A few weeks ago, Diana and I spent a week in the Holiday/Tarpon Springs area of Florida. Just down the road from where we stayed was the compound/campus/facility of Leslie Hale, the Irish Preacher. In the last two years, we’ve driven by it at least a dozen times and we kept wondering what was going on there. I think it’s supposed to be a church, but if that’s the case, it’s like none I’ve ever seen. Exterior-wise, the only identifying factor is that big sign with Hale’s name on it. No crosses, no God stuff, no nothing that says church. On the website, you have to click a link to even see mention of God or Jesus. And, forget mission work, I didn’t find anything close there. What I did find is multiple requests for cash. There’s a link to become an “encourager” (which requires a donation of $50 a month), his memoir is available for a “minimum donation” of $15, there’s a straight-out gimme button (similar to mine) and, finally, there’s the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, a recreation of the tabernacle of the Exodus . He’s already spent $2 million on this thing and he’s asking for another million to complete it. Damn, if he sent out prayer cloths, he’d be the Irish Reverend Ike.
I don’t know anything more about this guy. I don’t know if he does any outreach in the community. I don’t know if he spends any time with poor people, if he helps the homeless find shelter, if he feeds hungry people. All I do know is that what’s listed above, because that’s what’s on his website. I’ve asked some people who are familiar with the area about him and they don’t even know who he is. I’d like to think that, as a man of God, if he’s spending $3 million dollars on this tabernacle thing, he’s spending even more on the things I just mentioned. I really hope so, but I don’t think that’s the case. Because if someone was throwing that kind of money around, people would be talking about it. And, they’re not. Nobody seems to know who he is. Which is really kind of sad. I mean, you’d think a preacher, someone who’s spent their life reading, studying and teaching the Bible would have read Matthew 25:35-45 and would be feeding, sheltering, clothing and generally looking after people instead of spending millions on what amounts to a freaking tent.