Before Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar, Reverend Ike — who “made his transition” (that is, died) on Tuesday — preached a gospel of prosperity to a flock that really needed to hear it. As Pastor of the United Church Science of Living Institute on West 175th Street — a former Loews theater — and, for many years, from a television pulpit — the Reverend told people that God not only loved them, He also wanted them to have a good life, and that it was therefore no sin to pray for money, even riches. The lack of money is the root of all evil, he preached. What a revelation this must have seemed to people who had been trained to believe that what little they had was no more than they deserved.
Of course it takes money to make money, and the Reverend’s collection plate was seldom less than full. Friends of ours sent him donations and got medallions that said “PRAYER CHANGES THINGS,” prayer cloths, and, despite their less than total belief, a feeling of uplift; we could imagine how true believers took it. He kept his church beautiful and clean and gave his parishioners a good show there, and in arenas (the service shown above is from Madison Square Garden), and on local TV in the 1970s. Even non-believers may judge that whatever else you want to say about him, the man gave people something for their money.