CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – The Christian satire "Babylon Bee" website is known for its edgy humor, but some fans said it went too far Tuesday when it posted a story about the death of TBN co-founder Jan Crouch.
The 78-year-old Crouch died shortly after suffering a stroke, and two and a half years after her husband, TBN co-founder Paul Crouch, passed away in November 2013.
The Crouches were well-known for being leaders in the health-and-wealth or prosperity gospel movement – a point the Babylon Bee story noted under the headline "Top Prosperity Theologians Puzzled Over Death Of Jan Crouch."
"Various baffled prosperity gospel preachers have begun offering theories Tuesday on how Crouch could possibly have passed away, given her overabundance of faith, her supernatural ability to name and claim health and wealth at will, and her decades of collecting donations while promising that God's will is for everybody to be wealthy and healthy," the story read.
Like other Babylon Bee stories, this one carried no byline.
It included fake quotes from prosperity gospel preachers Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and Kenneth Copeland.
"Maybe she read a really mean tweet or some criticism of her theology, and she spoke the words out loud and gave them life. How else can you explain someone who possessed supernatural health from God dying four years before the average female life expectancy in the U.S.," the satirical Osteen quote read.
The Babylon Bee said a satirical Hinn told reporters "that Crouch must have spoken her own death into existence."
"I can't think of a single other reason that can explain why she would die of a stroke during 'healing month' on TBN, when the network is reminding its fans that 'God wants them well and whole,'" the satirized Hinn quote read.
The story concluded: "Whatever the reason for Crouch's sudden passing, Trinity Broadcasting Network has announced an upcoming month of solemnly and aggressively seeking donations in her honor."
Barry McCarty, professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, told the Christian Examiner that the story should not have been posted.
"I have been a fan of the Babylon Bee. I have appreciated their sometimes irreverent and stinging satire. I would also say that ordinarily I appreciate wit and satire and I am no fan at all of prosperity gospel and televangelists — but this struck me as being beyond the pale today," McCarty said.
"This is not a day to poke fun on the day she died. I think it would have been best to have said nothing than to have lampooned and satirized someone on the day she died. She was a wife and mother and people love her," McCarty added. "Today is a day to extend condolences to those who grieve her loss."
On the Babylon Bee's Facebook page, fans were divided.
"Being in the funeral industry, the bee has lost me on this one," wrote Brad Root, who noted he's not a fan of TBN theology. "She does have a family who is grieving her loss. Pray for her family that they may see the truth and be brought closer to God. Don't make fun of her after she passed. What would Jesus do? I love ya bee, but you crossed the line this time."
Angela Gabrielle Soles wrote, "I normally think everything BB posts is gold.... but this was completely insensitive. Satire and jokes are fun, but this crossed the line."
Rhett Kelley wrote, "Normally a big fan, but this is way too soon. Regardless of their heretical doctrines, we could demonstrate some charity as her family and friends mourn. There's plenty of time for satire later."
Others, though, said the story did not go too far.
"Satire works because it offends and in offending shocks our senses to the reality behind the joke," wrote Nate Schlomann. "It is in the very moments of life and death and pain and suffering that the hellacious Prosperity Gospel does its most damage. Sad to have seen this pastorally first hand too many times. So this is the perfect time, there can be no other. Go BB."
Mike Chaney wrote: "Truth is not always comforting and can be offensive. The post sarcastically addresses a legitimate question. It is far less offensive than teaching a doctrine that causes people to live in doubt, guilt and shame for not having enough faith to claim perfect health and abundant wealth."
With reporting by Joni Hannigan