Fundamentalist preacher “debates” religion with Oprah
It’s the funniest and most pathetic fraud I’ve come across in quite some time.
A couple of months ago,, in March, the Rev. Bill Keller, founder of a Florida-based fundamentalist Christian “ministry” named Live Prayer (and yes, it deserves the scornful quotation marks), publicly challenged Oprah Winfrey to a debate about religion. Here’s the YouTube clip:
In the clip Keller announces to the world that Oprah Winfrey, because of her promotion of Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth, is leading people to hell. At one point he tells her, “God will take you down. It was God who raised you up and it is God who will take you down.” He concludes by not only asking but demanding — he uses the word itself — that she engage him publicly in a debate about religious matters.
To my surprise, Fox News gave Keller a huge platform by interviewing him remotely about his views on Oprah. (Or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it’s Fox News we’re talking about.) The ostensible justification for the einterview was the kickoff of Oprah’s network reality show Oprah’s Big Give but Keller devoted the whole of the three-minute interview to explaining why he believes Oprah is “the queen of the New Age gurus.” He even called her “the most dangerous woman in the world,” since she is “leading people down the path of destruction” if “you believe that the Bible is true and Christ is the only way to be saved.”
Here’s the YouTube clip of the Fox interview:
And now, most recently (as of April), Keller has posted to the Internet a video of the supposed interview he ended up conducting with Oprah. You can watch it below, but first be advised that the whole thing is a fraud. When I saw the title of the video, I was momentarily shocked that Oprah would even give the guy a second thought. Then as I went to click the link, before the video even started playing, I thought the thing had to be a fraud. Then I thought, “No way. He wouldn’t be that ballsy.”
But in point of fact, yes, he would. Observe:
What Keller has done is to create the illusion that he is debating with Oprah, with him sitting in a chair in his personal production studio and asking Oprah questions while she answers via video link from the studio where she held her webcasts for A New Earth. But what’s actually happening is that Keller has simply recorded himself asking the questions and then edited in segments of Oprah talking to the camera during the Tolle webcasts. He asks her what she thinks of Jesus Christ. Then he inserts a clip of her talking about her understanding of Christ. And so on.
I watched the video with a mixed emotion of hilarity and incredulity. Even when I caught on to what Keller was doing — which took about 30 seconds; it’s really a clumsy piece of work he’s put together — I kept thinking there was no way he could play it straight all the way to the end. I thought he would have to break down at some point and admit that this was all a simulated debate. I figured he would justify it by saying something along the lines that he had to do it this way, since Oprah wouldn’t respond to his challenge and the issue was so danged important.
But no, he played it as genuine all the way through. If you watch the video, I hope you pay particular attention at around six minutes into it when Keller cuts back to a shot of his own face while the Oprah clip keeps on playing. He winces. He rolls his eyes. He mugs shamelessly for the camera to show his disdain for what Oprah is saying. Then he starts taking her to task and laying down “the truth” for her. In other words, he really works hard to pull off the illusion that he really is debating her live, and that she really is present on the other end of a video linkup, responding in real time to his questions and comments.
Not since the glory days of deliriously fraudulent, fatuous, and breathtakingly funny Robert Tilton in the late 80s and early 90s have I witnessed such televangelistic gall. Tilton fell like an anvil dropped from the Empire State Building after ABC’s Primetime newsmagazine exposed him for what he was. I have to wonder whether Keller will suffer a similar fate, since he seems to be possessed of the same astonishing audacity and cartoonish presentation. If Sister Oprah decides to turn her baleful eye upon him, we can know that his fall will be great indeed.
Not incidentally, aside from his really amusing theatrics and lies, the man also amuses by mispronouncing Tolle’s last name as Toll, like in “toll bridge” (the name is correctly pronounced “Toll-ay”) and claiming that Oprah is promoting something called “A Course on Miracles” when it’s actually “A Course in Miracles.” He can’t even bother to get his facts straight, so it’s hard to take him seriously.
But then, he positively begs not to be taken seriously via the media persona he has deliberately cultivated. Is he maybe winking at us all as he drives home his schmaltzy schtick? I don’t think so but I can’t rule it out. So in the absence of evidence either way, I’ll just adopt an attitude of (sharp-edged) amusement toward him and enjoy the show.