Chapter Nine: by mrR9D7

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									                                  Chapter Nine:
                                 Among the Eagles
It sheds some degree of light on a historical figure to learn who his or her colleagues
were. What sort of constellation does his star belong in? What flock does she fly in? In
the present chapter we will simply survey some of Johnnie Colemon’s better known
associates. The goal is not to make her look more important by association with them;
rather, now that we are more familiar with Johnnie Colemon and her work, we want to
give these adjacent figures a chance to bask in her light.

Rainbow Man
Back when Christ Universal Temple stood on the corner of 86th and State Street, it
happened to be near the home of the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Two of his sons used to
sneak off early Sunday mornings to attend Johnnie Colemon’s 8:30 service, as hard as it
may be to imagine young boys doing such a thing—a strange sort of mischief! Eventually
their parents became aware something fishy was going on and confronted the boys. It
didn’t take much arm-twisting to get a confession. Lo and behold, they were going to
church! And not a Baptist one! So the Reverend and Mrs. Jackson decided to see for
themselves just what might be going on there. In the end, they decided their sons had a
pretty good taste in churches! Johnnie and Jesse met on this occasion and became good
friends thereafter. In fact he would occasionally serve as a speaker in her Panorama of
Truth conventions.
         On one of these occasions, Jesse preached powerfully on the limitless possibilities
open to a person who resolves to use what he has rather than crying about what he lacks.
There is little point in bemoaning a road that is closed, a bridge washed out. What else is
there to do but to blaze a new trail? The effort of doing so will be as productive as
reaching the destination itself. In fact, the destination will be wherever the new path takes
you! “There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a made-up mind that’s
disciplined. When the mind expands for the better, it cannot slip back into the hole where
it came from, no more than a baby can return to its mother’s womb. Nor can anything
stop it or contain it.” How does the slave gain his freedom and dignity as a free man? By
hauling himself erect and thus shaking off the master who rode on his back! Likewise, the
slum dweller must resolve that the slum shall not live in him. “If your personality and
character are slummy, you will turn a castle into a slum. Or if your mind is made up and
your character is strong, you’ll turn a slum into a castle. I used to watch my grandmother,
when we had no sidewalks on our streets and no grass in our yard, take a brush broom
and sweep the dirt clean! You must not accept any equation that the ground is the limit,
and not the sky!”
         Jesse Jackson is a Baptist, not a Unity minister, but great minds think alike,
whatever label they happen to wear. “In the beginning was not the flesh and the money
and the buildings and the politics. In the beginning was the idea! Everything else got
spoken or idea-ed into existence!” Rosa Parks had neither financial backing nor social
status, but she did have the idea of human dignity, and that was enough to make her
refuse to move her tired bones so a white man could take her bus seat back in 1957 in
Montgomery, Alabama. What brought down the apartheid state of South Africa? It
wasn’t nuclear weapons, though the government was rumored to possess them. No, it was


