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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform