Bethel and the “Selfish” Poor

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Can you imagine a so-called “man of God” asserting that poor people are more selfish than rich people, and that “many stay poor” because they don’t give away enough of their money? That’s exactly what Bethel’s second-in-command Kris Vallotton said in a January 4th post on his Facebook page.

He goes on to claim that the wealthy actually help the poor to a greater extent than we realize, because they do their giving “in secret” to avoid having “an endless line of leaches sucking the life out of them”.

He also implies that he and his ilk are being unfairly characterized as prosperity gospel preachers and “relegated to the halls of heresy” simply because they’ve been heavily rewarded by Jesus for their “generosity”.

This must be some of the “secret” generosity Vallotton referred to, since he stated in another recent post that he won’t help anyone out financially, in so many words.

He then complains that people with nice cars and homes (like himself?) are being “lynched” by those who feel “entitled”, and implies that anyone who prays to God for help in paying their bills etc. is being hypocritial in begrudging him his wealth.

Of course this completely overlooks the fact that Bethel leaders urge their congregants to donate extravagantly to the church before paying their bills etc., because God can supposedly be called on to bail them out when they fall short of being able to meet their basic needs.

He also implies that he is somehow more godly than other people, whose prayers are not answered.

Below is the bulk of his post:

“There are many more generous billionaires than there are selfish ones but most of them give in secret or they would have an endless line of leaches sucking the life out of them.

Giving in secret is only popular in heaven. On earth if you are wealthy you must publicize your endeavors or risk being lynched by the entitled. If you have a nice car and/or house you will judged as selfish without so much as a conversation about your generosity.

If you post anything about wealth it generates ridiculous amounts of push back about the evils of money. Yet those same people often don’t think twice about praying for God to pay off their bills, get them a job that pays more, or help them buy a house. It’s such a double standard that it makes me crazy.

The truth is I grew up among the poor and I can tell you that there are more selfish people among the poor then there is among the rich. In fact many become wealthy because they are generous and many others stay poor because they are not.

Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you, press down shaken together and running all over.” But if are generous and Jesus gives you so much it is running out all over, you better hide it or you be branded a prosperity teacher and relegated to the halls of heresy!”

The multiple exhortations of Jesus to his followers to give away everything they own and serve the poor are notably missing from this church’s doctrine. I’m aware that Vallotton and Bethel CEO Bill Johnson consider themselves “prophets” and “apostles” with a direct line to God, and that Johnson claims the Bible is “not enough”. However, how could anyone go this far astray?

Patrecia Barrett
Green Valley, Arizona

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46 Responses

  1. Avatar Steve says:

    Combine American style capitalism with American style religion (Christianity) and this can be the result. Not surprised at all really. Just sad to realized(again) that there are so many sheeple out there citizens of these United States.

  2. Avatar Rob says:

    Thank you Patrecia, interesting read and it got my brain cells working. I don’t understand the logic behind “the poor need to give more to become rich”. Maybe I’m not supposed to, although the Bethel Church leadership is sounding more and like Joel Osteen’s prosperity (for me) ministry.
    The jury in my grey matter is still deliberating.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Thank you Rob. The “give more” statement simply means pouring more money into church coffers (and by extension into the bank accounts of well-heeled church leaders).

      Bethel’s doctrine does indeed bear a striking resemblance to that of Joel Osteen, since they are both flaming examples of prosperity gospel churches. Bethel leaders basically promise their congregants that God will reward them with wealth of their own if they donate extravagantly enough to the church, and strongly imply that divine punishment with be forthcoming if they don’t.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        *will* be forthcoming….

      • Avatar Rob says:

        Patrecia, I understand what you are saying, but i’m a follower of speaking directly and not obfuscating. (Well, except in the case of well-applied sarcasm.)
        What I don’t understand is how “the chosen few” can twist and turn words and logic to a bizarre outcome when there’s little matchup to reality.
        Conclusion: I think we’re on the same page.

