Thanks to Ralph Luker for pointing me towards this remarkable piece, "My Search for Creflo Dollar," by Emily Raboteau, whose father Albert Raboteau will need no introduction for the audience of this blog. A little excerpt below, which points to Emily's book Searching for Zion: The Search for Home in the African Diaspora, now definitely on my to-read list:
By shilling money as the thing that mattered most, men like Creflo Dollar, I complained to Victor, were cheapening our rich history of liberation theology, messing with the prophetic kind of faith that drove the Civil Rights Movement, our nation’s proudest moment. My father taught a seminar on the religious history of that movement and these were themes he’d discussed with me for as long as I could remember. He’d grown up during that ennobling period. He was nearly the same age as Emmett Till would be if he hadn’t been bludgeoned to death and dumped in a Mississippi river at age fourteen for talking to a white woman. This was the backdrop against which my parents met at a Catholic university in Milwaukee in the 1960s. There my father helped organize a student movement that pushed for more minority faculty hires and student enrollment. Along with two roommates, he led a protest that shut down the university for two weeks.
Creflo Dollar’s church attracts some forty thousand members, most of them poor and working-class blacks trying to pull themselves out of poverty and into the middle class. They’re drawn by Dollar’s lavish lifestyle, his optimism, and his instruction of the Bible as a manual for prosperity. We are in control of our destiny, he teaches. We are already in the Promised Land. This is our home. We built it. It is ours.
Soon enough, I, too, was mesmerized. More than that — I was hooked. Beneath the mustache, thick as a Band-Aid, the smile had a blinding wattage. The big teeth didn’t look natural, and neither did his perfectly even hairline. His linebacker’s shoulders were a holdover from his college days as a star football player. You don’t build a ministry that takes in seventy million untaxed dollars a year from tens of thousands of members worldwide without charisma. Even after Victor fell asleep on the loveseat, I kept watching deep into the night, held by the flickering blue light of the ridiculously oversized flat-screen TV before us, trying to unravel Dollar’s message.