Paul Crouch, the founder of the incredibly successful Trinity Broadcasting Network died yesterday at the age of 79, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was reportedly admitted to a Dallas area hospital for heart issues in October while on a visit to the Colleyville, Texas TBN facilities. He was later taken back to his hometown of Orange, California for further treatment.
Crouch moved to California in the early 60’s to mangage the media unit of the Assembies of God. It was there that he claimed a message from God provoked him to start buying up small television stations, cable stations, and satellites. He transformed the smattering of small units into enough religious content to run a 24-hour cable network, Trinity Broadcasting Network.
TBN went on to become “the country’s most-watched religious network,” according to J. Gordon Melton and Jon R. Stone in their book “Prime-Time Religion: An Encyclopedia of Religious Broadcasting”, by the mid 80’s. The franchise accrued 84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates as well as a Christian amusement park in Orlando. It also quickly became the center of controversy after Crouch’s business practices came under fire.
He and his pink-haired wife were famous for promoting the “Gospel of Prosperity”, wherein Crouch encouraged people to give to God’s work, and help move God’s message with a sizeable contribution. In return, he promised God would “bless” contributors with help in their own pocketbooks. This message became questionable when Crouch and his wife began to lead an obviously extravagant lifestyle.
Critics of this so-called Prosperity gospel complained that his jets, mansions and expense-account meals were paid by tax-exempt donations from TBN’s legion of “prayer partners”, not by any earnings that Crouch, himself, had accrued. According to Fox News, last year the couple’s granddaughter filed a lawsuit claiming that $50 million dollars had been misappropriated for private jets and 13 mansions around the US for the Crouch’s private use.
The Crouches and their attorney dismissed the allegations. They said those things were used in line with spreading God’s message. While this mess has yet to be resolved, the network continues to mourn the loss of it’s founding father with the words, “We mourn Paul’s passing and he will be greatly missed. But we know, as the old hymn reminds us, soon enough we will see him again in that great `meeting in the air.”
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