Yesterday a homeless man that I have got to know through my work showed me a letter that he had just received from Morris Cerullo, the infamous TV evangelist. It was entitled 8 Weeks – 8 Blessings of Superabundance To Meet 8 Specific Needs in Your Life. In the 6-page letter, Cerullo asks the recipients to complete an enclosed form with space for 8 specific needs that they have and send it back to him. He promises that he and his wife will take the form to the Garden tomb, in Israel – said to be the actual place where Jesus was buried and resurrected – and pray over it. Cerullo writes:
‘Partner, when I receive your prayer needs and your seed faith gift, I will believe with you for the Isaac anointing of SUPERABUNDANCE to overflow in every area of your life!’
So what’s this ‘seed-faith gift’? You’ve guessed it – this prayer does not come for free. It requires a seed faith gift – basically, Christian lingo for hard cash. Using highly dubious theology, he says that an ‘Isaac offering’ is giving to God what you have and ‘not holding back anything because of fear or intimidation.’
‘Isaac gave God his best, and in turn, God gave Isaac His best – the hundredfold miracle!…This is God’s promise to you during our incredible SEASON OF MIRACLES. You can tap into the power of the 8 BLESSINGS OF SUPERABUNDANCE when you sow your best seed today.’
So how much does this amazing opportunity cost? Well, Cerullo is keen not to limit the offering that can be given to him – because he wants people to give him ‘the best’ they can. But helpfully he gives two options – you can either give a ‘season of miracles’ offering of £24 or a ‘sacrificial offering’ of £40. In some ways the amounts suggested are the most sinister part – because Cerullo is not targeting the high rollers. No, through mass mailouts he focusses his fundraising campaigns on the poorest groups in society. He is the master of peddling a consumerist perversion of Christian hope in package deals that might just be within reach of people who have very little.
I have read such letters before, but what made me even more sickened and angry was the fact that this letter had been sent to someone who is as poor and as vulnerable as you can be in this country. It made me think about how many other vulnerable men, women and families are being conned out of the little money they have by fraudsters pretending to show Christian concern? It is a sort of modern day, pentecostal version of the corrupt operations of medieval Roman Catholicism which fleeced people for vast amounts to reduce their time in purgatory.
I don’t know the exact reality of Morris Cerullo’s life – whether its true that he lives in a house worth $12m and has a jet with gold-plated interior – but I have seen the way that he tries to squeeze money out of someone who has virtually nothing. And often, a personal experience gives a clearer picture than when something is discussed in abstract. This is why the clip of Cerullo coercing a young 4 year old girl with terminal cancer, who he claimed to have healed, to run on stage is so awful (see it here on you tube). Through the impact on an individual you can see clearly the dangerous impact this kind of ‘ministry’ has.
Cerullo, and those who follow him or endorse his methods, need to listen more closely to what Jesus had to say about those who profit from the poor through corrupt and hypocritical religious practices:
‘Beware of the teachers of the law…they devour widow’s houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.’ (Luke 20:47)