“But that’s up from 2 per cent 15 years ago,” he says, “and that’s because legitimate ministries just won’t stand up and call names.” Leonard is a lonely voice of opposition, and the winds are not blowing his way.In 2011, Senator Chuck Grassley, an evangelist himself, concluded a three-year investigation into the financial propriety of six prominent prosperity preachers.Rusty Leonard at Ministry Watch – a watchdog for the charitable arms of American churches – describes prosperity preachers as “stupid, embarrassing and not a reflection of the big picture at all”.
He’s wearing a black leather trench coat, dark glasses and a black wide-brimmed hat. Thieves hit you when you’re not looking but I’d jack you to your face.But only an outsider would see this as a zero-sum game, with the parishioners enriching the bishop at the expense of themselves – within prosperity circles, the perspective is quite different.“For Bishop Gibson, the heavens are always open,” says Bowler.To revere and enrich these men is one thing, but to then expect them to practice what they preach is, in her words, “unfair”. An African-American mother of two in her forties, she was raised in Hollywood, where she has continued her father’s ministry following his death.She quickly noticed the pressures of the preacher lifestyle and was determined to do something about it.Then there’s Dietrich Haddon, a gospel singer with a divorce behind him who also had a pregnancy scandal in season one – he’d got his girlfriend in the family way before they were engaged. “I wanted to humanise these men,” says the show’s creator and producer Holly Carter.But then a former mistress released some selfies he’d sent her – nude selfies at that. “To show that they’re not perfect, they struggle too.” At a first look, one might mistake the show for an elaborate takedown of the preachers concerned, an exposé of their hypocrisy. She wants to endear these men of God to the rest of us, both the secular audience, and their own parishioners.“Someone needed to speak up for these men,” she says, earnestly. “Exactly.” Business is booming in the prosperity gospel sector.With the US ranked fourth for income inequality (behind Russia, Ukraine and Lebanon), and with one in six Americans facing “food insecurity”, congregations are more desperate for hope than ever.Maybe some jewellery.” It’s high time the Prosperity Gospel got its own reality show.If the Amish, polygamists and ice-road truckers merit the reality treatment, why not the for-profit pastor, as American an archetype as a Texas cowboy?