Religion in America: What makes a televangelist tick?
I think they do. You know, we never ask for money on television and I never have preached a message on money. But I do believe that God wants uswhen I say prosperI think he wants us to have healthy relationships, he wants us to have good families, and I qualify that by saying, my dad was raised in the Great Depression. They had no money; they were the worst of the worst. And so, my whole thing is I don't think God wants everybody to be a millionaire or things like that, it's that he wants us to go higher than we are. If my dad would have never got out of the poverty mentalityI mean, they were the ones who got the Christmas basket, they were so poorI wouldn't be where I am today. So I want my kids to know that it's not the money; I want them to know that they can help more people, they can aim for a different life. Somebody who criticizes this and says it's just a prosperity message, it's just about moneywell, my message is about hope and it's about overcoming tough times.
To get back to the other question, I think the message is very practical and relevant. I'm not necessarily explaining deep, theological questions and doctrine and stuff like thatI'm talking about how you can live your everyday life. When I speak, I try to make it a point to talk about something people can use that day or tomorrow at work. It's practical thingshow the bible can relate to us todayand I've had people come from other churches and say "you know, I've learned more how to live life in a few months here than I have in a long time."
Do you believe that's why the book has had such widespread success?
I think it is. I haven't tried to target just a Christian audience. I love that, but I think that we have to get outside our box and reach as many people as possible. A lot of the letters we get, people say "I used to go to church when I was little because my parents made me but I've never been back and you restored my faith" or "you know what, I thought the church was made up of hypocrites and stuff," so I like to get beyond the church walls, to try to get out into the community, and I think that's helped the book. I think it's also just practical"Hey, this makes sense, but it's all backed up by the bible." It's all scriptural principles; I just don't necessarily put 100 scriptures before I start to try to prove it.
You get criticized a lot for your relentless positivitywhy?
I think maybe it's because it's not old school. People are used to being beaten down, they're used to [churches] condemning people to make them feel bad so that they'll repent, so they'll know that they're sinners, but I think there's a different approach. The scripture says that it's the goodness of God that leads people to repent, so I take the approach that I'm going to say, "you know what, God is not mad at you; he's already sent his son; the price has been paid, if you'll just accept it.' Maybe some people think I'm not hard enough on 'em, but yet I talk about hard issues, I just do it in a positive way; I do it in a way that says, "Hey, you can overcomeit doesn't matter where you've been or what you've done."