Sunday, June 17, 2012

Creflo Dollar and Accountability

Creflo Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church in College Park, GA, is a well-known preacher of the prosperity gospel and the author of several books, including Winning in Troubled Times and Total Life Prosperity: 14 Practical Steps To Receiving God's Full BlessingProsperity theology claims that God rewards believers with financial well-being, and some of its most popular proponents include Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, and Joel Olsteen. Recent allegations that Dollar subjected his daughter to physical abuse have thrust him into the media spotlight.

Reuters states that Creflo Dollar was arrested on Friday, June 8th and charged with child cruelty and battery. Dollar's 15 year-old daughter reported that he struck her and choked her during an argument, a claim that her 19 year-old sister corroborated. According to CBS News, Dollar admitted that he spanked his daughter and wrestled her to the floor, but claimed that it was after his daughter hit him. Dollar has since been released from jail on $5,000 bail.

A 911 call from the day of the incident provides details. According to a June 12th CNN article, Dollar's daughter called Fayette County 911 and told the dispatcher that her father punched her, threw her to the ground, and threatened to choke her. According to the 911 recording, she said that the incident occurred after an argument about attending a party, in which she cried and told Dollar that she didn't want to talk to him. She added that this was not the first time such an incident had occurred.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the Georgia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, weighed in on the incident. According to the article, Mosteller claimed that the incident had been exaggerated because it involved Dollar, and he Dollar had been exercising his responsibility as a parent.

Dollar insists that he did no wrong. During a World Changers Church church service on June 10th, Dollar told his congregation that he did not punch or choke his daughter, according to CNN. In a service video, Dollar was greeted with riotous applause from his congregation, and cries of "Thank you Jesus!" rang out from the audience as Dollar walked to the podium. Judging from their jubilant applause, many members of his congregation have taken his side.

At the 1:33 mark, Dollar assured listeners that all was well in his home, lamenting the "culture of disrespect" with which parents must contend.
"Raising children in our culture ... of disrespect is a challenge, and a responsibility for all of us who are parents. As a church family, I want you to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household."
At the 6:08 mark, Dollar asserted that "I should have never been arrested, never," and that "when the facts of this come out, you will be appalled." At the 3:02 mark, Dollar shared his version of events, insisting that he did not punch or choke his daughter.
"The truth is that a family conversation with our youngest daughter got emotional, and emotions got involved and things escalated from there. The truth is, she was not choked, she was not punched. There were not any scratches on her neck, but the only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema. Anything else is an exaggeration and sensationalism."
At the 4:23, he insisted that he loved his children and did not "put any fault" on them.
"I would never approach one of my children to intentionally inflict bodily harm. I love my children enough to establish proper boundaries and help them make right choices ... I will never put any fault on my children, as Jesus would never put any fault on me. I love her with all of my heart."
I scratched my head when Dollar insisted that he did not "put any fault" on his offspring, especially when  he alleged that the devil was behind this attempt to "discredit" him and the gospel and at the 6:39 mark.
"You've got to understand something. It's not as much against me as it is this message of grace. The devil knows in order to discredit the message you have to first of all discredit the messenger."
Dollar quoted Psalm 35:11-33, sharing passages such as "malicious witnesses testify against me" and "treacherous enemies ... plot against innocent people." For a man who just claimed that he did not "put any fault" on his children, he chose a rather accusatory Bible passage to quote. Chillingly, the man accused of wrestling his daughter to the floor ended his reading with the line, "Those who do evil are fallen. They are thrown down, never to rise again"

