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Freivalds: God helps those who help themselves (You betcha!)




By John Freivalds

Published 08/31/2017

Freivalds runs an international communications firm in Lexington.

God helps those who help themselves.

Benjamin Franklin in 1757 made up those words that many think are from the Bible. They came up recently when I watched a 1960 classic movie “Elmer Gantry” starring Bert Lancaster. In it, Lancaster turns to marketing salvation as being far more profitable than selling vacuum cleaners in rural America. This was really the first public airing of the intellectual dishonesty of some evangelists. Then rallies were in tents seating hundreds, while today one televangelist holds services in an 18,000-seat stadium.

It seems to me that the true churches are the smaller ones, because the larger they get, the more extravagant the heavenly claims. And it is here where I finally figured out why the televangelists and Donald Trump have this mutual love for each other — both are master salesmen.

Both measure success by the size of the crowds who come to hear them “preach.” Trump makes no claim to being devout about anything, but says he respects people who have been successful selling hope wrapped up in some kind of “stuff.” Whether Trump was selling casino gambling or university courses, he did it in such a way as to make downtrodden people “feel good.” He engages in what he calls “truthful hyperbole.”

That’s no different from today’s televangelists marketing hope. The televangelists used to show images of starving children, usually in Africa, to raise money for their churches. Not today: The major ones, and you know who they are, make it more like a straight real estate or business transaction.

Recently I picked up an old Jerry Falwell sermon beamed just over the Blue Ridge. In it, Falwell said, and I quote — giving money to the Thomas Road Baptist Church is like buying a timeshare in heaven. Unquote.

Others merely state that you have to plant a seed with your donation, and you will be rewarded later on. Nothing to do with redemption, forgiveness, love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, good deeds; just send in your money (do it now!), and you will be rewarded.

OK, some of the televangelists will send you something in return. One offers miracle water, another vials of sand from the Holy Land and yet another prayer shawls that have been made and prayed over in Israel. Alas, they forgot to remove the “Made in China” tag. The best comes from a televangelist holding $1,000 in 1 dollar bills. If you send a donation “seed,” he will send you one of the dollar bills — but, hey, they have been prayed over by him.


And whatever happened to Jim Bakker — you know Tammy Faye’s husband? Well, he’s back! And he is predicting a total apocalypse. To save yourself, he is selling you a year’s supply of food and a portable generator to prepare you for the end of the earth.

For Trump supporters, the reward is to return the United States back to the 1950s, when Cadillacs had tailfins, where everyone had a high-paying job with paid health insurance and knew their place. “Amos ‘n’ Andy” was politically correct, all Mexicans did was take siestas and the Chinese just exported revolutions. English was spoken everywhere (didn’t Jesus speak English?) and Mickey Mantle, not LeBron James, was every child’s idol.

The culmination of all this for Trump was to to sell you his Trump University courses where you could learn the “secrets” to success. Eventually, to settle multi-millions in lawsuits accusing his company of false advertising, Trump closed his university.

This should happen to what the self-enriching televangelists do, but then we run into the freedom of religion issue. Probably using the same kind of accountants that Trump uses to hide his sources of income, the televangelists put all their income into the church. On paper, it doesn’t look like they own anything and thus pay no taxes.

It is impossible to bring a lawsuit for “reglious malpractice” because the First Amendment allows the televangelists to say whatever they want.

Perhaps we should end this with a real saying from the Bible that covers false televangelists and Donald Trump “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are raving wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-16.


 Here is what the people are saying!!!

Brian Wishneff ·

Virginia Tech

Wow this is the best explanation of why Evangelic preachers support Trump. Thank you and great job.


Pamela Gausman

Well at least he didn't attend a 'church' where the 'pastor' called for God to damn the USA....


Justine Citizen

The best defense against "religious malpractice" is education and a brain. Both seem thin on the ground these days...


Stratton Wayne St Clair ·

Roanoke, Virginia

There is an old Bedouin proverb... Have faith in God but tie your camel. If God helps those who help themselves, that is still assistance.


Julie Finch Walsh ·

Cornish School of Allied Arts

Very well written but the problem is Trump does Not claim to be a prophet, he's a business man! Plain and Simple! He's given thousands of people jobs! You cannot discredit that! This is not a good comparison! There is no harm in getting rich by honorable means and he has. Give credit where credit is due.