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

          Rob – I have a lot of trouble myself understanding how anyone can buy into this obvious scam. Generally the only people who are getting wealthy are church leaders. Anyone else who becomes well off financially most likely accomplishes that in spite of donating to the church, rather than because of it.

          Bethel leaders a fond of claiming that any money their followers can beg from family members or on GoFundMe pages (heavily used by cult followers) to avert a financial crisis is a “miracle from God”. It’s hard to imagine anyone being that gullible.

          • Avatar Randy says:

            Keeping the ‘scam’ going requires lots of smoke and mirrors shining fake images and misinformation from a variety of vantage points and obscure messages. Fox Entertainment, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, KRCR and our own elected officials all play their parts to keep the scam rolling.

  3. Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

    It’s the same old prosperity “faith” bollocks, seasoned with xristo-dominionism. It’s worked other places, enriched countless of the undeserving, and proved over and over that H. L. Mencken may be the pithiest of commentators on the American scene, living or dead.

  4. Avatar Patrick says:

    Great write up Patricia. Bill Johnson actually posted a video where he says, “”tithe your money to Bethel first and God will take care of your bills”.. lol Tell that to REU or the bank when no payment arrives from God.. but Bill Johnson told me so.. Yeah, gullible people actually believe that BS from their multi millionaire leader. Geesh!

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Thank you Patrick.

      According to an article published in A News Café, local Bethel attendees actually give Bethel $21 Million of their hard-earned money every year (which is just part of Bethel’s total $60.8 Million annual take). Aside from the fact that many of those attendees are not well off and may need that money to survive, imagine how much that vast amount could accomplish if it was instead applied to help alleviate local poverty, homelessness, and all the other needs that plague the North State.

      And when Bethel followers run into a financial crisis because they’ve given too much of their money to the church, they can expect no help to speak of from Bethel. Per its website Bethel “helps” just a few of its followers with what is mainly prayer over the phone, for which they have to wait “several weeks”.

  5. Avatar Ruben says:

    I’m speechless…..You can’t have to masters…There’s Me and there’s money…The Lord says you either choose me or the other….I choose to put my Faith in the Lord….as far as money is concern…..God provides me with just sufficient money to provide for my family….and No one else….

  6. Avatar Valerie Anderson says:

    Utter crap this: “The truth is I grew up among the poor and I can tell you that there are more selfish people among the poor then there is among the rich. In fact many become wealthy because they are generous and many others stay poor because they are not.”

    Studies consistently demonstrate the poor are more generous, whereas the Panama Papers and the Tax Cuts and Jobs act manifest the greed and hoarding of the wealthy.

    “Many others stay poor” not because of their lack of generosity but because of the lack of our government ‘promoting the common good.’ The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation for fifty years and counting, and housing prices – falsely inflated during the mortgage crash – means many are using more income just for a roof over their head.

  7. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    Gee…we went almost the entire month without a Bethel hating article.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Doug Cook,

      As always I used the very words of Bethel leaders, which isn’t “hate” (except on their part). I’m simply relaying provable facts.

    • Avatar George Koen says:

      There is no hate in this article. If it’s there, please point it out as I must have missed it.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      This is not another hate Bethel article but another Bethel information article. By the way did that fundraiser raise the dead baby from the morgue, the only thing I heard further on that was that Bethel took so much national heat over that that they hired the same promoter that defended Lindsay Lohan.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Although Bethel obviously didn’t raise anyone from the dead, it DID manage to raise $76,000.00 through a GoFundMe page. This money is supposedly for the family’s “living expenses”. However, I believe both parents are employed by Bethel, so that shouldn’t even be an issue.

