Exploitation: Children in the Pulpit

A few nights ago my wife and I happened upon a National Geographic documentary called “Pint-Sized Preachers”. My wife said I shouldn’t watch it because she knew it would elevate my blood pressure.

She was right.

There are certain things that I consider grounds for engagement and exploitation of children is prime among them. This documentary contained three examples of such exploitation and three examples of adults that were either clueless or intently malicious.

The first child, Kanon Timpton – age 4,  became famous when a video of him mimicking his father’s  United Pentecostal preaching style on stage received millions of views on Youtube and went viral for weeks.  I remember the first time I saw it and how disgusted I was; not only at the millions of people that thought this was either cute or somehow evidence of the power of their god, but also the parents and the church full of people that were cheering him on.

Kanon’s “preaching” consists of little more than well timed shouting and breathing into the microphone – outside of those things the content is no better than gibberish with sprinklings of words like “God”, “Jesus”, and “Victory” while pointing at or slapping the Bible dramatically – a Bible he isn’t old enough to read. He’s merely mocking  his father, picking up on the mannerisms and words that are most often used – and reveling in the applause of the crowd. His Father believes that the “Holy Ghost” is interceding when his child is on stage despite all the obvious signs that all the words and actions of this child are empty.

The other two young men are a bit older;  12 year old Terry Durham from Ft. Lauterdale, FL and  12 year old Matheus Moraes from Rio de Janeiro.  Both of these young men carry themselves like adults when in front of the camera and the crowd. They are both being groomed by people that can gain from their success.  Durham’s grandmother, a Baptist minister herself,  has been convicted of fraud in the past and in order to “protect him” must handle all of the monetary transactions for him.  Moraes is surrounded by professional ministers that focus on a Word of Faith doctrine that produces ample proceeds in the offering plate. He is extremely well dressed (though surrounded by poverty) and even has a website where you can buy his DVDs and become a partner with his ministry in the style of Benny Hinn and other televangelists.

The latter two provide an insight as to what can be expected from 4 year old Kanon further down the road.  Once his mimicry starts to include intelligent English and seems less rehearsed he too will be thrust into a preaching tour and he will be considered a prodigy by thousands of people, I suspect that the UPC church (A  fundamentalist cult) will use him to grow their numbers and influence. Doing so will be a crime against this little boy and will destroy any semblance of a childhood he might have.

Maybe the first video was of 18 month old Kanon WAS cute to some degree. I mean, how can something a little baby does not be cute right? Were that video the end of Kanon’s story I’d be less concerned – but because I know what his future will hold I am absolutely disgusted and worried for him. I fear that his fate will be like those that came before him and that his life will mean only what his handlers want it to mean, much like Marjoe Gortner and unlike Marjoe; Kanon, Moraes, and Durham may not find themselves able to escape.

I think these kids show us two things;  that some adults will go to any lengths and use any tool they can find to push their religion (and make a profit from it in the process),  and that manipulating people through the art of magnetism is so easy that even a child can learn it and do it well (In the cases of Durham and Moraes).

If these children and all that might come after them are to no longer be exploited there is going to have to be a change in the Christian community.  Instead of finding this stuff cute you must instead begin to find it disgusting and exploitative. You,  Christians, must  take a stance against it and protest these movements within your own ranks. This is yet another problem within the church that  I and the rest of the atheist community can’t fix for you. You’ll have to gather up the gumption to do it yourself. I challenge you to do so and take a stand for these kids.

Here’s a short preview of the documentary, which I’m sure will be re-aired at a later date. If your blood pressure doesn’t similarly rise then I highly recommend you rethink a few things. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below

  • Daddy's Rose Garden

    I would comment, but in the end you will either ignore it, or give it no credibility seeing as I am a "Christian"…

    • are you? I never can tell these days.

  • That was disturbing to watch. I've been having some issues internally recently because my in-laws have taken my oldest (9 year old son) to church a handful of times. I was okay with it until he came home with an electronic Bible my MIL had given him and asking if he could wear a cross necklace. I asked him why and he said because he was a Christian. I asked him to tell me what that was and he said "someone who believes in the one true God." — cue questions about how he knows there's only one god, that he didn't have time to answer or listen to. He's expressed an interest in going to church more frequently, but I take issue with it.

    I'm okay with him being exposed to religion. I'm even okay with him choosing to follow a religion, but I do not believe he has the ability to grasp what he's getting into at this age and I don't feel it's appropriate for him to choose a religion to follow after experiencing 4 or 5 visits to a Southern Baptist sanctuary. I'll see if that documentary is on Netflix and watch the whole thing sometime this weekend.

  • Tana Schott

    Yeah, I can't watch this. No clips, no documentary. Jesus Camp about did me in.

  • Tanja

    There are definitely many out there who appear to have forgotten who is supposed to be receiving the glory. Reminds me of the "pageant mentality" of parading children on stage to boost and affirm parent's own egos. Not attractive. Doesn't glorify anyone but the individual.

  • Mspaula48

    Disgusting, stop indoctrinating kids and acting out through them for fame, power and money because THAT is what it's all about!

  • That was disturbing to watch. I've been having some issues internally recently because my in-laws have taken my oldest (9 year old son) to church a handful of times. I was okay with it until he came home with an electronic Bible my MIL had given him and asking if he could wear a cross necklace. I asked him why and he said because he was a Christian. I asked him to tell me what that was and he said "someone who believes in the one true God." — cue questions about how he knows there's only one god, that he didn't have time to answer or listen to. He's expressed an interest in going to church more frequently, but I take issue with it.

  • mythinformed

    This is why it's so hard to untrain these people when they're old enough to START thinking. It's just like child actors, and the let down they'll experience when they're no longer 'cute'.

  • Morgan

    My grandfather is a Southern Baptist preacher. When I was about 4 or 5, I decided I was going to preach with him. My mother gave me looks from the crowd, but I just ignored her, so she walked up to the pulpit, drug me down and out the door, took my father's belt and gave me one of the only whippings of my life. I never tried that again. The pulpit was apparently no place for a child 😛 And I agree. The fact that people encourage these kids is detestable.

  • David

    These people may think they are Christian but all they are doing is stealing money from true believers. I am a Christian. I’m a deacon at my church and what these people are doing is wrong. If you want to get up and preach the gospel then do it. Don’t parade around , waving your hands and a towel, touch someone on the head and think they are healed. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. And all you’re worried about little preacher is how the suit looks. I don’t care what clothes anyone has on. It’s what ones heart truly believes about Christ on whether or not you go to heaven. Not your clothes, money, if you’re a good person, if you help the needy. It’s a daily repentance from sin and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.