Church of The Donald
How Christian TV became Trump’s most reliable media mouthpiece.
How Christian TV became Trump’s most reliable media mouthpiece.
How Jerry Falwell Jr. transformed Liberty University, one of the religious right’s most powerful institutions, into a wildly lucrative online empire.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his spokeswoman Ma Anand Sheela moved their commune and its thousands of followers from India to an Oregon ranch. The poisoning of a nearby town, election manipulation, and plans to murder government officials and the writer of this story soon followed.
The events chronicled in this original 1985 series are the basis for the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country.
How followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh came to Oregon from India, and transformed eastern Oregon’s Big Muddy Ranch into Rancho Rajneesh.
How a small-town Indian boy became a religious guru that followers compared to Jesus Christ, Buddha and Krishna.
Before coming to Oregon, the Bhagwan built his following in Poona, India, attracting disciples from around the world.
What are the real reasons the Rajneeshees left India for Oregon? Rising tensions with the Indian government and police, and a lot of unpaid taxes.
Tales of smuggling – gold, money and drugs – dogged the Rajneesh movement since the late 1970s, and continued when they arrived in the United States.
Somewhere between India and Oregon, the life-or-death melodrama surrounding Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s failing health dissipated like a contrail against a summer sky.
How Ma Anand Sheela used family ties to help purchase the land for the Rajneeshees’ Oregon commune.
Ma Anand Sheela was much more than the guru’s personal secretary. She was a tigress of the two-minute TV interview, and wielded words like weapons.
To turn Racho Rajneesh from farmland to a city, the Rajneeshees needed to incorporate. It was a blurring of church and state that caught the eye of Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer.
While followers talked about free love, the Rajneeshees armed themselves with assault weapons, grenade launchers and submachine guns, turning Rajneeshpuram into one of the most-heavily armed places in the state.
Followers of the Bhagwan saw their ranch as a place of peace, but the universal bliss was laced with threats of violence and threads of paranoia.
Antics by the Rajneeshees during legal proceedings – including making faces and obscene gestures – confounded lawyers and judges.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh hardly led a humble life, with his diamond-encrusted Rolex watches and fleet of 74 Rolls-Royces.
The Rajneesh financial machine reached around the globe, and channeled millions of dollars to its Oregon headquarters.
How a lust for money propelled the Rajneesh movements into the arms of Big Business.
Ma Anand Sheela and other ranch officials kept a tight grip on followers.
Rajneesh used various techniques – some of them strong-armed – to separate followers from their cash, property and jewelry.
Rajneeshees bristled at the word “cult,” but it was clearly one according to religious experts.
Of all the threats to the Rajneesh movement, an immigration fraud investigation that was four years in the making loomed the largest, and focused on arranged marriages and fake relationships
The Rajneeshees took advantage of sleepy immigration officials to sneak followers into the United States. The government then bungled cases, and irritated potential witnesses to the point that they no longer cooperated.
North Carolina’s Alexander County is a Southern Baptist stronghold. It’s also home to Mitchell Gold, an outspoken gay rights activist and the CEO of one of the region’s largest employers.
A profile of a previously unknown rookie pitcher for the Mets who dropped out of Harvard, made a spiritual quest to Tibet, and somewhere along the line figured out how to throw a baseball much, much faster than anyone else on Earth.
Baba Ramdev renounced the material world twenty-three years ago to become a Hindu ascetic. Now he’s on TV selling toothpaste, instant noodles, and toilet cleaners and the company he is believed to control is poised to become the biggest consumer goods seller in India.
A bitter legal row over a mosque in an affluent New Jersey town shows the new face of Islamophobia in the age of Trump.
“We are better than the stories about us.”
Why did Yousef Muslet face life in prison for an everyday gesture?
“Meir Kay is a bar mitzvah party motivator.”
On the Old Regular Baptists and the joyful sound.
A visit to the Christian rock Cross-Over Festival in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
A former schoolyard bully finds a new identity through Buddhism. A classmate wonders why he changed—and if he remembers the pain he caused.
“A legend is growing in Nepal, where people say a meditating boy hasn’t eaten or drunk in seven months. He barely moves, just sits under a tree, still as a stone. It’s impossible, some say. Is it a miracle? A hoax? Let’s find out.”
During the 90s, David Bazan was Christian indie-rock’s first big crossover star. Then he stopped believing.
The Nxivm initiation was supposed to open up a secret sisterhood. After giving up compromising photographs to the recruiter “master,” each woman was expecting a tattoo. Instead they received 2-inch brands that seemed to suggest the initials of the cults founder, Keith Raniere.
Students come from around the world to struggling Redding, California, where the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry promises to teach them to perform miracles.
Inside the campaign to canonize the fire department chaplain who died on September 11.
Cody Coots is pastor at the same church where his father died during a service three years ago.
Abraham never fit in. Hisham finally felt at home. Then their worlds collided in western Arkansas.
A travelogue through the contradiction-rich and predominantly Muslim Southern Thailand.
Bruce Wisan received one of the toughest assignments ever thrust upon an accountant: to take control of the assets (and by proxy, followers) of the polygamist Mormon breakaway sect, F.L.D.S., after their prophet, Warren Jeffs, went on the lam and their compound was raided.
“I underwent, during the summer that I became fourteen, a prolonged religious crisis. I use “religious” in the common, and arbitrary, sense, meaning that I then discovered God, His saints and angels, and His blazing Hell. And since I had been born in a Christian nation, I accepted this Deity as the only one. I supposed Him to exist only within the walls of a church—in fact, of our church—and I also supposed that God and safety were synonymous.”
“If a life can have a crystallizing moment, for Jim Graham that 1993 meeting was it, discovering that his father might have been a Catholic priest, rather than John Graham, the distant man who raised him with scarcely a kind or comforting word.”
Ricky Rodriguez was born in the role of the messiah. His father was David Berg, the leader of the polygamous/incestuous cult The Children of God, which published a book documenting his early life:
In 1982 a shop in Spain printed several thousand copies of a book that was then distributed to group members around the world. Bound in faux leather, illustrated with hundreds of photographs, the 762-page tome meticulously chronicled Ricky's young life and was intended as a child-rearing manual for families. Its title, The Story of Davidito, was stamped in gold. With its combination of earnest prose and unabashed child pornography, it is perhaps the most disturbing book ever published in the name of religion.
Eventually, he left the cult and found work as an electrician. But revenge called him back.