        Of course Bethel leaders pressure their congregants to donate a generous portion of any income received to the “church” – including money received as gifts – so some notable chunk of this $76,000.00 will undoubtedly make its way into Bethel coffers.

        https://www.gofundme.com/f/heilifund

        • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

          Patricia, I was going to look up that gofundme again, I saw it when it was at $50,000 and glad you posted it. Everyone should click the link and read the comments of people who have actually donated. They expect Olive to be resurrected, not in heaven, but here on Earth, wakeupOlive is their call. And these donors come from all over the world

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            The ultimate goal of the GoFundMe account was $100,000.00, which it wasn’t far from reaching. Apparently raising the dead comes with quite a high price tag (as is true of everything associated with Bethel). I’d like to see an accounting of where this money goes. If Bethel benefits in any way, its leaders should be investigated for fraud.

  8. Avatar Elaine says:

    I went to Bethel for 6 years. They taught me alot. Wonderful people. Awsome classes. The presence of God is so strong in that santuary. My sister and I did alot for the homeless. Lots. It was an amazing experience. By giving of ourselves, our families were also being blessed! Its amazing how giving blesses. These are amazing leaders there. Had to stop going because I am no longer able to drive there. Miss it

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Elaine,

      Please do some independent research into Bethel’s “7 Mountains Dominionism”. Regardless of what you may wish or imagine, the ultimate goal of Bethel leaders (along with their national cohorts) is to turn our govenment – and society in general – into their version of a theocracy, complete with brutal Old Testament laws that will replace our Constitution.

      And if you think that’s an exaggeration, kindly check out the short video in the link below. The narrator is Lance Wallnau, who has co-authored several books with Bethel leader Bill Johnson on world religious domination. Wallnau talks about “sneaking” into positions of power, and engaging in other “stealth” activities to achieve that goal. The list below the video is informative as to what our society will look like under their rule.

      https://thechurchoftruth.org/plan-for-christian-domination/

    • Avatar Lisa says:

      I love your post! I have never met anyone from Bethel that wasn’t nice!

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Anyone who supports the religious take-over of Redding can’t be particularly “nice”. At the very least they are guilty of harboring an extreme sense of entitlement, and a belief in their own superior ability to make major life decisions for the rest of us.

        I also used to see Bethel adherents as victims – until I started reading the hundreds of rabidly sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic etc. comments under the posts on Bethel leader’s social media pages. These people don’t want the truth, because the truth doesn’t support their prejudices.

        • I hear where you’re coming from, Patrecia, and appreciate the research and time you’ve invested in the topic of Bethel, but I implore people to please remember to not paint all Bethel members with the same brush. I truly believe many people who come to Bethel do so on their quest for spiritual enlightenment and connection. We know from our reporting on Bethel over the years that there are LGBTQ members there, too. I think many DO want the truth, and perhaps may feel conflicted about what they hear from the Bethel pulpit; messages like the one you share here from KV and his views on poor people.

          I’d like to think that here at ANC we are intellectually finessed enough to use that cafeteria-tray method of thinking and understand that there may be all kinds of people – good people, nice people, earnest people, deeply spiritual people – on the same Bethel tray as racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic people.

          OK. I’m done. Carry on.

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Doni,

            Point taken. I guess I’ve just spent so many years researching Bethel that I feel everyone should understand what Bethel is at its core. I’m also heavily involved in other separation of church and state issues (fanatically so) to the point that I consider anyone who doesn’t share those concerns the enemy. I’ll try harder not to generalize people in the future.

          • Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

            Late returning to this thread. I’m trying to follow the advice you lay out here, Doni. I am not religious in any sense, but I’ve lived in Redding for almost 35 years and long ago reconciled myself with its “religiosity,” having run across folks both personally and professionally who want to and do perform acts of selflessness for others, generally driven by their sense of humanity derived through their various forms of faith. My problem is with Bethel leadership, whom I believe to be “grifters till proven not.” I’m not at all happy with how its leadership has encouraged the housing crisis here to be benefit of those who may be here in good faith. There are some Bethel families I’ve met living in rentals on my street. They appear responsible stewards of the homes they inhabit. We all conduct ourselves in a neighborly manner, and their beliefs and affiliation enter into daily interactions no more than they would with neighbors who attend other Big Box faith operations in town. That said, the “dorm-ization” of single-family residential structures–which hasn’t hit this neighborhood, though I know it’s coming–I lay at the feet of Bethel leadership.

            The misogynist and anti-LGBTQ posture of Bethel leadership is nauseating. If or when I run across a neighbor or someone else in town holding forth similarly, I will judge accordingly. Seven Mountains mandate proselytizers get the same verdict.

  9. Avatar George Koen says:

    There is much wrong with what Kris stated on so many levels.

    Jesus did not own a home.
    He rode into Jerusalem on a rented/borrowed donkey.
    He literally died with his only shirt on his back.
    He had more hopeful words for the poor than those who were selfishly wealthy.

    For those who read and follow the Bible, here are a few pertinent verses;
    Proverbs 19:17
    Luke 6:20-21
    Proverbs 21:13
    Mark 10:21
    (Trust me, there are many, many more).

    If we claim to follow Christ completely, then that is how we should also die.

    I was homeless for about five years and witnessed far more generosity amongst the poor than selfishness.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      This brings to mind an experience I had when conducting food drives for a food bank. I and two other elderly ladies (who looked like stereo-typical suburban grandmothers, and completely non-threatening) decided to go through a neighborhood of expensive homes. We reasoned that people with that kind of money would have a lot to give. We not only had absolutely no success in arranging donations, but we barely got out with our lives.

      One woman sent her large dog out to escort us to the sidewalk, snarling all the way. When I looked back she was standing in her yard doubled over with laughter. Another woman yelled “Tell them to get a job and work, like I did!” (even though I had just finished telling her that our clientelle were mainly low-income WORKING families). It was one thing after another along those lines.

      So next we decided to try a low-income blue-collar neighborhood, and the difference in the reception we got was staggering. Although they obviously didn’t have much, they couldn’t do enough to help.

      The “generous” wealthy and “selfish” poor my eye!

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        I personally don’t give money to anyone knocking on my door. I consider myself fairly generous in my charity giving, however…I make sure I do my due diligence in who I give my hard earned money to. Someone banging on my door to ask for money or food will be given a no thankyou, I will give to charity on my own terms.

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

          Doug Cook,

          People were given a very professional-looking leaflet with the name, address, and a brief history of the organization (and an invitation to come by and visit). They were asked to collect a bag (or bags) of food over the coming week, attach the leaflet to the bag, and set it near the curb the following Saturday morning, when someone would come by to pick it up. No one was “banging” on the door, and the residents were of course free not to answer the door to anyone they don’t know. However, too many people in that ritzy neighborhood went out of their way to be abusive.

        • Avatar Candace says:

          EW, people banging (politely asking) at my door for charitable donations for others in need. How insulting. Who do they think they are? They probably don’t have jobs or hard earned money like I do. I’ll show ‘em, I’ll be charitable on MY terms, not theirs. I’ll “shoot” the messengers because I know in my heart of hearts that charity is all about the giver and not the receiver. I’m good. It’s all good.

  10. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    Someone please remind me what Jesus said to the Pharisees… I forget +!+

  11. Avatar Jenny Hart Boren says:

    ” Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given to you, press down shaken together and running all over.” I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m pretty certain Jesus did NOT say this. Source please, Mr Valloton?

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      I suspect his “sources” are all the “new revelations” Bethel leaders claim to be privy to (a claim made by cult leaders the world over).

    • Avatar Karin says:

      Jesus did say that according to Luke 6:38

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Luke 6:38. If you read the entire chapter, the verses before and after are about how we shouldn’t jump to judging other people. In that context, the specific passage Valloton quotes is saying that if you give others the benefit of the doubt, it’ll come back to you. A few lines later is the more famous: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?”

      It’s hard to take the passage Valloton quotes and take it as being about enriching yourself. To do that, you have to take it entirely out of context. But as I said, Valotton is the Platonic ideal of a theological lightweight.

  12. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Every Christian church I’ve ever attended or known of: “Give us your tithe blah blah so that we may blah blah blah and God will reward blah blah blah blah…”

    It’s always a quid pro quo. Bethel may be different by degree—but not different in kind—from the vast majority of Christian churches.

    Still, I’d love to hear rube theologian/used car salesman Vallotton the Vociferous explain what Jesus meant by (I’m paraphrasing): “Give away all your shit and follow me.”

    I’m sure his just-so story would be hilariously tortured and entertaining.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Unfortunately there’s a great deal of difference in the “degree”. No other local church openly admits it plans to take over local government, business, education, etc. etc,, or is well on its way to doing exactly that. And as an incredibly wealthy mega-church with vast international backing, its power is nearly limitless.

      As to tithing – very few churches claim that the customary ten percent is not enough, or that how well or poorly its congregants do financially is directly tied to how much money they give the church.

      I’m afraid we’ll never get an answer to your question, though, since Kris V. immediately bounces people from his social media pages who seem to question or criticize, and doesn’t respond to any other form of communication unless it’s from one of his simpering sycophants.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Your first paragraph is neither here nor there regarding the topic of your essay. It’s an important subject, but tangential.

        The second paragraph reaffirms my point: Bethel’s gimme-gimme philosophy is hardly unique, though it’s more crass than the typical approach. Nor is the church’s prosperity theology unique—it’s actually pretty common, especially (it seems to me) in the South and the West, and mainly among conservatives.

        Christianity’s great promise: Believe, and you’ll be rewarded. Prosperity theology just taps into a not-uncommon sentiment: ” I don’t wanna wait…I want my reward NOW, and in the currency of material wealth.”

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

          Steve,

          It’s absolutely true that the prosperity gospel has a vast number of adherents among right-wing “Christians”, which is what makes Bethel so dangerous locally, and the entire movement dangerous nationally. We have a president who has appointed their representatives to head nearly every federal agency and commission, as well as a staggering number of like-minded federal judges. Their votes put him over the top, and he’s counting on that happening again.

          Also, I doubt most people know that Bethel higher-ups are now being invited to advisory meetings at the White House, and have had their pictures taken with Trump in the Oval Office. It would appear they’ve joined Trump’s inner circle of Dominionist advisors (which I suspect is why they’ve become so brazen lately in violating the Johnson Amendment).

          And actually the prosperity gospel IS unique in that it strays completely from any recognizable form of Christianity.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Patricia — I still don’t think there’s anything unique about prosperity gospel.

            Or maybe more property: There are things unique about each of the six main branches and thousands of denominations of Christianly—all separated by issues like the nature of Jesus, Trinitarianism, Nontrinitarianism, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, conciliarity, papal primacy, and hundreds of other trivialities.

            It’s one of the central ironies of Christianity: The Bible is “The Truth,” but there are tens of thousands of varying interpretations of what the truths writ in the Bible actually mean and instruct us to do.

            Furthering the irony, when conservative Christians detect any kind of disagreement among scientists they exclaim, “See! Science is bullshit! Those scientists can’t even agree on what’s a fact and what isn’t!” (Which reveals a deep ignorance of how science works: Scientific truth is incremental and always subject to revision. It’s not religion.)

  13. Avatar Rumadyet says:

    thank you, Doni another great piece.

  14. Avatar Chris Ponce says:

    This person’s views are utterly reprehensible.

  15. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Raise the Baby Fund…google Go Fund Me and ask them to investigate the original purpose of this scam outreach, they have rules. Julie Winter should be leading the effort to return the funds to those who gave to this outrageous scheme, she knows better. As far as Bethel folks being nice and have a great smile, beware ! One of their current “Let’s Make Us Look Good In the Community’ efforts is doing the Pay It Forward thing. Before I could pay for a milkshake at one of Redding’s earteries, a man whipped up to the cash register with his credit card saying here take this money, looking confused I couldn’t convince the employee to take my money, he then walked out the door, on the way out he and his group of six said, God Bless you….did I assume it was a Bethel action, yes, I later found out later that’s their new gig.