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a little collection of words known as the Golden Rule. It was an idea, an ideal, that drove
four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1961, to risk arrest and expulsion
from school for the crime of seeking service in a whites-only restaurant. Ideas, words,
shake the world. And no non-proliferation treaty is going to stop the spread of this, the
most powerful weapon. It is one each of us must realize is at his or her disposal and be
ready to use to build ourselves up. And wasn’t it an idea, a vision, in the mind of Johnnie
Colemon that had led to the construction of the Christ Universal Temple? The evidence
was all around them.
          Moving from the podium, increasingly heedless of his tight schedule, of which
Reverend Johnnie futilely sought to remind him, the Reverend Jackson grabbed the hand-
mike and began ranging outside the confines of the pulpit, like Levi abandoning his toll
booth to follow the call of Jesus. “God never sends you into the kitchen with just an
appetite. He always sends you with a recipe. If you take all appetite and no recipe, you’ll
come back as hungry as you were before you went into the kitchen! Biscuits do not rise
because of prayer. Biscuits rise because of baking powder. Don’t try to make prayer
baking powder and don’t make baking powder prayer.
          “Jesus was not just lucky, he was called! Jesus was not an accident, he was
Providence! Jesus was not lucky, he was blessed! Jesus was scientific! He harmonized
with the laws of God!
          “It’s about the fullness of time; in God’s time forever and evermore great things
happen! Y’all better hear this formula. I believe it: ‘If my people, which are called by my
name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked
ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.’”
(It’s the best bit of 2 Chronicles: chapter seven, verse 14.)
          Jesse Jackson is surely the best example of the kind of politically pragmatic
Christian described by Harvey Cox in his great book The Secular City (1965), one who is
no more afraid to get his hands dirty in politics than a surgeon flinches at the prospect of
getting them bloody if their efforts are likely to help some people. But it is unfortunate
that this is the only side of Jesse that most Americans, at least white Americans, seem to
see, thanks to the incessantly political focus of the media.

He Wants his Pie, and He Wants it Now!
Another well-known (is that another word for “controversial”?) minister who became a
close associate of Johnnie Colemon is Frederick Eikerenkoetter, the minister of United
Palace in New York. You might know him as Reverend Ike. The two first met when
Johnnie Colemon decided to check out one of his rallies in Chicago. Reverend Ike invited
all ministers present to come take a seat up on the platform, so she did. Their
conversations following the service led to a close working association ever since. In fact,
he eventually invited her to come to New York to help him organize and teach his own
congregation. It appears that Johnnie Colemon’s increasing emphasis on monetary
prosperity was in some measure due to the influence of Reverend Ike. At one time they
were commonly referred to as “Mr. and Mrs. Prosperity.”
        Reverend Ike was another Panorama of Truth speaker. He preached the New
Thought understanding of the atonement of Jesus, i.e., the reconciliation, or “at-one-
ment” his teaching revealed, a unity between God and human beings, and among human
beings, all based on their common divine nature. To love God requires that one love



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oneself as well as one’s neighbor. Further, one must learn to view every individual one
meets as a read-out or a mirror of one’s own actions. There is nothing spooky about this.
One need not even embrace the metaphysical perspective to see the truth of it. For people
certainly do respond to the image of ourselves that we subconsciously compose and offer
them through every word and deed we send out, in this or that tone of voice or choice of
words. And of course, you can relate only to the version of other people that you have
edited together from your perceptions of them, and this means they are in a sense
figments of your self-imagination, characters in a play that you are scripting. There is
naturally more to them than that, but you do not see them or interact with them as they
are in themselves (a depth to which they themselves are not privy either!). You only
know them as you have construed them via interaction, and vice versa.
        Thus, if you are to promote your own healing, you will need to identify and give
up your pet hates, biases, dislikes, and criticisms, whether of friends, strangers, or
enemies. It is not that your judgments might not be justified. You are not being asked to
deny the truth as you see it. No, it is simply that, whatever the case is with another, such
attitudes, which amount to a kind of festering grudge, will poison your own spirit. Even if
the other richly deserves to be hated, it is doing you no good to hate him. On the
metaphysical level, the idea is that, since all is one, the resentments that divide us are
illusory, and we will need to snap out of them to claim the universal wholeness that we
are and the manifestation of which will mean our healing. As the ancient philosopher
Parmenides said, if Being is all there is, what else is there to divide it? Something else
than being must be non-being, or nothing. Which means nothing divides it!
        “Whenever you have an enemy, bring your mind to a point of at-one-ment. Your
adversaries are your own adverse thoughts. You have no person who is your enemy. The
belief that you have an enemy is itself the enemy. When you kill that thought, you kill
your enemy.” So said Reverend Ike. We have all known people who fretted over enemies
that were purely imaginary, either acquaintances whom they fancied hated them but who
didn’t, or fearsome enemies “out there” like Communists, witches, or whatever. This is a
species of paranoia: these enemies do not exist. What a revelation if all our supposed
enemies had no more objective reality than these!
         Time came for the offering, and Reverend Colemon asked Reverend Ike to
preside. He made it into a genuinely sacramental experience. “Just as Jesus turned the
water to wine, we’re going to think for a moment about the Roman Catholic doctrine of
transubstantiation in which the wine and bread are supposed to turn into the actual blood
and body of Jesus. Right here and now we are experiencing a transubstantiation of divine
love. The so-called material substance that we’re holding in our hands is right now being
transformed into divine love energy that blesses and encourages this ministry, this
minister, and this church. This divine love energy is a prospering power to every one of
us. This energy is prospering in your homes right now. I see new furniture coming into
your homes. I see you moving into new apartments, ‘moving on up to the East side!’ I see
you driving new cars. I see new minks draping your shoulders, sweeping the ground.
Hallelujah! Glory to God!
        “Whatever you need, and whatever form that you need it, this act of giving is
simultaneously an act of receiving. It is impossible to give without receiving, and it is
impossible to receive without giving. We’re giving love. Look at that so-called material
substance in your hand for just a moment before you give it, and say to yourself, ‘Right



