American Religious Shysters

You may have heard the names and adventures of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Rutherford , Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith etc. etc.

You can add famous dispensationalist Bible ‘scholar’ C.I. Scofield to the list of religious renegades and ne-er do wells. In a long line of American religious entrepreneurs, Scofield had a reputation as a fraud and shyster. You can read it here.

The amazing thing is how some of these shysters eventually get a following. They were either totally looped or else frauds and snake oil salesmen the lot of them. Think Jim and Tammy Baaker if you like.

But look how successful the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been, (not to mention the Mormons). The American Evangelicals who promote wacky dispensationalist Biblical interpretation are in the same boat with the rest of them I reckon.

No wonder Europeans look askance at the religious life of America and conclude that the lot of us are dangerous lunatics.

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  • Hey, it’s not only the Europeans who find think that you Americans are loonies. We Asians do too, especially when we have an influx of JW’s invading our neighbourhoods every Saturday and Mormons cycling about in white shirts and black pants in the tropical heat.

  • Hey Fr go easy on the language! us English might find your description a little like ‘swearing’ although understandable! lol

  • Father, I know you added a few etc etc to your list but might I place in the front line the terrible Ellen White “prophetess” of the Seventh Day Adventists. She was a doozie.Ironically, my own grandmother was named Ellen White and a more committed, dedicated, prayerful loyal Catholic you would go a long way to find. Up to the day of her death she attended daily Mass and prayed 15 decades of the Rosary.She was very different kettle of fish to her name sake.

  • You left out the Millerites. But, then again, the list is endless. Thanks, I needed a laugh this morning, even a sardonic one.

  • This is very unworthy.

  • Jess

    It’s not the cults that make Europeans think Americans are odd, it’s that so much of America actually is Christian (and much of that is Protestant “Bible Christians”). They (liberal/socialistic Europe) can’t stand that many of us actually take Christianity seriously. It’s not about Europeans vs. Americans (I love Europe, personally), or Protestants vs. Catholics, but about the postmodern hatred of Christianity. Mark Steyn’s book America Alone is an eye-opening look at this, but there are lots on this theme.

  • That’s right Jess, and by ‘Bible Christians’ I’m afraid they think ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’, Jim Jones in Guyana, Jim and Tammy Faye, Jimmy Swaggart etc etc etc.They don’t make the fine distinctions we do. They see the bad stuff and think all Bible totin’ Christians are just as weird, have just as off the wall views of the world as the extremist sects.I’m not justifying their view, just explaining how it is.But then there’s a lot of this about Catholicism too. We’re all perceived as sex mad, repressed, corrupt sickos.

  • DGus, what was unworthy–the facts about Scofield’s life or publicizing them?

  • Q

    I think it would be just as easy to find some unsavoury facts about certain prominent Catholics from the past and publish those. Perhaps that would be unworthy?

  • Publish unsavory fact about Catholics in the past? That’s not unworthy at all. In both cases we must make a distinction between religious hypocrisy (which exists everywhere) and the sort of religious life which is a total sham–both in teachings and behavior.Being an orthodox Catholic who doesn’t live up to his creed is one thing. Being a sham, a religious conman, a shyster and a fraud through and through is another matter.Both types exist with Protestantism and Catholicism. I think its fair to discuss the facts in both cases, but let’s discuss facts and not just heresay or bigotry

  • Gee, you mean the truth will set you free?or perhaps There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.Seems to me this is not a Catholic/Protestant thing, but a fact that people prefer their bad deeds to remain hidden, and authority almost universally will want to cover up their bad deeds under cover of “preventing scandal.” We Catholics have recently learned this yet again (or perhaps more accurately, we hope).