Truth Deniers: The Fundamentalist Idolatry of Preachers

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I mentioned yesterday things have been quite busy and unsettled around here so I won’t be writing a lot today. That being said, I want to mention a comment that a fundamentalist Christian come to my Facebook page and send me a direct message excoriating me for a very considered article that I wrote about the death of the Reverend David Wilkerson a number of years ago after he drove his car into an oncoming truck.

It was a difficult article to write. As someone who admired David Wilkerson yet did not idolize him I took the time to read his blog posts, and then obtain the State Police accident reports, accident photos, and autopsy results. My conclusion based on the evidence, and my experience doing accident investigation when I was in the Army was that Wilkerson had to have intentionally driven into the oncoming truck. The police reports, the photos, and his own words all pointed to it. Honesty, I would have preferred to have discovered that the car had a mechanical issue, or that he had a medical event that caused him to veer into the oncoming truck, but the evidence did not show that. Instead, it showed that on a clear day, on a strait road, that he drove directly into an oncoming tractor-trailer rig, ending his life and fatally injuring his terminally ill wife.

Over the years I have had quite a few Evangelical Christians come to this site as well as my Facebook page to attack me, condemn me to Hell, and do everything but to dispassionately examine the evidence and come to a conclusion. The problem is that I took down the idol that they made of a good man, a man who did many good things, but who also had feet of clay, who like his wife was suffering from serious medical issues, and who had recently suffered the betrayal of the people that he had helped to promote to senior leadership at Times Square Church, people who would have not reached their positions without his help and assistance.

The problem is that David was a fundamentalist, and he had written a small polemic book about suicide being an unforgivable sin. I have the book, I read it before I wrote the article. Personally I don’t think that God will condemn to Hell a suffering person who makes a tragic choice such as suicide. There were many things that I admired David for and others that I disagreed with him, suicide was one of them.

Yesterday I got a personal message from another of his idolators who blasted me every which way but loose. Instead of responding like I have done in the past I realized that no words of mine would change this person’s opinion, so I simply deleted it without comment. To me it is no longer worth debating people who refuse to even entertain  possibilities that are at odds with their beliefs about the men they turn into idols.

That is a problem for many Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. I have seen too many deny and defends the real crimes of preachers who they have turned into idols. I saw it when I worked for a very well known Fundamentalist televangelist when I was in seminary in the late 1980s and early 1990s and throughout my ministry since then. It doesn’t matter what they do: defraud their followers, be caught in horrendous marital infidelity, abuse of children, and even murder, their followers will defend them to their dying day and then condemn anyone who dares point out inconvenient truths. Pardon me, but that is not Christian, it is idolatry.

To his credit, David Wilkerson did not defraud his flock, he did not cheat on his wife, he did not abuse children, or murder anyone. He appears to have been caught in the terrible throws of depression, hopelessness, and succumbed to the impulse to end his life. There are many people who have also contacted me over the years to share the good things about David and ministry, as well as how he touched their lives who also empathized with the suffering that led him to take his life. I think that demonstrates an appropriate response to the tragic death of someone who did many good things.

Anyway. That’s more than I intended to write and I had no idea how much something that happened almost seven years ago still inspires people to hate and condemn those who however reluctantly destroy their idolatrous image of good but flawed and suffering people. However, I continue to learn that as Lord Dumbledore said: “The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

It is, and some people cannot handle it.

Have a great Saturday.


Padre Steve+



Filed under faith, leadership, ministry, Pastoral Care, suicide

6 responses to “Truth Deniers: The Fundamentalist Idolatry of Preachers

  1. Ellie

    He died of hypocrisy, ‘fatally injuring his terminally ill, wife’
    That is indeed a miracle, and you don’t know his life. Who are you to judge him for methodology?

    • padresteve

      You are a terribly disturbed individual to twist that article in this manner. Future comments from you will be blocked.

  2. Heather

    I sincerely respect your opinion of Mr Wilkerson s death. ESPECIALLY with your experience as an investigator. I personally have enjoyed his teachings available online for a while and never even knew how he died until I found your article from 2011 last nite. As a faithful and loyal servant to our Lord Jesus Christ, who carries my cross daily and earnestly contends for the,faith against a worls full of sleep walking “dead people” living life like there is absolutely nothing “OFF” IN today”s,society. I did find it interesting that one of my other favorite teachers in the last 50 years, Dr Walter Martin died “rather unexpectedly” from a feast attack just 30 days after his interview on TBN where he criticized the church system and ‘named name’s ‘ on Broadcast television. He was really gathering a following and putting a dent in the pockets of powerful men. Mr Wilkerson had also stepped up his,criticism of “the,church” leaders all over America. Not just the famous ones, but leaders of small churches all across the country,. His following by “the common folk” all over the world was gaining steam, especially in the age of Technology where people CAN find TRUTH IF they deligently search for it. In the past 7 years, since his,death, there have been may “car accidents” of famous,people,whose knowledge was becoming a thorn in the side of very Powerful People. I mean toward the idea of a,sabotage of,his car right now..but have an open mind.,

  3. Karen Kinsch

    Dear Padre Steve,
    I just found your site while looking for opinions about the absence of empathy that appears to be prevalent among Christian fundamentalists. Consequently, I also ran into your articles about David Wilkerson. What a refreshing read you are! Yes. There is no point debating those who do not want truth. I am a Catholic, however, and I see idolatry as taught and practiced most toward the priests. The evil of Catholic “clericalism” is the very root of the current scandal in that area of Christianity.

    • padresteve

      Thank you for your kind words. You are right about how many Catholics treat their priests, but the same is true in many of the Evangelical mega-churches where people form personality cults around their pastors. While not Catholic it is part of the same disease. Again, thank you for your comments and have a wonderful and blessed weekend!

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