Feature

The Rev. Ike

The minister who preached the gospel of wealth

The Rev. Ike1935–2009

For the Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as the Rev. Ike, the love of money was not the root of all evil. Quite the contrary: Salvation, he preached from his huge pulpit on 175th Street in Manhattan, lay in personal success and material prosperity. “Don’t wait for your pie in the sky, by and by,” he told parishioners. “Say I want my pie right now—and I want it with ice cream on top!” Money, he declared, was “God in action.”

The Rev. Ike “received a clear call to the ministry” at age 7 while growing up in Ridgeland, S.C., said the Chicago Tribune. After attending the American Bible College and founding the United Church of Jesus Christ for All People, he seized upon the 23rd Psalm—“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”—as the basis of his philosophy. “That line kept rolling over in my mind,” he said. Soon, the Rev. Ike was spreading the message of personal empowerment through wealth. “The best thing you can do for the poor,” he said, “is not be one of them.”

At the height of his popularity in the 1970s, some 2.5 million listeners heard the Rev. Ike on 1,770 radio stations, said the Los Angeles Times. He was also seen in 10 major TV markets and “toured the nation like a soul-music star, attracting thousands to his sermons.” He was never shy about soliciting donations, specifying paper money because, he explained, “Change makes your minister nervous in the service.” The Rev. Ike cut a flamboyant figure, oiling his coiffed hair and wearing rhinestone-encrusted clothes, “a silver-and-diamond tie pin, a silver bracelet, and a large gold ring studded with maybe 15 diamonds.” He also flaunted his personal fleet of Cadillacs, Bentleys, and Rolls-Royces. “My garages runneth over,” he said.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Eula May, and a son, Xavier.

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