Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II
June 1, 1935
|Died||July 28, 2009 (aged 74)|
|Spouse(s)||Eula M. Dent|
Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike (June 1, 1935 – July 28, 2009), was an American minister and evangelist based in New York City. He was known for the slogan "You can't lose with the stuff I use!" His preaching is considered by some a form of prosperity theology.
Life and career
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Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II was born in Ridgeland, South Carolina to parents from the Netherlands Antilles, and was of African and Indo (Dutch-Indonesian) descent. He began his career at 14 as assistant pastor to his father, the Baptist minister of the Bible Way Church in Ridgeland. At 18 he enrolled in American Bible College, graduating in 1956. He then served a two-year stint in the Air Force as a Chaplain Service Specialist (a non-commissioned officer assigned to assist commissioned Air Force chaplains). In 1958 he returned to South Carolina, where in Beaufort he founded the United Church of Jesus Christ for All People and the United Christian Evangelistic Association. Here he began to feel "cramped by traditional Christianity."
In 1964 he moved to Boston where, in a small storefront setting, he founded the Miracle Temple and launched the ministry for which he would become known worldwide, dedicated to what he perceived as "spiritual psychology" together with new ideas of God and humankind, and not based on revelation, theology, or any kind of ecclesiasticism. This was followed by a move to New York City in 1966 and rental of the Sunset Theater on Manhattan's 125th Street in the heart of Harlem. It was there that, because of the small space afforded by the theater marquee, he abbreviated his name to--and thereafter became known as-- "Reverend Ike." By 1969 the theater itself had become too small to hold him and his congregation, so Rev. Ike bought a movie palace originally known as Loew's 175th Street Theater, occupying an entire square block in Manhattan's Washington Heights, making it the home of his Christ Community United Church, as well as of the Science of Living Institute.
Palace Cathedral, as it was then known, cost Rev. Ike a half-million dollars, and that was even before restoration of its famous seven-storey-high Robert Morton organ and the immense gilded interior dating from 1930 and accommodating more than 3600 people. These seats were quickly filled, especially at the Sunday services that drew thousands from the city's five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester County, and New Jersey cities and suburbs--and this in addition to the television broadcast of Rev. Ike's message nationwide to millions. He appeared on all the major television networks and was carried by as many as 1770 radio stations. Somewhat symbolically, the Cathedral's "Miracle Star of Faith," atop the building's cupola, is visible from the George Washington Bridge. The building was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmark Commission in 2016.
Rev. Ike's outreach and activities became phenomenal and legendary in his own time. There was his "Action!" magazine, with its six million readers; his nationwide touring, with standing-room-only audiences in major cities; his feature-story coverage in Fortune Magazine, the N. Y. Times Sunday Magazine, Jet Magazine, and the London Sunday Times, to name only a few. His lifetime total of hours of recorded teaching numbers in the thousands. Additionally, there were the United Church Schools, including the Science of Living Institute and Seminary, the Business of Living Institute, and other educational projects, all aimed at spiritual/psychological/educational/cultural empowerment--and especially aimed at those who needed these the most.
With fame and fortune there came Rev. Ike's lifelong (and posthumous) critics and detractors--secular foes of religion in general, particularly denouncers and ridiculers of televangelists, and, from within the religious establishment, its decades-old opposition to the American metaphysical/spiritual movement as represented by such large and prominent organizations as Unity School of Christianity, Religious Science, Divine Science, and the very many smaller groups lumped together in the popular mind as "New Age" but more accurately designated as the broad field of New Thought, having its origins in 19th-century America and having, by Rev. Ike's time, served as a spiritual tradition for millions of people of all classes and backgrounds.
Although Rev. Ike's message was in many ways unique, his "gospel" was basically that of the New Thought school and such famous teachers as Charles Fillmore, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Malinda Elliott Cramer, Ernest Holmes (considered a mentor by Norman Vincent Peale), Dr. Emilie Cady--and Emmet Fox (Rev. Ike's closest fore-runner, whose similar meetings in the 1930s filled New York's then-largest venue, The Hippodrome, in the thousands and turning away hundreds more, as attested by the N. Y. World Telegram and other newspaper accounts of the time, and whose books continue to sell, having long ago passed the millions mark). At the time of Rev. Ike's successes in New York, Dr. Raymond Charles Barker was teaching the same "gospel" to capacity audiences at New York's Lincoln Center and broadcasting citywide on WOR Radio. Dr. Barker was a speaker at Rev. Ike's meetings uptown, completely endorsing Rev. Ike's ministry as consistent with this spiritual movement that derives from the middle of the preceding century but that is numerically small compared to the mainstream religions. Latter-day exponents, with mega-church followings, have included Dr. Johnnie Colemon in Chicago and Dr. Barbara King in Atlanta--both with a universal message but also versed in ministering to the spiritual and self-empowerment needs of minorities.
