Over the Edge of Evil: "Dr." Jerry Johnston

Paging through my copy of Jerry Johnston’s 1989 book The Edge of Evil (with a foreward by Geraldo), I idly wondered what had become of this “expert” on Satanism who claimed to have lectured to more high school students than anyone else his age.

It didn’t take long to find out. As I write this, bitter criticism and controversy swirl around “Dr.”/Pastor Johnston and his megachurch, the First Family Church of Overland Park , Kansas (Jonston has an honorary “doctorate” from Falwell’s Liberty University). In a March 2007 series of articles by Judy L. Thomas, the Kansas City Star brought to light possible financial misdeeds at First Family:

  • In 2005, Jonston raised millions of dollars for a building that would house a Christian children’s academy. The building was completed, but in August 2006 Johnston announced to his church that the academy opening was being postponed indefinitely and that the remaining money would instead be spent on a sanctuary with seating for 5000-7000.
  • In October 2000, First Family began taking donations for its main sanctuary. Donors would have their names displayed on a monument. However, despite the raising of $750,000 the monument wasn’t acquired until 2006 (after the Star began its investigation) – and it was considerably less grand than the 2000 plans.
  • In 2005, Johnston announced that an anonymous donor had answered the congregation’s prayers by giving the church 200 acres of land on which to build a youth camp. Real estate records told a different story: Johnston’s son Jeremy signed a $400,000 mortgage on the property in the church’s name.

First Family is a Southern Baptist Convention affiliate with approximately 4200 members, a worldwide TV ministry, and an annual budget of $17 million.

Johnston claimed that First Family finances are overseen by a responsible board of trustees. The Star found that one lawyer listed as a longtime board member, Tim Dollar, had never attended the church nor a single board meeting.

In the wake of the Star‘s revelations, Christian and Kansan bloggers like Just Cara were inundated with comments from people who had left First Family due to their unaddressed concerns about financial mismanagement on the part of Johnston and the board. Despite this wealth of claims to the contrary, board chairman Robert Ulrich (former U.S. Attorney) said no one had ever rasised concerns about church finances.

Since being born again in his late teens, Johnston has been a vocal opponent of Satanism/occultism, gay rights, and the theory of evolution. The Other Side of Evil is ’80s Christian boilerplate, derived primarily from a handful of newspaper accounts of teen Satanic murders and the discredited confessions of “recovered” Satanists and SRA victims like “breeder” Jacquie Balodis. See Kerr Cuhulain’s Witchvox article on Johnston for more information.

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