“…your fine ointment, brand new and expensive Could have been saved for the poor…”


First, I have to say that I can’t imagine choosing to sit around listening to “worship songs” on a Sunday morning. It’s like deciding to jump into a bush full of chiggers, as far as I’m concerned, and then, when that wasn’t sufficiently excruciating, stuffing fire ants in my ears. But this guy, Ben Kirby, was willingly inflicting televangelist noise on himself.

From his couch in Dallas, Ben Kirby began asking questions about the lifestyles of the rich and famous pastors when he was watching some worship songs on YouTube on a Sunday morning in 2019. While listening to a song by Elevation Worship, a megachurch based in Charlotte, the evangelical churchgoer noticed the lead singer’s Yeezy sneakers were worth nearly the amount of his first rent check.

Kirby posted to his 400 followers on Instagram, “Hey Elevation Worship, how much you paying your musicians that they can afford $800 kicks? Let me get on the payroll!”

Plus, Kirby wondered, how could the church’s pastor, Steven Furtick, one of the most popular preachers in the country, afford a new designer outfit nearly every week?

Now he’s happily filling up his Instagram account with photos of the exorbitant styles of preachers. Hey, I fill up my instagram with photos of spiders, and even I think that is creepy. I haven’t subscribed to his account because I really don’t need frequent reminders to know that televangelists are selfish, lying scum.

On his feed, Kirby has showcased Seattle pastor Judah Smith’s $3,600 Gucci jacket, Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes’s $1,250 Louboutin fanny pack and Miami pastor Guillermo Maldonado’s $2,541 Ricci crocodile belt. And he considers Paula White, former president Donald Trump’s most trusted pastoral adviser who is often photographed in designer items, a PreachersNSneakers “content goldmine,” posting a photo of her wearing $785 Stella McCartney sneakers.

I really don’t need to know the details.

In his book, Kirby writes that these pastors who have enormous social media followings aren’t just simply pastors anymore, he writes. Often they are motivational speakers, corporate coaches and leadership consultants. Kirby said he has heard of churches where a volunteer was designated solely for the purpose of carrying the pastor’s Bible. Often, he writes, these pastors have private entrances, reserved parking spaces, security details and a gaggle of personal assistants or handlers. And, often, they promise blessings from God to their followers if their followers bless the church.

Oh, stop it. I’m feeling sick.

Kirby notes how the fancy-sneaker-wearing preacher trend has taken off while the resale market for sneakers has also boomed. In 2019, Kirby posted a picture of Pastor John Gray wearing the coveted Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red Octobers, selling at the time on the resale market for more than $5,600. If a pastor buys or receives a new pair of shoes as a gift with a lucrative resale value and chooses to wear them, it can demonstrate to followers that he can afford to not resell them.

We don’t even tax these assholes.

Across the United States, the biggest-name pastors and worship leaders produce best-selling books and albums, often earning huge salaries and housing allowances from their churches. And many of the biggest churches, which do not have to disclose their revenue publicly, often generate opulent untaxed revenue.

Ben Kirby still considers himself an evangelical Christian. I wouldn’t be able to stomach the hypocrisy.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Expensive sneakers and assorted bling signal God’s favor. They should be able to write such exorbitance off as a business expense per Weberian interpretation of Calvinism. Without extravagance where would they rate in the eyes of the Lord.

    Jesus was old school, rocking the Air Jordans with buoyancy soles. He was in it more for use value than status signaling. One can be humble yet walk on water.

  2. acroyear says

    Uh…not like there’s anything new about this. Genesis even wrote a song about it 30 years ago after 15 years worth of stories about evangelical preacher opulence (one church could even afford an amusement park for a time).

  3. OverlappingMagisteria says

    “$1,250 Louboutin fanny pack”

    Fanny packs?? Is that how much you pay for it, or how much they pay you to wear it in public?

  4. kathleenzielinski says

    OM, No. 4, at my age they pay me that much to keep my fanny covered.

