Gloria Copeland, flu jabs, and why I nearly wrote to Derren Brown

Here’s Gloria Copeland, wife of Kenneth, talking last winter about getting vaccinated against flu. Christians don’t need to, she claimed, because Jesus already did it for them. The Copelands are evangelical advisers to Mr. Donald Trump.

They’re also very, very rich thanks to donations from believers, “sowing their seed in faith.” They’re worth $760 million although they claim (falsely because who needs truth as TV preacher?) to be billionaires. Do they actually believe the things they preach? Or are they intentional sellers of a con? It’s impossible to know but I prefer to believe that they believe otherwise they are even more monstrous than the “gospel” – in quotes because it’s not good news – they preach.

And here’s a clip of Derren Brown, atheist who hates religious con merchants, visiting the Copeland compound and talking to someone who used to be an evangelical with a healing ministry and whose daughter died because of that faith.

When Derren Brown’s show was broadcast he received a lot of angry letters from evangelical Christians. At the time I was an evangelical Christian too, believing Jesus was the only way to get to heaven or have a happy time after you die. I very nearly wrote to him too. I wish I had. My letter would have said “If you want to make a show like this again I volunteer to give you any help you need.”

Because I always hated the ministry, so-called, of people like the Copelands. I hated the false faith healing gospel. I hated the prosperity gospel (Pray, sow your financial seed into the ministry, and get rich). I hated the way such people fleece unwary believers looking for some hope and meaning in this world. I still hate those things and I know plenty of Christians who hate them too and who would also have highly appreciated Derren Brown’s programme.

I nearly wrote to volunteer to help Derren Brown, an atheist ex-Christian, because I trusted him far more than I’d ever trust any of those horrible preachers. I wish I’d been organised enough to get the letter written. “If you make a show like this again, I’d be happy to help in any way as an evangelical Christian who attempts to be honest.” He can speak and write against Christian belief – although he’s not done much of that, just stood up for his own beliefs and his love of things like Stoicism. But no matter what he did he wouldn’t damage the Christian faith I still believed in as much as the scumbag prosperity preachers making cash out of the suffering of their followers.

We used to hold up the Copelands and plenty of others as examples of bad Christianity, the kind that would make Jesus himself vomit in disgust before turning over every table in their churches. Atheist groups held them up as examples of Christianity and were repeatedly told they didn’t matter, they were fringe groups (with many megachurches) so why not pick on a more moderate, liberal version of the faith. They were told that picking on Copeland was creating a straw man.

To an extent that’s fair. The arguments and discussions with reasonable Christians are very different to those about the likes of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland – who are by no means the worst offenders. I didn’t see enough of the former argument and saw plenty of the latter and I’d get annoyed not that atheists argued against Christianity but that it was often done with quite a lot of stupidity and in a way that approached the whole of Christianity as if it were all fundamentalist prosperity preaching TV evangelists. I used to get accused of believing things I didn’t believe, largely because people like Copeland believed them (or Ken Ham with his concrete mounted half a Noah’s ark.)

Ten years on we know where we are. That it’s Copeland and plenty of others who gather around the President of the USA, influencing policy, standing against inclusion, contributing to state enforced bigotry.

Gloria Copeland says stupid things. Yes, stupid. Religiously motivated stupidity is still stupid. But it’s dangerous stuff too. She’s not just some crackpot preacher talking about flu jabs although that would be bad enough. She’s a crackpot preacher who has the ear of a crackpot president.

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