Protests against Ken Copeland

pope francis high five copeland

Headline in Christian Post: “Kenneth Copeland Speaks at Military Base Prayer Breakfast Despite Objections to PTSD Remarks.” Ken Copeland, pictured above with Pope Francis, was an invited speaker at a military base. Rev. Copeland is the dean of prosperity preachers, for which he has often been denounced and investigated. But the protests had nothing to do with that scam. Instead, people protested Rev. Copeland’s previous remarks on PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, a common malady among veterans.

Citing Numbers 32:20-22, Copeland said God’s promise to soldiers immunizes them against PTSD: “So this is a promise — if you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war ... you shall return, you're coming back, and be guiltless before the Lord and before the nation.” Here is the passage he refers to:

“So Moses said to them, “If you do this—if you take up arms to go before the Lord for the war, and all those of you who bear arms cross the Jordan before the Lord, until he has driven out his enemies from before him and the land is subdued before the Lord—then after that you may return and be free of obligation to the Lord and to Israel, and this land shall be your possession before the Lord” (NRSV).

This is about God delivering the Promised Land to Israel. Moses says that the men should arm themselves, but God will do the real work, driving out the ‘enemies’ who live there. After God subdues them, the soldiers are “free of obligation” to God and are the proud new owners of the land. (The King James Version uses “guiltless” instead of “free of obligation.” Given that God directed them to wipe out every man, woman, and child of tribe after tribe – serial genocide - the promise that God would consider them free of all guilt was no doubt comforting.)

Rev. Copeland assumes that God’s promise to the Jews – presumably fulfilled thousands of years ago- also applies to Americans fighting ISIS and other enemies in the Middle East. Not only that, Copeland proclaims that God will deliver benefits not even mentioned in that passage: “Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don't take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn't take psychology. That promise right there will get rid of it.” Apparently Copland believes that if God renders you guiltless, that means you can’t get PTSD. Just drop the medical treatment. Get your mind right, and just claim the mental health that God promised you.

Rev. Copeland really seems to believe this idiocy; he derives no apparent benefit from it. He could have offered to help cure soldiers with PTSD if they met certain financial conditions, as with his Prosperity Gospel. Instead, he says soldiers with PTSD can cure themselves without charge. This is quite a claim. Even if God granted the ancient Jews a guiltless victory, he did not promise that all their soldiers would be unharmed. In fact, there were many casualties. More importantly, there is no scriptural basis for Rev. Copeland’s assumption that God’s promise to deliver the Promised Land applies to American military ventures in that region.

About the Picture

Pope Francis met with Rev. Kenneth Copeland early in his administration, years before he met with any victims of clerical sex abuse. They soon discovered they were soulmates, and bonded with high-fives. Pope Francis held other meetings with preachers of the Prosperity Gospel shortly thereafter.