EDITOR, The Tribune.
GRAND Bahamians are collectively keeping their fingers crossed that the proposed Electra America Hospitality Group and $170m Carnival Cruise Port developments materialise. Freeport’s economy has been in complete shambles for over two decades.
In June, Tourism Minister Chester Cooper said that his government approved $2.5 billion in investments since coming to office: $250m for Long Island; $700m for Exuma; $137m for Eleuthera; $400m for Mayaguana and $135m for Abaco. Meanwhile in Nassau, Goldwyn Resort and Residences announced its soft opening for the end of year and Baha Mar President Graeme Davis told The Nassau Guardian that business has never been better. In March, a Magaritaville Beach Resort official boasted about the uptick in business. Meanwhile, Freeport remains a ghost town.
In the Free National Movement’s first decade in government between 1992-2002, Freeport experienced an economic boom that mirrored the financial uptick in the sixties under the direction of Freeport founder Wallace Groves. Coinciding with the economic boom of the nineties, a slew of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) prosperity gospel televangelists frequented Freeport, spreading their message of wealth, health and happiness. One particular televangelist was rumoured to have collected $70,000-plus over a period of two-nights at the former Royal Oasis Resort and Casino, which gives the readership an idea of how financially robust Freeport used to be.
TBN was founded by the late Paul and Jan Crouch in 1973. A 2012 Daily Mail Online article alleged that TBN owned 13 mansions and a $50m jet. The LA Times alleged 30 homes. Jan Crouch owned a $8m jet and a $100,000 dog house for her dogs, which is nearly the cost of a Bahamian government low-cost home. According to a 2004 LA Times write-up, TBN collected $120m annually. Understand, TBN is a non-profit organisation. While Paul Crouch earned $403,700 annually; his wife earned $361,000.
In 2012, TBN had 18,000 TV and satellite affiliates around the world. TBN is headquartered in Orange County. This is one of the most affluent counties in the US, where the median income for a four-person household is $106,700 to $119,000. TBN’s prosperity gospel message was borrowed from Oral Roberts’ seedtime and harvest theology, which promises wealth, health and happiness to those who give a sacrificial offering to his ministry. This over-realised eschatology is based on a faulty interpretation of Genesis 8:22, and has been propagated by famed televangelists Richard Roberts, Creflo Dollar, Jesse DuPlantis, Robert Tilton, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Jerry Savelle, Charles Capps, Fred Price, John Avanzini, Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, Joyce Meyer, Paula White and Ken and Gloria Copeland.
While Copeland is worth $760m, Jakes is worth $150m. I intentionally omitted Kenneth Hagin, Sr due to his The Midas Touch volume that mildly rebukes his spiritual protégés for their excessiveness. This US imperialist theology views the rest of the world, including Third World jurisdictions such as The Bahamas, through the lens of the greatest economy in human history, the US. Accordingly, the roots of its materialistic theology have been traced back to New Thought founder Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Religious Science, Christian Science and Unity School of Christianity - American cults. Its theology is inherently self-centered. It views God as a magic genie Who wants us all to be healthy and wealthy. It conflicts with the apostle Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 to be content with having “food and raiment.” It is a humanistic system that does not square with the reality on the ground, which brings me back to my initial point.
While prosperity gospel luminaries frequented Freeport during the prosperous nineties, they have been conspicuously absent in the 2000s for the most part. The reason for this is because Freeport’s economy has dried up. There is no money here for them to collect. That’s why churches in Freeport that support this theology are apparently unable to bring in these celebrities as they used to in the nineties. I understand that one church was unable to land a TBN personality in the early 2000s, as her speaker’s fee was pegged at about $50,000 for just two nights. Obviously, most churches in Grand Bahama do not have $50,000 in their savings. Moreover, the average Bahamian does not earn that much money annually. The entire pitch of these TBN preachers is that donating money to their empires (not ministries) will lead to financial prosperity and physical healing. They love to take out of context Luke 6:38 and 3 John 2.
Interestingly, Jesus said in Mark 10:24-25 that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Herein lies the failure of the TBN prosperity gospel message for Freeport: it has failed to prevent the decades-old economic recession that has brought thousands of its residents to their knees -- many of whom sowed their seed offerings into their coffers. Those who visited Freeport were bankrolled, and have not looked back since the financial decline for obvious reasons. Freeport is proof that the TBN prosperity gospel message is a false gospel.
Freeport, Grand Bahama
July 17, 2022.