LOS ANGELES – The minister known as Reverend Ike, who preached the gospel of material prosperity to millions nationwide, died Tuesday. He was 74.
Family spokesman Bishop E. Bernard Jordan told the New York Times that the Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, who suffered a stroke in 2007 and never fully recovered, died in Los Angeles. He moved to the city two years ago, Jordan said.
Reverend Ike preached the power of what he called “positive self-image psychology” to his 5,000 parishioners at the United Church Science of Living Institute. The church was housed in a former movie theater in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
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.”