By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I spoke with Ole Anthony, founder of Trinity Foundation, during eight interviews--more than 25 hours of conversation, covering everything from theology to televangelists to drugs. Though often in pain, Anthony proved to be an intelligent, always fascinating conversationalist. A very brief excerpt follows.
What has been happening at the Trinity Foundation in the last few months?
Morgan Spurlock, the guy that does the TV show 30 Days, was here this week. They had an atheist staying with a Christian family in Frisco and it was getting boring, so they came here to shake things up. Someone from New Zealand has been here doing interviews for a documentary on televangelists. And the American correspondent for Al-Jazeera is going to be here on August 21 to interview me about American Christianity. Joel Osteen is another one they are going to be interviewing.
Does Trinity Foundation have any investigations pending?
We've helped the Los Angeles Times with something that is coming out soon on TBN and Gene Ewing, who we call God's ghostwriter. He writes appeal letters for a lot of televangelists.
Yes. There's no fraud that I'm aware of in anything he's doing. He's certainly the best preacher I've ever heard. He was doctrinally on track, but when he's on TBN's telethons he goes to the success stuff. He was a hero of mine until he got seduced by the health and wealth gospel. Jakes has moved to Fort Worth and has bought a $6 million home. He flies on his own jet. I wish he wouldn't live like Benny Hinn. I said on the radio that if it was up to him, he'd just as soon live in a little house in South Dallas, but his people and his wife are pushing for the big lifestyle. We've heard endless stories on how Serita insists on being treated. She's the queen bee.
You investigated Fort Worth-based James Robison at one point. What was the outcome of that?
When our victim's hotline number was published in Ann Landers, we got calls from all over the world. The most serious allegation was against James Robison concerning his efforts to help orphans overseas. The caller said he was taking thousands of dollars under the table to bring orphan babies to families in America. I called him about the complaint, and he agreed to meet with me. I laid out the complaints we'd gotten. He said he'd look into it. Turns out he had done nothing wrong.
You said a reporter from Al-Jazeera is coming to interview you and Joel Osteen. What's your view on Osteen?
I don't think there's any fraud in him. I've often said he's preaching cotton-candy theology, a mile wide and a micron deep. I told an interviewer that I think he would make a very qualified spiritual kindergarten teacher. He's nice and smiles a lot, and I'm a cantankerous old fart.
Rick Warren'sPurpose Driven Life has been on the best-seller lists for many months. Has Trinity investigated him?
There's nothing that hints he's involved in any fraud. I don't really have an opinion, but we make fun of him a lot. We did a fake interview called "The Emergent Elijah" in the current issue of The Door. He's all about getting along.
Benny Hinn's ministry does not meet the 14 qualifications of a church. I went to meet with Benny in his church. He agreed not to air healing testimonials until six months had passed, and he would air only medically verifiable healings. He was going to start living the gospel instead of just talking about it. I wrote a favorable editorial about him that he used in his publicity. He was the reformed Benny. But two or three months later, someone told me he was doing the same thing. I contacted his brother, and Benny told him: "If I did what Ole wants me to, I wouldn't have any healings to air."