- Jesus For Sale: Meet the real Rex Humbard, the father of televised religious fraud by Denise Grollmus, Scene Magazine, Oct. 31, 2007
Though no one can argue the influence Humbard had on the world, his life can be reduced to little more than that of a business-savvy preacher, a man who elevated old-school religious fraud to shamelessly profitable heights, pioneering televangelism as a way to separate his flock from its money. […]
Thanks to mass mailings of deceptively personalized letters begging for financial assistance, he could now access money en masse, promising contributors miracles in exchange for checks. In just months, he was able to pay off every last one of his Cathedral bonds. “It’s a gimmick beyond gimmicks,” says Ole Anthony.
Despite his legal troubles, Humbard’s ministry continued to grow at an astounding pace. By the mid-1970s, he could be seen on more than 500 stations worldwide. He spent less and less time in Akron, focusing his attention on newer and more desperate audiences in places like Brazil and Korea.
His Akron headquarters became little more than a headquarters for direct-mail solicitation, thanks to the Reverend Gene Ewing.
Like Humbard, Ewing had gotten his start on the revival circuit. But unlike Humbard, he preferred to remain behind the scenes.
In the late 1960s, Ewing helped Oral Roberts save his financially troubled ministry through a letter-writing campaign. Whenever Roberts received a letter from a follower, Ewing suggested that he ask for payment in exchange for his prayers. It would be an investment in better things to come, Roberts assured his supporters.
Within a year, Roberts’ income doubled to $12 million. Roberts returned Ewing’s favor with a handsome cut. “We call him God’s ghostwriter,” Anthony says. “He’s this hillbilly with a seventh-grade education who can write these sort of down-homey letters and then earn these preachers millions.”
Humbard also decided to enlist Ewing. The letters would begin the same way. “Sister (insert name), I’m facing a financial lion,” they said. “Bills . . . are trying to devour this ministry. I now need a miracle for deliverance, but I don’t have the money to pay those bills.”
Letters were often accompanied by gold coins, prayer rugs, or “anointing oil” that was often just Mazola. Humbard would urge the recipient to make a cross with the oil on any cash they had handy and send the largest bill to him. In return, Humbard promised that they would be rewarded tenfold for their “seed offering.”
“It will be a sacrifice,” the letters read. “But remember, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessing.”
By 1977, his supporters were sending in an average of $1.2 million a month.
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