Right-wing pastor Shane Vaughn of Mississippi’s First Harvest Ministries, who said this past week that America “was a church” before it was a nation, is a very humble man.
So humble that his pastoral qualifications seem quite literally unbelievable.
Right-wing pastor Shane Vaughn brags that he is "a doctor of theology. I was the youngest ordained evangelist in America at 14 years old, [and] I've lived for the Lord my whole life." pic.twitter.com/V0LSD2IV4I
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) November 4, 2021
I was a doctor of theology, I was the youngest ordained evangelist in America at 14 years old. I’ve lived for the Lord my whole life.
We’ll return to the “youngest ordained evangelist” in a moment, but is he a doctor of theology? His church’s website says he has an “earned doctorate degree from World Vision university in Dallas, Tx.” Sounds legit. Sounds like it’s not an honorary doctorate.
… Except World Vision University doesn’t appear to be a thing. There is a “World Vision Dallas” affiliated with the for-profit (and extremely generic) “American College of Education”… but ACE doesn’t offer doctorates in Theology. There’s a mention of a “World Vision University” in this article published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State nearly a decade ago… but that says the school was not accredited. So at the very least, this “earned” doctorate deserves more scrutiny. (We’ve reached out to Vaughn for comment and will update this story if he responds.)
In 2009, Vaughn was arrested in Louisiana and charged with insurance and bank fraud. He told RNS that he served three years in prison for financial crimes and since then has tried to rebuild his life.
No reasonable person would expect Christians to live perfect lives. Everyone messes up — even seriously so. That said, the amount of deception involved in committing bank fraud isn’t some one-time “oops” like speeding through a red light. It exposes something about your character, particularly when you get caught, as opposed to coming clean on your own. And when you make your living as an influential Christian preacher, there’s more of an onus to live an exemplary life — especially if part of your job is telling others how to live theirs.
It’s fair to assume that people who boast a little too highly of themselves almost always have something to hide or compensate for.