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here and right now this is transformed into love energy that prospers Johnnie Colemon,
her ministry and her church and every church and every ministry represented here. And I
release this love, and it is multiplied back to me in a never-ending cycle of increase and
enjoyment. Thank God!’ You may be seated. The ushers will serve you as is their
custom.”
        Reverend Ike and indeed this whole approach, though it has gained considerable
currency in the wider Charismatic movement in recent years, is still frowned upon, even
ridiculed, by mainstream Protestants, whether conservative or liberal. It seems to
outsiders to elevate a concern for prosperity into an idolatry of money and materialism.
And that is obviously a danger. But any doctrine of any kind about anything can be used
as an excuse for mischief. Before one sneers at such a theology of money, it is worth
remembering what Liberation Theology thinkers say about the poverty of the Third
World and why in the name of Christ the oppressed peasants have the right to rise up
violently against their landlords, their governments, or multi-national corporations.
Liberation theologians remind affluent readers that theology must proceed “from below,”
from the perceptions of the world by those to whom the theology is going to be preached.
John Baptist Metz defended political theology this way, contending that for a preachment
of “salvation” to mean something to someone, it has to take into account what they know
they need salvation from. Paul Tillich used what he called the “method of correlation,”
the idea that in every age, or to every group, the Christian gospel provides an answer, but
we must shape that answer to fit the contours of the questions being asked. Otherwise it
properly falls upon deaf ears, as people turn elsewhere for an answer to their problems.
        What Reverend Ike and Johnnie Colemon are doing in preaching so much about
money and prosperity is to scratch the itch, or better, to bind the wound, of a community
held down in poverty. Only for them “liberation” is not a matter of armed uprising, but
rather of cultivating hope and exerting an effort they had previously thought futile. When
you are in perpetual dread of bills you cannot pay, of not being able to put food on your
children’s table, or of sacrificing self-respect as the price for receiving these things from
the dole—salvation for you is going to have something to do with meeting those needs.
Salvation partakes of the Old Testament idea of shalom, the word for peace, but which
implies a larger sphere of wholeness and prosperity. Otherwise, preaching any gospel is
going to incur the reproach that it is unverifiable and even fake since it has no effect on
visible, this-worldly realities. If it is good only for pie in the sky by and by, as Ike says,
how can you know if it is really even good for that? But if it works here, there is reason
to believe it for there.
        One might urge the theologians who disdain the ghetto theology of Ike and
Johnnie Colemon to ask whether they are operating with a romanticized notion of
poverty. One thinks of a scene early on in Franco Zefferelli’s great film about Francis of
Assisi, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Francis and his companions have all renounced wealth
to follow Jesus in apostolic simplicity. But they do still have to eat, and to do that they
have to buy bread. So they walk up to a group of sunburned, sweating harvesters in a
grain field and ask for a share of the work. To their unpleasant surprise, the workmen,
who live in a real poverty they did not choose for themselves, tell them to get lost! One
suspects today’s disdainful theologians are like Francis and his nouvaux poor
companions. They seem to see poverty as a devotional exercise that brings those enviable




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poor folks closer to God. But just ask any poor people if that’s the way they look at it.
Reverend Ike may make more sense to them than Karl Barth.