    Half of me says that anyone stupid enough to give money to those obvious crooks deserves to be fleeced. The other half says that we have laws against other types of fraud, so why should this type be an exception?

  5. robro says

    I believe Dante commented on this sort of thing in the 14th century. Things never change.

  6. says

    Even if we accept the notion that donations to churches shouldn’t be taxed, surely the pastor should still pay income tax on anything he receives from the church.

  7. raven says

    I’m not seeing the problem here.
    Sure, much of the xian’s donations to their Reptilian-like leaders is wasted on huge mansions, yachts, fast cars, cute boys and girls, fine alcohol and drugs, and lawyers.
    It’s been this way for decades and is well known.
    Pat Robertson is a billionaire and some of the others are close.

    OTOH, money spent on luxury and high end living is money not spent on trying to overthrow the US government and set up a theocracy. Or trying to make abortion illegal, destroy the public school system, round up evolutionary biologists for reeducation camps, and so on.
    Far as I’m concerned, the oogedy boogedy xians are better off wasting their money making high end retailers rich.

  8. says

    hemidactylus@3, when I see the name John Gray I’m likely to think of the Canadian writer and musician John Gray, who wrote Billy Bishop Goes To War.

    But 5 grand sneakers? Child’s play compared to Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. He’s been photographed more than once wearing expensive wrist watches, like a Breguet worth 30 thousand bucks.

  9. kathleenzielinski says

    LykeX, No. 8, the pastor does pay income tax but there are plenty of strategies for allowing him (almost always a him) to benefit from money that’s not technically his. For example, if the church buys him the bling directly, and claims it’s job related, it’s not his income and it’s not taxed. The mansion is almost certainly owned either by the church or by a corporation that was created for the sole purpose of owning the real estate.

    When I was in law school, I took two semesters of tax law. The only thing I still remember from it all these many years later is all of the perfectly legal ways there are for the wealthy to avoid taxes. Leona Helmsley had it exactly right when she said, “We don’t pay taxes; the little people pay taxes.”

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    … choosing to sit around listening to “worship songs” …

    Ben Kirby can carry out his self-assigned mission in complete comfort “[f]rom his couch in Dallas” with the audio off.

  11. robro says

    raven @ #10 — Unfortunately, they appear to have more than enough money at their disposal to spend on themselves and undermine democracy. They are truly blessed. Praise the Lord!

  12. PaulBC says

    So does Kirby get to reply “The poor will be with you always, but ol’ Ben here is just a ship passing in the night. If I can’t have these sick Yeezys while they’re still in style, I might as well be wearing cheapass Walmart trainers.”

    (Anyway, that’s what I’d do.)

  13. PaulBC says

    me@16 Oops, sorry. I guess Steven Furtick is the pastor, not Ben Kirby. However, the bible quote (or paraphrase) really does justify the ointment on similar grounds.

  14. davidc1 says

    @11 Yeah ,the doc posted a couple of photos of him a few years ago ,one showed him wearing the watch ,the other one
    where it had been airbrushed out ,apart from the reflection on the table that showed the watch .
    Very sloppy work ,Stalin would have had him shot.

  15. answersingenitals says

    Interestingly, everyone posting here, including myself, support these churches financially. Since the tax system is a zero-sum operation (or, actually, a hugely negative-sum operation) and all those donations the church faithful give each year are tax deductible, that means that the rest of us have to pay that much more in our taxes. Not sure how that meets the “…make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” smell test.

  16. says

    all those donations the church faithful give each year are tax deductible, that means that the rest of us have to pay that much more in our taxes. Not sure how that meets the “…make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” smell test.

    donations to many non-profits are tax deductible. There are certain exceptions (political organizations, rural electric co-ops which are primarily fee-for-service but nonetheless aren’t looking to turn a profit, etc.) but the definition you have to meet to be a charitable non-profit is pretty damn broad.

    It would be contrary to the 1A to make a specific exception to the tax deduction rule for churches. Instead they simply are treated like any other non-profit that’s not shoved into its own separate exception and separate regulatory/oversight classification.

