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Home > What Righteous Gemstones Gets Right About Contemporary Televangelists

What Righteous Gemstones Gets Right About Contemporary Televangelists

What Righteous Gemstones Gets Right About Contemporary Televangelists

"The Righteous Gemstones" Celebrates Its Third Season with More Outrageous Satirical Takes on Evangelical Media.

The world of the Gemstones family has been on display since 2019 – with season 3 ongoing and season 4 on the horizon. The Righteous Gemstones is a black comedy television series that delves into the world of televangelists. Similar to another HBO show – Succession – the show displays families brought up in opulence and excess struggling to take hold of the reins of their family’s empire. For the Gemstones, this is the family business of offering salvation to those who can afford it.

The Righteous Gemstones boasts a star-studded cast, including John Goodman (The Big Lebowski and Roseanne), Adam DeVine (Workaholics and Pitch Perfect), and Danny McBride, who also serves as the show’s creator and writer. The show’s writing is injected with irony and satire as it lampoons the hypocrisy of Evangelicals. Being produced by HBO, the show doesn’t shy away from using graphic and sexual content to underscore its points. The escapades of the series are spurred on by the family’s selfish desires to maintain their televangelist empire and continue their lavish lifestyle. But what is the real-world truth behind the Gemstones? And what does the show hope to criticize about Evangelical figureheads?

Faith for Profit

The Righteous Gemstones shows the family concocting a wide variety of outlets to expand their wealth. Whether it be a host of nationwide tours, book releases, marriage counseling packages, and even a timeshare resort named “Zion’s Landing” – money is king for the family. Some of these ventures seem almost unreal – but televangelists argue that these are extensions of their teachings.

The real-world equivalent of these types of investments can be seen in a number of faith-based consumer products and attractions. For example, the religious theme park conceived by televangelist Morris Cerullo cost a whopping $190 million.

Season 3 shows the shady past of Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) as a businessman as he and his wife Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles) sell survival books and equipment to their congregants to cash in on the Y2K panic. Eli and Aimee admit in the Y2K-centered episode that they never believed that the world would truly end – but went with the grift anyways to cash in on the panic of their congregants. End-time preaching happens all the time, as personalities such as Jack Van Impe connect real-world events to biblical stories that supposedly foretell the world’s coming doom.

What Righteous Gemstones Gets Right About Contemporary Televangelists

Extravagance

The Gemstones’ family dwelling is far from humble. The family lives together on a ranch, with each sibling having a mansion. They travel across the ranch in golf carts; in addition, they have a warehouse full of flashy vehicles. The Gemstones arsenal includes almost any car one would associate with status, such as Cadillacs, Rolls Royces, Mercedes G-Wagons, and even a monster truck known as “The Redeemer.” The Gemstones also make reference to receiving “tithings” from their followers – a sort of tax that funds the church. This monetary support helps The Gemstones afford their excess.

This display of opulence isn’t far off from the real-world Evangelists who farm their riches from television. In 2015, Kenneth Copeland was caught in hot water when preachers and followers called him out for his excessive use of luxury private jets housed in his private airport. Another televangelist – Jesse Duplantis – told his audience to foot the bill on his fourth private jet. The reason these megachurch leaders can maintain this lavish lifestyle is because of their tax-exempt status. These leaders also tell their followers that the more money they send, the more their problems will be solved (known as “prosperity gospel”). John Oliver famously satirized prosperity gospel and the ease of creating one of these megachurches and achieving their tax-exempt status by creating his own bogus church – Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. 

Hypocrisy

The Righteous Gemstones also dives into clear hypocritical messaging – putting into the narrative the sheer outrageousness of Eli Gemstone’s creation. The Gemstones are constantly embroiled in crime and scandal, and the show’s central conflict is maintaining a public image. Jesse (Danny McBride) and Judy (Edi Patterson) are constantly committing acts of violence against others (and sometimes among themselves). Typically, the Gemstone patriarch, Eli, is forced to bail his kids out of trouble, but either way, conflict is mitigated under the table or illegally. 

Season 1, for example, deals with being blackmailed with a video of Jesse engaging in lewd and adulterous behavior by unknown individuals. What ensues in the season is numerous acts of lies, crime, and violence as the family stops at nothing to protect their image.

While the HBO show amps up the characters’ personalities and acts for the sake of the story, real-life hypocrisy is not unheard of in the world of televangelism. Joel Osteen was famously criticized for not offering Hurricane Harvey victims refuge in his 16,000-capacity Lakewood Church. After receiving pushback, he immediately opened up the institute. Jim Bakker is another famous televangelist who was embroiled in numerous public controversies. The numerous sex and financial scandals culminated in the destruction of Bakker’s empire – including the loss of their network and the closure of their religious theme park Heritage USA. For televangelists in fiction and real life, public image is important to continue profiting.

The Righteous Gemstones shows the hypocrisy of the predatory evangelical network through a satirical lens. Filled with scandal, extravagance, and exorbitant amounts of money, it’s an inclusive show that depicts the absurdity of capitalistic displays of religion.

The Righteous Gemstones is streamable on Max.

What Righteous Gemstones Gets Right About Contemporary Televangelists

The Righteous Gemstones Season Three Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Thomas Cooper is a writer for Dead Talk News based in San Antonio, Texas. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Communications with a concentration in Digital Media from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Aside from film, Thomas also loves to talk about vinyl record collecting and custom PC builds.