| Second Thoughts |

Bandits and Bishop

Why would the bishop be wearing all this jewelry on his person while delivering his sermon?


SOthe good Brooklyn bishop is in the midst of his sermon when three masked men burst into the church. (See New York media, week of July 25, 2022.) Are they wearing corona masks? Not quite. They are wearing masks for the traditional age-old reason: to hide their faces. Why do they want to hide their faces? Because they are about to commit a traditional age-old robbery, which can be deduced from the fact that they are brandishing pistols.

And whom are they going to rob? The churchgoers? No. The church treasury? No. They have planned this carefully and they know exactly whom they are going to rob. They are going to rob Bishop Lamor Whitehead himself. The bishop? Why would they want to rob the bishop? Because, as Willie Sutton once famously observed, that’s where the money is. The bishop has money on him in the midst of a church service? Not precisely money, but very expensive jewelry, worth about one million dollars, and he is wearing all of it while delivering his sermon.

What was the subject of his interrupted sermon? Was it on the evils of the flesh and the dangers of neglecting the spiritual? Was this Christian bishop discoursing on the apostles’ comment about the impossibility of serving both G-d and money? Or was he simply illustrating Mishlei 8:20 that “those who love G-d, He will fill with treasures.” Or perhaps the bishop, in a heroic act of self-immolation, wanted to serve as a living visual aid to demonstrate with his own body the truth of Mishlei 11:4 that “wealth hath no value on the day of wrath.”

Why would he be wearing all this jewelry on his person while delivering his sermon? Why millions in jewelry? Why not millions invested in bonds or stocks or real estate? Perhaps he was fearful of leaving it at home, or did not trust a safety deposit box, or perhaps it gave him a sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

The thieves have done their homework and know exactly where the jewelry is. They order the good bishop to empty his pockets, remove his gold necklaces, his expensive watches, his diamond-studded bracelets, his pearl neckbands. And they demand that the bishop’s wife do the same with her jewelry. (He is not Catholic.)

Confronted with pointed pistols, the bishop hands over all of his holy accoutrements. The three masked men dash out the church door, jump into a waiting car, and speed away.

At this writing, no one is asking out loud how the flashy, Gucci-wearing bishop accumulated a million dollars’ worth of jewelry, plus a fleet of high-end automobiles, plus top-of-the-line vacations —especially since his “Deliverance Temple International” is a small storefront church with only twenty parishioners. No one is wondering out loud what happened to all the heartrending charity appeals and collection plate moneys that are an integral part of this church.

Similarly, no one is asking how one becomes a bishop in this church, since it does seem to offer certain lucrative emoluments. Who bestows the title “bishop”? What are the requirements? Does one become an ordinary reverend first, and then work his way up the hierarchy to bishop-hood? Is there a hierarchy at all, or does one begin as bishop? What seminaries or colleges or theology schools does one have to graduate from — and what degrees must he have — before he earns the title of bishop?

Who were the three bandits who robbed the bishop? They seemed to know everything about him and his wife, knew exactly about his jewelry and their value. Were they officials of the church board of trustees? Disgruntled church worshippers? Competing bishops envious of his opulence? No one asks the bishop any of these questions, nor does he offer any explanations.

And of course, since they are nowhere to be found, no one has asked the thieves the classic question of the prophet Malachi 3:5, “Can a man steal from G-d….?” To which they could counter with their own learned question: does stealing from a millionaire bishop constitute stealing from G-d?

Many questions, very few answers.

One thing is perfectly clear, however. Once upon a time, when you asked a little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would say that he wanted to be a fireman or a policeman or an airplane pilot. No longer. Today, any intelligent little boy, aware of the jewels and luxury cars, will say, “Mommy, when I grow up, I wanna be a bishop.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 924)

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