Rev Ike: Preacher who worshipped wealth

In many American evangelical churches, prosperity is seen as a sign of God’s blessing, and the display of material wealth by church leaders a reflection of that blessing; the pure essence of what Max Weber defined as “the Protestant ethic and spirit of capitalism”. Few evangelists appealed more directly for that blessing, or flaunted worldly success more flamboyantly, than the Reverend Ike, who has died aged 74. And none encouraged their congregations more enthusiastically to do the same, to “close your eyes and see green!”

Proselytising combined with a relentless appeal for funds has always been a staple of evangelicism, but Rev Ike’s message of fiscal empowerment was unique. If St Paul believed that money was the root of all evil, then Ike rewrote Paul, telling his followers that evil grew from lack of money, and that they, with his guidance, could use faith to get rich.

His preaching was equally distinctive, blending the traditional gospel style of black churches, with their emphasis on preparing for the next life, with a practical exhortation far closer to mainstream white churches, in particular the “Power of Positive Thinking” preached by Norman Vincent Peale. With the stage presence of a James Brown, and brilliant comic timing, his blend worked phenomenally well; at his peak, in the early 1970s, Ike’s success was arguably second only to Billy Graham’s in America.

By then he was preaching to a congregation of some 5,000 at his “Palace Cathedral”, formerly the showcase Loews Cinema on 175th street in New York’s Washington Heights, and reaching some 2.5 million others weekly on syndicated television and a network of 1,770 radio stations. His Christ Community United Church offered Ike’s “Science of Living: Prosperity Now!” through “positive self-image psychology” and “Thinkonomics”. He preached making your mind a “money magnet”, stressing that “everything you feel you’re not worthy of, you can’t have”.

His sartorial sense reflected the “Superfly” excess of the era, complemented by gaudy rings and glittering jewellery; he was living proof that his theology brought results. In another tradition of American evangelicals, he was often accused of fraud, yet though investigated repeatedly, he was never even prosecuted.

Frederick Joseph Eikerenkoetter II was born on 1 June 1935 in Ridgeland, South Carolina, where his father, of Dutch-Indonesian extraction, was a Baptist preacher, and his mother, a black American, taught at school. By the time he was 14 he was preaching in his father’s church, but after being captivated by a Pentecostal revival, he became the primary preacher for the local Pentecostals, meeting on Sundays in a juke joint.

In 1956 he graduated as valedictorian of his class at the Pentecostal American Bible College in Chicago, and served two years as a US Air Force chaplain, but in 1959 he was excommunicated, possibly for referring to “Lord Buddha” in his thesis. He set up his own church in Ridgeland, still preaching standard Pentecostal doctrine, and in 1962 married Eula May Dent. He moved to Boston in 1964, where he began faithhealing at his “Miracle Temple”. “It’s a wonder I didn’t kill anybody,” he said later in a remarkably frank interview with Clayton Riley.

In 1966 he bought a derelict theatre in Harlem, where he was billed as “Rev Ike”, and began preaching the message that “God wants you to be rich, now!”

He devised the “Blessing Plan”, soliciting contributions which would be “returned with interest”.

Ike raised $600,000 to buy the Loews Cinema in a more middle-class part of Manhattan. The beauty of Ike’s mission was that his theology demanded that he flaunt his wealth; when questioned about his fleet of luxury cars he laughed, “my garages runneth over”.

Ike discouraged small contributions by saying that God “loved the whisper of banknotes”; the sound of coins clinking made him “nervous in the service”.

As his appeal on television faded in the 1990s, Ike turned more to direct mail, sending strands of prayer clothes and asking for donations in return, and continued turning a profit. He maintained mansions on both coasts, and after a stroke in 2007 moved permanently to Los Angeles. He never fully recovered from the stroke, and died in hospital on 28 July. He is survived by his wife, and his son, Bishop Frederick Eikerenkoetter III, who assumes leadership of his mission. Announcing his death, his website said that in lieu of flowers, Rev Ike would ask for “tributes and/or offerings”.

Michael Carlson

Frederick Joseph Eikerenkoetter II (Rev Ike), preacher: born Ridgeland, South Carolina 1 June 1935; married 1962 Eula May Dent (one son); died Los Angeles, California 28 July 2009.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering