Marcus Lamb’s death from covid last week has caused me to revise my impression of the man. It seemed to be the first authentic thing he’d ever done.
Lamb was a televangelist and a “prosperity gospel” preacher. The prosperity gospel is not a ministry, it’s a grift. Some think of it as a branch of Christian religion that includes more than its share of predatory Gantry-esque hucksters, but that’s not quite right. The truth is that it’s an arena of predatory Gantry-ism that sometimes, but very rarely, also includes some tiny outposts of religious sincerity. Mostly it’s just a scam.
Ask any “prosperity gospel” preacher to choose between their personal prosperity and the gospel and 99% of the time they’ll choose prosperity without hesitating. That’s not hypothetical speculation. Nearly all of them have already made that choice, publicly and enthusiastically and daily.
Prosperity gospel preachers should be presumed guilty unless proven innocent. We should always give them the doubt of their benefit.
The same thing could be said for white Christian nationalists, nearly all of whom would choose — and have chosen — white nationalism over Christianity. And Marcus Lamb was also a white Christian nationalist preacher.
Marcus Lamb wasn’t a member of the prosperity gospel A-list. His name wasn’t one of the first ones that would occur to you if you’d been asked to name the most famous and infamous charlatans of TeeVee Christianity. But many of those more famous names maintained their prosperity by broadcasting on Lamb’s Daystar television network, which hosts and promotes a rogue’s gallery of A-listers like Joel Osteen, Paula White, Kenneth Copeland, and Creflo Dollar. Reading the listings for Daystar’s daily schedule is like reading the reports from Sen. Chuck Grassley’s early 2000’s investigation into televangelist corruption.
Marcus Lamb also had his own TV show on Daystar, of course, where he and his wife Joni offered their own personal version of the prosperity gospel mixed in with a “prophetic” message of white Christian nationalism. The Lambs made a tidy fortune just from that program, but their real money came from getting a percentage of the take from all those other TV preachers who purchased broadcast time through Daystar.
Lamb launched his network in Dallas in 1997. His affair began in 2002, with a woman who worked in Daystar’s HR department before Lamb created a highly paid no-show “consulting” position for her that set her up with her own place. That blew up in 2010, when other Daystar employees who’d been tasked with cooking the books to help cover up the affair threatened a lawsuit, at which point Marcus went on TV, dragging his wife with him. He confessed to a misleadingly minor version of the affair, and claimed he was the victim of an extortion plot.
Lamb even put his marriage therapist on TV, a “Christian counselor”* who described the affair as the result of “a direct attack from the devil” and told viewers that he had urged the Lambs to keep the whole business secret because “he feared they would not overcome their troubles if they had to do so in public.”
Lots of money and lawyers made that whole business go away, mostly, which was also how Lamb and Daystar handled the accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault levied against Lamb’s father-in-law who, like many members of the extended family, had a high-paying job at Daystar.
The Lambs also had their share of financial scandals, such as when Daystar purchased a private jet which they used for personal vacations just after the company received $3.9 million in PPP pandemic-relief loans. Daystar eventually paid back those loans — after intense media pressure brought by local news and Inside Edition reports.
Like most prosperity-gospel preachers and white Christian nationalists, Marcus Lamb was also an early and enthusiastic support of Donald Trump. And his unquestioning loyalty to the former guy never wavered — not after the Access Hollywood tapes, or the Stormy Daniels affair, or Charlottesville, or child-separation, or two impeachments. Lamb’s lockstep Trumpism carried him into spreading the Big Lie and wild conspiracy theories about vaccines and horse-dewormer, the whole shebang. Like Zedekiah in 2 Kings 22, he understood the assignment and the requirements of his chosen vocation, and he put on the iron horns and danced around as required.
This was good business for Marcus Lamb and for Daystar, because if your business model is based on convincing frightened white Christians to send you money, then Trump’s base of loyal supporters constitutes the Glengarry leads.
So up until a few weeks ago, everything we had ever seen involving Marcus Lamb seemed fake. His profession, his professional associations, his private jet, his personal scandals, his perverse theology, and his predatory politics all seemed to indicate that everything about the man was as phony as his dye-job and his uncannily unwrinkled brow. He was a man who never seemed to say what he really believed and who never seemed to really believe what he said.
Thus when he contracted covid, I assumed that it was a breakthrough case that would prove relatively mild thanks to the vaccinations I was sure he’d received. And if his case proved more serious, I assumed he would use his enormous personal wealth to secure the best medical care money could buy, turning to legitimate doctors offering legitimate treatments.
But no. After decades of selling phoniness and demonstrating phoniness it seems poor Marcus Lamb began believing his own con. He’d started “becoming a shut-eye.” He wasn’t just selling anti-vaxx nuttery and Ivermectin quackery to the rubes he’d made his fortune swindling, he was buying that same nonsense himself.
And so, on November 30, 2021, at the age of 64, a dishonest man came to a strangely honest end. He finally found out on that day he went to hide in an inner chamber. It may have been the one non-phony thing he ever did.
I’m not saying any of this out of schadenfreude, delighting in speaking ill of the dead. It’s about speaking honestly of the dead. We’re obliged to do that — especially at this time of year.
* The counselor, Fred Kendall, runs “the Life Languages Institute, which specializes in training communicators.” Do you understand what any of that means? Because I have a feeling that this description of Kendall’s services is meant to obscure the specific nature of the services his institute provides, which seems to have less to do with marriage counseling than with public image therapy.
Kendall also told Daystar viewers that Marcus Lamb “had one inappropriate period of misbehavior,” neglecting to mention that this “one inappropriate period” lasted at least seven years. And Kendall insisted that the affair was “with one person and it wasn’t a man. It wasn’t a transvestite. It was with a woman; a Christian woman.” That statement reads like a paraphrase of Mike Ginn’s classic Twitter joke: “My ‘Not involved in human trafficking’ T-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt.”