Rev. Ike was especially targeted by religious and secular foes for his specific approach to helping African-Americans, other people of color, minorities, and lone individuals reassess themselves. Rev. Ike vividly and dramatically preached the uniquely non-dual metaphysical teaching that regards humankind as in no way (except in belief and consequent experience) separate from God, and therefore capable of achieving, here and now, unlimited success based on a wholly new acceptance of "Who and what you are in God, and who and what God is in you" (Rev. Ike). That this success can and should be material as well as "spiritual" is a corollary of New Thought's non-dualistic premises. On that basis, "Money is God in Action"--Dr Raymond Barker's famous statement (and book)--means that money is the material evidence of one's use of thinking and attitudes that go to the heart of one's self-assessment and of what one truly believes one is "in God" and what God is in oneself. Not a teaching of God and Devil, heaven and hell (except those we make), commandments and sins (except our missing of the mark, only to try again), church, clergy, hierarchy, traditional theology and doctrines, Rev. Ike's teaching, known as The Science of Living, took especial aim at the millions whose "civil rights" were essentially divine rights that needed to be realized through mental/spiritual re-education and regeneration.
Although Rev. Ike's ministry was widely considered to be all about money, it was in fact diverse and especially emphatic of self-identity, self-development, and self-esteem--all in the context of New Thought spirituality's basis of "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23.7) and "It shall be done for you as you have believed" (Mt 8.13). Rev. Ike regarded spiritual awareness, and hence its consequences, as the literal and consistent recognition of oneself in the "image and likeness" of God, with God's "Law" acting in response to how far one measures up to that divine, ever available standard. Rev. Ike's single textbook, "Rev.Ike's Secrets for Health, Happiness & Prosperity--for YOU: A Science of Living Study Guide" (1982), a 274-page statement of his teaching and practice in 52 chapters, shows the following general topical breakdown: Thought/Attitudes/Self-Discovery/Self-Identity/Self-Direction/Self-Development: 41 chapters; Health, Love, Marriage, Work, Goals: 6 chapters; Money-specific: 3 chapters; Misc. 3 chapters. All this is somewhat captured by Rev. Ike's sign-off on chapter 45:
"I don't want you to think that what I'm teaching you is something you can do without any effort. This is sort of a do-it-yourself religion, a do-it-yourself philosophy. You have a lot of work to do--I give you good positive techniques to practice--but you've got to practice them every day. You've got work to change. You can't lose with the stuff I use! And as you work to change your feelings, you will change your whole experience in life. As you use the techniques I am giving you for establishing a positive feeling about yourself, your positive experiences in life will increase."
Despite its generations-old history, Rev. Ike's "gospel" drew fire largely from those with no acquaintance with its antecedents and teachings. The matter was further complicated by Rev. Ike's sometimes vivid style, designed to dramatize and impress on his listeners' consciousness the very concreteness of his message, ranging from the completely spiritual nature of his audience to its expression and reflection in down-to-earth living. It was indeed a certain studied and designed "flamboyance," to make a very much needed point in a way that went beyond mere exhortation, and this it was that especially brought down on Rev. Ike his critics and detractors. Little or no mention was made of large contributions given to charity by his organization, or of the educational programs launched to qualify minority people for success--nor was there word of the ethical record of Rev. Ike and his organization, never racked by scandal.
That Rev. Ike was misunderstood and criticized by many whose stance was culturally, ideologically (and often racially) vastly different from his own is borne out in part by words spoken by Reverend Al Sharpton at Rev. Ike's memorial service:
"I knew him since my days as a boy preacher, and he impressed me with his sharp intellect and unshakeable beliefs in what he preached. He fought to break a slave psychology in his own way and in his own style. Reverend Ike literally broke down the walls of the black church to where it became a church that taught the science of reality, the science of thinking, and that we were born in just an Amos & Andy emotional church. ...Though he became quite controversial, what prophet hasn't?"
Family and death
Rev. Ike and his wife, Eula M. Dent, had one son, Xavier Eikerenkoetter. Reverend Ike died in Los Angeles at age 74 on July 28, 2009, after having not fully recovered from a stroke in 2007. His son gave a moving eulogy at his father's memorial service comparing his father to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X – as a "spiritual activist" and a liberator of minds. Xavier subsequently took over direction of the church.
- Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (July 29, 2009). "Reverend Ike, Who Preached Riches, Dies at 74". The New York Times.
- Science of Living Online.
- Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Billboard Books. p. 288. ISBN 0-8230-8291-1.
- giftofmoney (2010-02-04), Bishop Xavier: "Rev. Ike was a liberator of minds!", retrieved 2017-04-06
- Associated Press "Reverend Ike, Preacher of Material Prosperity, Dies at 74", Huffington Post, July 30, 2009; retrieved December 26, 2011.