Even though Dollar admitted to spanking his 15 year-old daughter and wrestling her to the floor, he deflected any personal responsibility for the incident. In a moment of narcissism, he depicted himself a victim of the devil's malice, but failed to discuss whether spanking his daughter was responsible. He quoted scripture about "malicious witnesses" and "treacherous enemies," but failed to take real accountability for his role in what happened.
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Some commentators have mused on the connections between Dollar's theology and the assault accusations. For example, in a commentary at the Washington Post, Rahiel Tesfamariam speculates that the abuse allegations may spring from patriarchal and authoritarian church culture.
"There’s a fixation with orthodoxy and order in patriarchal cultures like the ones that shaped myself and Creflo Dollar that often breeds dogmatic thinkers. This is fertile ground for a parenting style that not only embraces corporal punishment as a necessary tool of discipline but views it as beneficial to the child. But there’s a difference between discipline and abuse, and that line can get very blurry when a parent believes that their authority justifies “loving acts of violence” against children in their care."
In a post entitled "7 Truths We Need to Tell About Creflo Dollar, Black Daughters and Violence", Crunktastic also made connections between authoritarian theology and violence against women and children.
"Our theology will kill us if we let it.  As the Bible thumpers love to remind us: “there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is destruction.” (Prov 14:12) Consider this my remix. Jesus already died, and I refuse to let the Black Church turn me into a martyr for its causes. I refuse to stand by while Black men (and women) use bad theology about headship and Black women and men use bad theology about “sparing the rod” to heap indignities on women and children in the name of God.  Our blind investment in patriarchy, and the kind of hierarchy it promotes in churches and families is not healthy for a people who continue to find themselves on the bottom of every social hierarchy that exists."
I think Tesfamariam and Crunktastic are on to something. What is the relationship between authoritarian theology steeped in hierarchy and obedience and men's mistreatment of women and children? As a society, we need to ask that question.

Hierarchy and obedience are recurring themes in Dollar's commentary. When I wandered around the World Changers Church website, I found several columns by Dollar that emphasized authority and obedience. For instance, "Obedience Controls Your Blessings" correlates God's favor with obedience and deference to church leaders. (See worldchangers[dot]org/monthly-ObedienceControlsYourBlessings.aspx)
"Resolve in your heart to love God enough to go to church and obey His Word even when you don’t want to. Love people enough to consider them during and after worship service. And love your leaders enough to honor their words. Your blessings are determined by your obedience!"
In "Understanding Spiritual Authority," Dollar emphasizes the importance of belonging to a church and submitting to its leaders. (See worldchangers[dot]org/monthly-UnderstandingSpiritualAuthority.aspx)
"There are people who believe it is unnecessary to submit to anyone in a position of church leadership, but it is God’s will for every Christian to be connected to a local church fellowship. He has assigned every born-again Believer to a particular church, headed up by a pastor after His own heart. Each person is to submit to his or her spiritual leader, as that leader follows Christ ... Where there is no true submission to God’s authority, the door is opened to rebellion (2 Thessalonians 2:10)."
Dollar clearly cherishes his pastoral authority and expects members of his flock to heed him, judging from these columns. Would it be any different in the Dollar home?

The Creflo Dollar incident should have us all reflecting on the problems created by authoritarian thinking, be it in the home or any other setting. Whatever the outcome of the Dollar case, this is an opportunity to ask what accountable parenthood looks like, and what we can do to prevent violence in the home. It is also an opportunity to discuss the dangers of authoritarian home life, the insidious influence of patriarchy, and the problems associated with corporal punishment.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Christian Agnostic: Creflo Dollar Denies Choking and Slapping Daughter…It was Only a Spanking?

The Daily Beast: Creflo Dollar’s Problematic Corporal-Punishment Defense

Essence: Do We Go Too Far Disciplining Our Kids?


  1. Talking about Dollar putting a spin on a story! I think the problem with parents being too authoritarian is that it prevents children from learning how to make responsible decisions on their own accord.

    1. Postmormon Girl -- Agreed. It teaches children to submit to force rather than reason out the best choices.

  2. Fabulous post and consideration of authoritarianism. There must be a better way and I think there is.

    1. Doug -- Thanks. I think there are better ways to guide children as well.

  3. Love how Dollar compares himself to Jesus. If he's allowed go unpunished or even unblamed for his behavior, I'm afraid he may end up getting away with murder at some point.

    1. Donna -- I thought comparing himself to Jesus was pretty narcissistic. I really hope he's held accountable for his behavior.

  4. If he really considers himself like Jesus, I suppose he'll want everyone to call him the Almighty Dollar?:-) Seriously, what is it about clergy and child abuse? I'm fairly sure Jesus said something like "Whoever harms one of these little ones, it would be better for him to be cast into the see with a millstone around his neck." Maybe they've never read that part.

    1. Infidel753 -- Yeah, they tend to ignore that part about the millstone because it challenges their unchecked power.

  5. This is seriously screwed up. I cannot imagine how the cheering in this video would affect the young lady involved here. I hope that there are adults who will protect her from further harm and talk with her about the emotional abuse perpetrated by her father and this congregation.

    1. Michelle -- I too hope that the 15 year-old daughter is among safe, level-headed people. Her father's sermon and the jubilation of his audience must have been a blow to her, AND to her 19 year-old sister who witnessed the incident.


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