I can't hear God anymore!"

Both over 40 and celibate, the couple had been dating for seven years; Wendy had bought a house on the Block. Though Anthony says he barely knew her, she had been made business manager of The Door.

But every time Duncan brought up getting married, Anthony told his heir apparent to wait. "Why aren't you content in the circumstances in which you find yourself?" Anthony asked him.

In Anthony's opinion, Wendy, who had a master's degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, didn't really understand Trinity doctrine. She was at a bad place. If he married Wendy, it would be a disaster. Was Doug 100 percent sure?

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