Since the turn of the millennium, one thing has become as certain as death and taxes. Whenever tragedy strikes, some wingnut preacher is quick to blame it on something liberals and Democrats have done. Well, it’s finally happened with the coronavirus outbreak. If you believe Kenneth Copeland, the high priest of the prosperity gospel–also known as “name it and claim it”–it’s all because we haven’t left Donald Trump alone.
While Copeland is best known for doling out copious amounts of his prosperity message on TV, he also hosts a charismatic megachurch at his complex in Fort Worth, Eagle Mountain International Church. It’s pastored by his daughter, Terri Copeland Pearsons, and his son-in-law, George Pearsons. Copeland is a frequent speaker there.
Unlike a few religious right-aligned churches, Copeland and the Pearsonses had the good sense to move this past Sunday’s service online only. But that’s one of the few things Copeland got right on Sunday. He told his flock that there’s a reason coronavirus has become such a scourge–all the hatred being directed at Trump. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
About 22-and-a-half minutes into the stream, associate pastor Greg Stephens was conducting a class on “Faith Foundations” before the main service when he invited Copeland onto the stage. After sharing a “word from the Lord” he received earlier in the week suggesting that the outbreak would be over sooner than expected, “Brother Copeland” suggested that he had an idea why COVID-19 has upended our lives over the last few weeks.
If you believe Copeland, the reason we’ve seen games canceled, schools closed, grocery stores left barren, and cities and counties put on lockdown comes down to “displays of hate and hatred of politicians toward our president.” He pointed out that Democrats hate Trump, and there are a lot of people “who hate them because they hate him.” He cited the King James translation of James 3:16.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
According to Copeland, “strife” in the original Greek refers to political strife.
It initially looked like Copeland was going to blame both sides, Trump-style. That would have been ridiculous in and of itself. After all, if you believe Copeland, then you’d have to believe that the infighting in our country directly caused local officials in Wuhan, China to initially hide the initial extent of coronavirus when it first cropped up there in January. They not only deceived teams sent from Beijing to investigate it, but tried to gag whistleblowers.
The evidence is undeniable. Had local officials told the truth, it’s very likely that Beijing would have been able to get a handle on this virus before it became a ravaging monster. Failing that, at the very least the world would have had more time to prepare. Then again, Copeland is speaking to an audience that lives in a bubble where he and other televangelists are considered reliable sources for what’s going on in the world around them.
But then Copeland really went off the deep end. To his mind, the Democrats bear most of the responsibility for this scourge. He believed that “openly and publicly” hating on our leaders “breaks the divine protection over this nation.” Uh huh. So does that mean all the nonsense about Obama being a Mooslim and not really being born here opened the door for swine flu, and later Ebola? Oh, that’s right. None of those illnesses became the scourge that COVID-19 has become, even though the Obamas faced many times more pigweed than Trump ever did.
Copeland is a longtime member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, and has been as rabidly pro-Trump as any religious right leader. It’s no surprise. After all, preaching a gospel of excess makes you a good fit for a guy who is the very definition of an entitled one-percenter. But this particularly ham-handed attempt at alternative facting doesn’t come close to holding up when you consider the real facts.
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