Reverend Ike, 74, Joins the Ancestors

You had to be there in the Seventies when Reverend Ike bestrode the airwaves. He was infinitely more entertaining than even the Bakkers…but of course, they and others who followed Ike tried to hide how they were bilking the parishioners, saying we need money for the children, for our missions, for someone’s operation, for Christ Jesus’ sake.

Everybody knew his/her money was going straight to Ike, whether or not they themselves got rich or not.

He was the first successful American televangelist.

From the New York Times:

In the 1970s, Reverend Ike was one of the first evangelists to reach an audience of millions through television.

”This is the do-it-yourself church,” he proclaimed. ”The only savior in this philosophy is God in you.”

Reverend Ike stretched Christian tenets, relocating the idea of God to the interior of the self, with the power to bring the believer anything he or she desired in the way of health, wealth and peace of mind.

The philosophy did not sit well with traditional Christian ministers and civil rights leaders who felt black churches should focus on social reform rather than self-fulfillment.

His critics said he preyed on the poor and conned the faithful into giving him donations that he spent on cars, clothes and homes for himself. The IRS and the Postal Service investigated his businesses.

Others defended his philosophy of mind over matter, which appealed to middle-class believers who felt their hard work should be rewarded in this life.

”If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven,” he said, riffing on the famous verse from the book of Matthew, ”think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.”

Whatever. For all his contributors, he would mail a prayer cloth.

“Close your eyes and see green,” Reverend Ike would tell his 5,000 parishioners from a red-carpeted stage at the former Loew’s film palace on 175th Street in Washington Heights, the headquarters of his United Church Science of Living Institute. “Money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool.”

His exhortation, as quoted by The New York Times in 1972, was a vivid sampling of Reverend Ike’s philosophy, which he variously called “Prosperity Now,” “positive self-image psychology” or just plain “Thinkonomics.”

The philosophy held that St. Paul was wrong; that the root of all evil is not the love of money, but rather the lack of it. […]

His full name was Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II; at first, I couldn’t believe that last name until I found that it wasn’t a fake, made-up name. Of course, for some, that was the only thing that was real. Eikerenkoetter was the product of an interracial marriage, born on June 1, 1935, the son of a Baptist minister from then-Dutch Indonesia and a South Carolina schoolteacher. In other words, he was both African American and Indonesian. There were no legal prohibitions against Asians and African-Americans mixing as there were against blacks and whites or whites and Asians.

At fourteen, Eikerenkoetter joined his father as an assistant pastor, and later attended the American Bible College in Chicago. After a stint in the military as a chaplain, he began his first church in Boston, then moved his congregation to Harlem, New York, where his ministry at a former movie theatre went into full tilt.

However, the Sunset on 125th Street had a marquee was so narrow that Rev. Eikerenkoetter was forced to shorten his yay-big name to Rev. Ike. It stuck. Big time.

He later quipped that the cars in his garage “runneth over.”

Reverend Ike managed to survive all the investigations and scandals after his rise of fame and fortune. He continued to be active in his evangelical empire–even officiating at celebrity weddings–until 2007, when he suffered a stroke. Dying far from his old Harlem pulpit, in Los Angeles, the Reverend is survived by his wife, Eula May Dent Eikerenkoetter, and his son, Xavier F. Eikerenkoetter who took over his father’s ministry when he retired. His website is here.

~ by blksista on July 30, 2009.

5 Responses to “Reverend Ike, 74, Joins the Ancestors”

  1. Glad to find your blog

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  2. You wouldn’t believe how much money my great grandmother Della sent this man for “them po lil chiren”. She was so happy to recieve in return for her charitable donation, one of those blue and green plaid “prayer cloths”…. unbelieveable!!! Indeed she was one of those “faithful” conned by Rev Ike’s charasmatic ability to deliver “the word”.

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  3. […] Reverend Ike, 74, Joins the Ancestors « This Black Sista's PageYou had to be there in the Seventies when Reverend Ike bestrode the airwaves. He was infinitely more entertaining than even the Bakkers…but of course, they and others who followed Ike tried to hide how they were bilking the parishioners … Read more […]

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