    In short, the rationale is that they didn’t do any regulating around churches. They just made regulations that are generally applicable to non-profits, and so long as the church is a non-profit the church must be treated the same as those other non-profits… boom. Tithing is tax deductible without ever making law “about” churches.

  17. robro says

    answersingenitals @ #22 — “all those donations the church faithful give each year are tax deductible…” Are donations to religious organization still not capped? If so, I might need to find a “church” to donate to…I bet I can find one in Hippy-Dippy Town. In any case, there’s a cap on charitable donations I can declare on my taxes…I think it’s like $400 dollars.

  18. says

    @#22, answersingenitals:

    You’re automatically supporting any local churches in a much more direct way, though — things which are supported by local taxes, like fire protection and police and so forth, are applied to churches although they pay no taxes, which means (in most of the US at least) everybody living in a region with churches is automatically giving financial support, albeit at some very small rate.

  19. says

    Black Sabbath has a song about this, “TV Crimes”.

    One day in the life of the lonely
    Another day on the roundabout
    What do they need, somebody to love
    One night in the life of the lonely
    There’s a miracle on the screen
    What did they see, somebody to love

    He guarantees you instant glory
    Get your money on the line

    Got to send me a plastic Jesus
    There’s a cheque in the mail today
    That’s what I need, somebody to love
    We just won’t eat on Sunday
    Got to buy him a limousine
    Somewhere to live, somewhere to pray

    Every penny from the people
    Keeps the wolf outside the door
    Shop around and find forgiveness for yourself
    But he’ll give you more, yeah

    Holy father, holy ghost
    Who’s the one who pays the most
    Rock the cradle, don’t you cry
    Buy another lullaby
    Jack is nimble, Jack is quick
    Pick your pocket, turn a trick
    Slow and steady, he’s got time
    To commit another TV crime, TV crime

    One day in the life of the lonely
    Back again on the roundabout
    What do they need, somebody to love, yeah
    One night in the life of the lonely
    Another miracle on the screen
    What did they see, somebody to love again

    A supermarket of salvation
    Take a look inside the store
    Shop around and find forgiveness for yourself
    But he gives more

    Holy father, holy ghost
    Who’s the one who hurt you most
    Rock the cradle when you cry
    Scream another lullaby
    Jack be nimble, Jack be slick
    Take the money, get out quick
    Slow and steady, so much time
    To commit another TV Crime, TV Crime

  20. John Morales says

    In the news: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/03/james-huntsman-sues-mormon-church-fraud.html

    James Huntsman, the brother of former ambassador, presidential candidate, and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and a member of a wealthy and influential family, filed a federal lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Tuesday. He alleged that the church, widely known as the Mormon church, had defrauded him of millions of dollars in donations by misleading him into thinking his money would be spent on charitable causes.


    In 2019, the Washington Post (which also was the first to report on the lawsuit) reported that the church had not spent as much on these religious causes as many members assumed: $100 billion was sitting, unused, in accounts marked for charitable aims.

    Many of the faithful were disturbed to hear that the church had amassed such wealth from donations, sometimes from people who gave despite experiencing personal financial discomfort. Others were upset by the secretive nature of the church’s finances and felt betrayed by the sense they were misled. (Religious institutions do not have to report their income and assets, as other nonprofits do.)

  21. GMBigKev says

    One of the reasons* I left my faith was driving through the church neighborhood and seeing our pastor in a brand-spanking-new fiery red Corvette convertible. Now I know pastors don’t need to be wearing rags and driving old beat up Chevelles, but you can’t tell me he wasn’t stealing money that should have been going to the community.

    *The other was their fierce devotion to kicking people out of the church who needed the community to help them with issues like drug addiction and sexual abuse from partners.

  22. davidc1 says

    @29 Hs he been caught with his hands in the till yet ? Or the other fav ,caught in a motel room with a young person he was mentoring ?
    Money and sex ,and I thought the church were against that sort of thing .