Worth reading from National Review (I know, I know) is this profile of E.W. Jackson, a conservative African American pastor and speaker at religious right political gatherings—and the Republican nominee for Lt. Gov. of Virginia. Jackson’s penchant for extreme political rhetoric, anti-gay and otherwise, has been well documented and is reaching a much wider audience since his recent surprise selection by delegates to the Virginia GOP convention.
National Review’s Betsy Woodruff visited Jackson’s congregation and reported, among other things, on all the ways congregants are encouraged to contribute to Jackson’s well-being: his vacation fund, his birthday fund, a fund commemorating his anniversary. Woodruff also took at look at Jackson’s writing, noting, “In 2008 Jackson published a book called Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life: Making Your Dreams Come True that discusses the merits of donating directly to one’s spiritual leader.” She quotes from the book: “While giving to the poor is important, the most powerful giving for wealth building is upward giving.” Here’s more:
For example, as you read this book, you may feel a deep spiritual affinity for the things I am teaching and therefore a profound spiritual kinship with me. We may never meet in person, but you can draw on the anointing which God has placed on my life by sowing into my ministry. That opens a spiritual door for you to partake at a deeper level and for me to impart to you as one in Covenant with me. That is how I have come to support other ministries. Wherever you are moved to give, do it consistently and generously. This will start a flow of prosperity in your life which will enhance all the other principles you have learned.
So in addition to being a promoter of a Tea Partier’s anti-government dogma, Jackson seems to be a particularly self-serving proponent of the prosperity gospel, whose proponents urge congregants to “sow seeds” with the promise that great wealth will follow. Jackson has lots of company in our current religious landscape, as RD regulars and readers of Sarah Posner’s excellent book God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the GOP Crusade for Values Voters know. (If you haven’t read Posner’s book, what are you waiting for?)
Woodruff reports that Jackson preached to a congregation of about 40, a good reminder to reporters and Virginia residents that just because you claim the title of “bishop,” it doesn’t mean you have millions, or even thousands, of followers. And it clearly does not mean, regardless of the size of your spiritual flock, that you have any particular moral or spiritual authority.