By now, you’re familiar with televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his bizarre interview with Inside Edition in which he defended his lavish lifestyle, including his purchase of a private jet so that he doesn’t have to fly like everyone else in a “long tube with a bunch of demons.”
I thought I’d heard all the possible defenses of Copeland, ranging from the fact that he has to travel a lot, to the notion that flying in commercial planes sucks, to the belief that it’s no one else’s damn business.
But this take, from Dr. Michael Brown, may be the worst one out there because it suggests we’re all hypocrites for criticizing Copeland’s purchase.
If we give Brown the benefit of the doubt, he’s just asking a question, not advocating a particular answer, but there are indeed stupid questions and this is one of them.
A question for honest discussion: If it’s OK (and even wise) for a Christian leader to fly commercial rather than take a bus (which should save a lot of money), why is it wrong for him to fly a private plane rather than to fly commercial (which would also save a lot of money)?
Just to unpack that…
Brown’s argument is that we’re all presumably okay with Copeland spending more money to fly than take a bus. (I would agree with that. I don’t think anyone would criticize Copeland for flying to various locations if they were far away or overseas. The slightly higher price for a plane ticket could be easily justified.) By extension, then, Brown asks why we’re all mad that he spends more money on a private jet than flying commercial.
Because the drastic increase in cost for a private jet is a luxury he can do without.
Steven Kozar at Museum of Idolatry tried to make sense of it. Even if we’re talking about spending the bare minimum to operate the private jet — which one website said was $700,000 a year for a pilot, staff, maintenance, and other necessities — just think about the bills.
So, using the lowest annual cost of $700,000 and dividing it by 12 months the cost to operate a jet is at least $58,333.33 per month. That comes to $1,944.44 per DAY. A more expensive jet would cost $5,000 to $10,000 per DAY. If Kenneth Copeland bought a new ticket every single day, he would have to spend at least $1,944.44 on each ticket to equal the cost of running one private jet, and that doesn’t even figure in the cost of actually purchasing the jet.
So it would be nearly $2,000 per ticket per day on top of whatever he’s spending to buy the plane.
While we don’t know the price of Copeland’s Gulfstream V, the cheapest one on the market ran for about $5.9 million last year.
There’s just no justification for spending that much more for a private plane. It’s greed. Let’s all just admit that. It has nothing to do with his ministry. (A more appropriate comparison would’ve been Copeland traveling in first class instead of coach. That’s an expensive luxury that could at least be debated.)
To answer Brown’s question, then, it’s wrong because the optics are horrible. The money could be spent in more “Christian” ways — on people in need, for example. It’s wrong because it suggests that Copeland needs your money to pay his debts, not spread the gospel. You’re a fool if you’re giving him money because you think you’re helping spread the word of God.