Fruit of Islam
Can any clergyman compete with Reverend Ike when it comes to controversy? Well,
there might be one. How about Minister Louis Farrakhan? When the Honorable Elijah
Muhammad, founder of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, passed away, he left his son
Wallace Muhammad (later known as Warith Deen Muhammad) in charge of the
movement. The younger Muhammad rapidly moved to make sweeping theological and
practical changes which had the effect of making the sect more palatable to traditional
Sunni Muslim states like Saudi Arabia, who then began financially supporting the newly
re-christened American Muslim Mission. But many adherents were taken by unpleasant
surprise at these developments. They were left holding the bag, much like traditionalist
Roman Catholics stunned as the clouds of Vatican II began to clear. What happened to
the Latin Mass? Why can I eat steak on Friday when Aunt Minnie went to hell for doing
it? Why was everything different? And could anything be different if the old stuff was, as
they used to claim, the revealed word of God?
         As any historian of religion might have predicted (I did), there was a backlash; it
was only a question of who would lead it. And it turned out to be Lewis Farrakhan. He
led a schism and brought the old Nation of Islam back into existence.
         The sect has very little to do with any form of historic Islam and, like
Scientology, is based on mythology that sounds like Ed Wood (Plan Nine from Outer
Space) wrote it. Part of that myth recounts the origin of the fiendish white race in the
genetic experiments of pure-bred African scientist Dr. Yakub (Jacob), who had a large
brain just like the stock science-fiction alien. These white devils were full of bestial fury,
and because of it they had to be exiled to the Paleolithic ice caverns of Europe, whence
Moses would eventually lead them to freedom, to the eternal peril of the only true
humans, Africans. Yikes! Whites in general and Jews in particular are the targets of this
reverse racism, a kind of mirror-opposite of the white mythology of fringe groups like the
Ku Klux Klan and Christian Identity. This is the ideology of Reverend Farrakhan, though
anyone who has seen his smiling charm on television or in a rally may be surprised to
hear it.
         The public face of the Nation of Islam (and, though it is far from the whole story,
it is a genuine face, not a false mask) is that of a popular self-help movement that
advocates the strictest standards of sanctified living, together with a doctrine of self-
motivated economic advancement. One can point to a great many lives redeemed from
the various abysses of black ghetto poverty by the conversionistic appeal of the Nation of
Islam.
         This dual-sided character of the Black Muslims has presented mainstream clergy
a real conundrum. One senses that many would like to reach out a hand of fellowship to
Farrakhan, but they feel they dare not in view of his theological racism. They are not at
liberty to choose which aspect of Farrakhanism they wish to be associated with. They
don’t want to appear to minimize the importance of the anti-Semitism of Farrakhan by
welcoming him or cooperating with him on projects having nothing to do with that, like
the Million Man March on Washington DC. It is a real dilemma. One is surely to be held
responsible for what one’s associates do that one does not repudiate. White politicians



