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These Christians took preacher Robin D. Bullock seriously. Now they're screwed.
This is the tragic story of what happens when a YouTube ministry becomes real life
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One of the reasons websites like Right Wing Watch track the deranged statements of certain Christian preachers is because those comments often have real world consequences.
When someone like hate-preacher Greg Locke falsely claims children with autism actually suffer from demon possession, for example, he’s not just some fringe pastor saying something virtually no one will hear. He’s a preacher with a large online following and plenty of connections to prominent Republicans saying something that could impact his followers’ lives in a bad way.
Robin D. Bullock is another one of those right-wing preachers whose clips evoke more laughter than fear. He’s claimed, among other things, that he saw a dinosaur in Heaven, that Jesus had five houses, and that God lives inside a cube of gelatin.
His leather jacket and wig-like long hair and faux rock-star vibes don’t help his credibility.
But Bullock makes plenty of political and theological statements, too, from his perch at Church International in Warrior, Alabama. So when he spreads conspiracy theories about President Joe Biden and COVID vaccines, and says God wants people to join his church, that message actually gets through to people who watch his services online.
Reporter Lee Hedgepeth recently published a truly disturbing article about one Ohio family—Jacob and Tammy Partlow and their two children—that literally sold their house to move closer to Bullock and his Alabama church. They discovered rather quickly, however, that Bullock functions as more of a cult leader who puts himself above God rather than a preacher who can convey biblical messages in an effective way. Once Bullock realized they weren’t interested in worshiping him, he effectively shunned the family, leaving them with nothing to show for their faith.
Now, the Partlows have found themselves rising to challenges made all the more difficult by their experience with the Warrior church. The family, which had been able to make ends meet in Ohio, has found it hard to get by in Alabama, a state whose social safety net has holes so large it’s easy to fall through. Tammy, for example, found out she suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that has already made it difficult for her to walk. And the diagnosis, she said, has become a financial albatross in a state that has refused to expand Medicaid for low-income Alabamians.
The Partlows had stepped out in faith, they told Tread. Now, they’re struggling for food.
The Partlows, we’re told, saw Bullock’s services on YouTube and became hooked. They quickly became donors, giving the church “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars.”
During a recent trip to Florida, they stopped by the church and met Bullock, who told them God wanted them to move to Warrior. So they did. They began attending services in person. That’s when they realized Bullock wasn’t just preaching the Bible.
Bullock would sometimes go on tangents the family felt didn’t have any Biblical basis, for one — “prophetic” visions, he would often explain.
And sometimes, the family said, Bullocks’ long-winded, winding sermons would devolve into diatribes of paranoia and hate.
That’s what happened during the Sunday service that would ultimately lead to the end of the family’s relationship with Church International.
Being in the room that day, Jacob said, it quickly became clear that Bullock has an obsession with power.
“He wants to be completely in control,” he said. “That’s obvious.”
When Bullock later claimed people were trying to divide his church, the Partlows felt he was speaking directly to (and about) them. They needed to get out. But where would they go? They gave up their Ohio home and are now living in a rural part of a red state that’s not about to assist with the family’s medical issues.
(Incidentally, Greg Locke pulled the same trick, accusing some members of his church of being “witches” and threatening to out them if they didn’t leave his church.)
“Robin Bullock caused me to come here and lose everything,” Tammy Partlow told Tread. “I don’t even know if I have enough gas money to get home. I don’t even have money to buy food. And before I moved here, I was okay.”
It’s such a depressing story. It’s not an isolated one either. In fact, Hedgepeth also reported on another woman who moved to Warrior a couple of months ago… only to find herself on the outs with Bullock. 82-year-old Janet Ndegwa moved to Alabama from Pomona, California all because she felt God was calling her to do that. Bullock literally urged viewers to do that in a sermon.
But when she arrived at Church International earlier this week, Ndegwa did not find the open arms she’d expected. Instead, as the sun set over Warrior, the 82-year-old curled up under a street lamp in front of the church with only the concrete to comfort her.
Thankfully, Warrior’s police chief made sure she had shelter when the temperatures dropped to below freezing. Because she wasn’t going anywhere on her own, the cop threatened to arrest her in order to get her to go indoors instead of staying in the church’s parking lot. (To their credit, Bullock and his wife offered to put Ndegwa up in a hotel, but she refused.)
The biggest concern, though, is that Bullock urged viewers to pack up and move and join his church with no plan in place to help anyone who took him seriously. A 911 dispatcher that Hedgepeth spoke to said there were six or seven people who slept outside the church in a similar way; sometimes it was the church itself calling police to take care of the situation.
If that’s the case, it suggests Bullock will make all kinds of prophetic declarations with no regard for people who actually listen to him. Instead of restraining himself from saying those things, he just continues doing it, because that’s what it takes to get views and keep the money rolling in. (Enough money to purchase more and more property in the area.)
Preachers like Bullock say increasingly outlandish things because it brings in the views, which brings in the money, but the consequence of having a YouTube ministry is that some people want to make it their in-person church home. Instead of welcoming those people, Bullock is treating at least some of them like agents of Satan eager to cause harm.
He’s leaving the people who trust him behind while continuing to elevate himself.
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