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have always expressed their mystification at Jesse Jackson’s refusal to condemn certain
outrageous statements of Minister Farrakhan.
        Johnnie Colemon faced the same sort of objections once when she invited
Farrakhan to be her guest for a performance being offered in the Temple by a Chicago
orchestra. When it became evident that he was in the audience, some members of the
orchestra threatened to get up and leave if Farrakhan were allowed to stay. Reverend
Colemon welcomed them to leave if they wished. No one would stop them, and there
were plenty of doors available. But no one left after all. Later, on another occasion, she
invited Farrakhan to perform a violin solo at the Temple. The Minister is both an
accomplished violinist and a gifted Calypso singer, his livelihood before he entered the
ministry of the Nation of Islam.
        Was it wrong for Johnnie Colemon and the Christ Universal Temple to honor
Minister Farrakhan? She would not begrudge anyone, especially the readers of this book,
their own opinions on the matter. But her approach was really what one might have
expected: in accord with general New Thought philosophy, wasn’t she emphasizing the
positive aspects of his message, the preaching of self-reliance and self-betterment, and
just ignoring the negative side? As long as Farrakhan wasn’t talking up the racist
theology, why should she bother talking it down? Psychologists call it “positive
reinforcement.”

Mr. Motivation
In the 1970s Ebony featured a story about Johnnie Colemon and her ministry. It caught
the eye of a young Ohio state senator, a charismatic black man named Les Brown. He
decided to travel over to Chicago to check out the church for himself. When he did, he
found himself much impressed. The atmosphere of elegance and the orderliness of the
service both impressed him greatly, combined as these features were with a genuine
spiritual dynamism. Brown eventually decided to enroll as a student at the Johnnie
Colemon Institute, a decision leading to his ordination as a UFBL minister. He moved
back to his native Miami and began to feel the need for a UFBL congregation to be
established there. He himself did not feel the call to head up the endeavor. For this role he
nominated his co-worker Mary Tumpkin, who today presides over the thriving and
powerful Universal Truth Center in Carol City, adjacent to Miami.
        As for Les Brown himself, he struck out into a different form of ministry as a
dynamic and effective motivational speaker. His approach was remarkable in that he
seemed to sense that any explanation of New Thought metaphysics would become an
unnecessary obstacle in the path of many in his audience. So he stripped it all down to the
basic attitudes of positivity and determination required for success. If one later learns the
New Thought background of what Les Brown teaches, it may feel like a natural
homecoming, but acceptance of New Thought beliefs is not required of anyone who feels
he or she can learn Brown’s secrets of motivation and success without it.
        Brown, too, has headlined at the Panorama of Truth. Note the purely practical
instructions for success he gives: you must make “a conscious, deliberate, determined
effort” to work on your mind, enlarging your vision of yourself so you can picture
yourself actually doing whatever it is you want to accomplish. You must simultaneously
try to get out of the habit of entertaining negative feelings about yourself. Why do you
have them? Do they really stem from any facts you know about yourself? If so, what can



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you do to change these facts? Finally, you need to accustom yourself to a sense of self-
worth, since often we fail because we undermine ourselves. Feeling unworthy of success,
we secretly find ways to miss it or to forfeit it.

Angel on the Ground
If you have ever watched the television program Touched by an Angel, you know Della
Reese, even if you do not belong to the generation to whom she did most of her singing.
She is a statuesque, beautiful, and vivacious woman. She met a very similar woman,
Johnnie Colemon, in 1979, when their common hair dresser, Michael Robinson, brought
them together. He had long seen the two customers as closely kindred spirits, and he
would tell each about the other. “You really ought to meet sometime!” And at length they
did. Michael was right: they hit it off famously, initiating a long and close friendship.
Della recalls, “The things that she was preaching at that time, I had always believed, but I
had no names for them. I had belonged to a Baptist church, and I didn’t believe some of
the things I had heard there. I didn’t believe God was some big gorilla sitting up in the
heavens looking for an opportunity to break my leg! I always believed that he made me to
succeed! I never believed that I was destined to die in the slums where I was born.”
         As Della learned more about Johnnie Colemon’s ministry and its many programs,
she was impressed. She wanted to help bring to realization her friend’s dream for Christ
Universal City, and to that end she recorded a fund-raising album, Hush—Somebody’s
Calling my Name, with the Christ Universal Temple Ensemble and music director Bob
Mayes.
         During this period, Della’s show business career was in full swing, as many
readers will recall. But she hit the brakes one night while taping the Tonight show. She
was halfway through her second song when after four bars, “I hit the flattest note I had
ever sung in my life because at that moment something burst and took me off center and I
fell to my knees. Immediately I began to repeat, ‘Lord, help me! Lord, help me! Lord,
help me!’”
         Richard Dawson was filling in for Johnny Carson that evening, and he and band
leader Doc Severinson came running. There was a doctor in the studio, and he joined
them. They gave her oxygen and transported her to Saint Joseph’s Medical Center,
providentially right across the street.
         X-rays would reveal the culprit as a bleeding brain aneurysm. The doctors told her
family there was nothing to do about it; she would most likely be dead by morning. But
the sun rose upon a still-living Della. They must have missed something, they inferred,
and they admitted they lacked sufficiently precise equipment to penetrate any further into
the mystery. Shipped off to another hospital, Della had a C.A.T. scan which disclosed the
presence of two aneurysms on the left side of the brain and one on the right. They
appeared ready to blow. Her choices were brain surgery or certain death. As she mulled
this over, she was surprised to hear that she had a visitor. It was Johnnie Colemon,
making a house call. After praying with Della and spending what time she could spare,
she flew back to Chicago but returned for another visit soon.
         Della remembers how “for two weeks, I’m lying in the hospital. They’re not
doing anything. I’m lying there, looking around, which is driving me bananas. I talk to
God like I talk to you. He’s a personal friend of mine. So I’m asking him why I’m lying
here. I tell him: ‘If there’s something you want me to do, you don’t have to take this



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drastic measure and knock me to my knees to tell me what you want me to do. How am I
going to do it wasting my time lying here?’ And I’m looking at Johnnie and I’m asking,
‘Why am I lying here? I mean, what is this for?’”
        Another thorn in Della’s side was a neurosurgeon who had little in the way of
bedside manner. Daily the man would drop in to remind her that seven percent of those
who had brain aneurysms died, went blind, were crippled, or went insane. At length Della
demanded that he cease visiting her. She wanted to hear about the other ninety-three
percent! She had better luck when she went on to Ontario, where she met Dr. Charles
Drake, a specialist in the delicate procedure she needed. Here was a man brimming with
positive attitude as well as skill.
        Della hummed the hymn, “God Is So Wonderful” as the nurses wheeled her into
the operating room. Here’s where things get mysterious. Della, admittedly under
anesthesia, kept sighting Johnnie Colemon sitting in this or that chair—even though,
physically, she was back in Chicago. “She would smile at me,” Della remembers. “Or she
would say things to me like, ‘Hold on, now!’ ‘Keep your thoughts up!’” Then, after
surgery, the flesh-and-blood Johnnie called Della regularly to encourage her. “She didn’t
lay her hands on me and say, ‘You’re healed,’ but I’m sure that she was very, very
instrumental in my making it through.”
        After two operations, five and a half hours apiece, Della recovered without
incident or after-effect. She came out of the ordeal a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Johnnie
Colemon and went on to study New Thought with her. She was ordained in the UFBL
and even set up her own school in Los Angeles to teach it. From her subsequent career,
Della must have been ordained an angel as well.

Questions to Ponder
  1. What policy of dealing with Minister Farrakhan do you think African American
      clergy ought to adopt?
  2. When Della Reese, on her way into surgery, kept seeing Johnnie Colemon, was
      she just hallucinating? Does it matter?
  3. How much of a preaching emphasis on money and material prosperity is too
      much?
  4. “Don’t try to make prayer baking powder and don’t make baking powder prayer.”
      What do you think Jesse Jackson meant by these words?
  5. Do you agree that “salvation” must include the solving of whatever problems a
      person has, or it’s not salvation?




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