Popular Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church in Bixby, Oklahoma, drew the wrath of the internet and became a trending topic on Twitter as a clip from his message on vision Sunday showed him wiping globs of spit on a congregant's face even as the coronavirus pandemic rages.
Before the demonstration, Todd detailed that as he was preparing his message for the sermon this week, God used the words of late singer Johnny Nash's song "I Can See Clearly Now" to inspire him.
"I began to listen to those words. And God said, 'Michael, the past two years have been like raining over people's lives.' And he said they need to prophetically declare that, 'I can see clearly now that the rain is gone,'" Todd told congregants.
"Some of you all have had friends that you didn't see who they really were. You were befriending obstacles. You were not able to see clearly because of the damage, the frustration, the hurt, the pain, the trauma. But now, God's saying, 'You can see clearly all the obstacles.'"
He referenced the Bible verse Mark 8:23, which highlights the story of Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida by spitting into his eyes privately.
"He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When He had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, 'Do you see anything?'" the Scripture states.
Todd highlighted how Jesus chose wisely not to embarrass the blind man by spitting in his eye publicly.
"He leads him … watch how good God is," Todd said. "He doesn't embarrass this man 'cause he doesn't spit on him in front of everybody. … He takes him out. … You thought when God separated you, it was a punishment, but it was really protection. The reason He took him out of the village was because the work that He was about to do, others would misinterpret it."
"So He had to get him outside of what was comfortable. … He wasn't going to not spit on him," he continued. "He just didn't do it in front of everybody 'cause he didn't want their reputation or His reputation to be tarnished by what he had to go through to receive the miracle."
Todd asks an unidentified male standing on to the stage next to him with his eyes closed. The pastor acts contrary to the wisdom he said Jesus demonstrated and turned the unidentified congregant into a spectacle. The congregant has been identified as Todd's younger brother.
He asked the man if he was "good." Todd then hawked a loogie from his throat and spat it in his hand as an audible cringe erupted from the congregation. Then, he hawked a second loogie and told the congregation to watch.
"He can't see, but He can hear," he said.
"And this is the moment where many of us are in because God is doing something, and we hear Him changing. We hear Him even in your prayer. And in this time, He's changing something. You don't see it clearly yet. But you hear," added Todd.
"And this is where most people would not face Jesus anymore. What most people would do is turn away," he said, hawking a third loogie, which he spat in his hand.
"What I'm telling you, just as he's physically standing here knowing what's coming, God's saying, 'Can you physically, spiritually and emotionally be able to stand when getting the vision and receiving it might get nasty,'" Todd said.
The pastor rubbed his phlegm together and lathered it across the churchgoer's eyes as the spittle dangled from his face, forcing the parishioner to wipe some of the spittle from his mouth.
Many onlookers who watched the demonstration from outside the church expressed disgust over Todd's actions, which triggered a mountain of online memes.
Christian writer and theology student Dante Stewart, who recently authored Shoutin' In The Fire: An American Epistle, condemned Todd's actions as spiritually and theologically abusive.
"That Mike Todd video has so many layers of terribleness wrapped up in it, I don't know even where to start. The audacity. The cult energy. The spiritual and theological abusiveness. The hocking and rubbing and spitting and deflecting. I couldn't believe my eyes. Ain't no way," he began in a statement on Twitter.
"I legit want to have the energy to talk about this but y'all, I legit can't. This is more than terrible theology or performance or arrogant views of one's self and power. I don't know a word for this but it ain't nice or holy or pastoral or good."
Stewart contends that people have been raising concerns about Todd's theology for years and expressed concern about the man Todd rubbed spit on during the service.
"I'm legit grieved for the brother who literally was shamed like that in public and I'm grieved for so many who feel they can't say anything or have to brush it off because it's Mike Todd. Nah, fam. This ain't it. Never will be. It's abuse and trauma," he added.
Well-known sports journalist Jemele Hill tweeted that she had "never heard of 'Pastor' Mike Todd before today."
"But I truly understand now why the elders used to frequently tell us that we're in the last days," she wrote.
The congregation also gives millions to the community. In 2020, Pastor Todd led his congregation in a $3.5 million one-day blessings spree in which they helped scores of human service organizations, churches and individuals, including one needy family that received a new car and $250,000 to purchase a home.
Last summer, Todd called on churches across America to take the lead on the issue of reparations as he presented $200,000 checks to each of the only living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
During his sermon on Sunday, he told the congregation that he thrives on vision.
"I'm so excited about this because vision is my thing. ... If God said you only get to do one thing for the rest of your life, my one thing would be getting vision from Him and then making other people believe it," he said.
"I'm anointed to do that. I feel more in my spot on vision Sundays than ever before because I've stood at this exact spot when nobody was in this church and prophesied where we are today into existence because God gave me a vision. He gave me a vision that I was bold enough to declare to other people in the face of it not looking like it could ever happen."
Todd said his vision is what drives him to invest in real estate and vowed to take that vision beyond Tulsa.
"Yesterday, I drove one of my pastor friends that came in town this weekend to just spend the weekend with me. I drove him to all the locations in Tulsa that we have. And showed him all the buildings. You all don't know that I'm planning for our church to subdue, rule and dominate," he said
"We going to see Kingdom come and His will be done. You're talking about people coming out of incarceration. You got to have jobs for them, we. We got to have housing for the homeless. We don't just want to give them a shower. We want to give them a home for six months," he continued. "But we got to take this thing outside of Tulsa. Right now it may look impossible. But when God gives you a word or gives you a vision, you can call the things that are not, and you can say them as if they've already happened. So today, I just want to let you know as a church and as a pastor, I got the vision thing down. I'm living in the vision God showed me."
He urged congregants to believe in the visions God has given them.
"I will not stop preaching vision until every person that is attached to this ministry is walking, living, breathing, giving and standing in the vision that God showed you in the night season," Todd insisted.
He said the reason why vision is something people don't talk about is that Western culture has conditioned people into building "somebody else's vision."
"We've been never taught to believe in what God placed in us. And today, I want to empower you to be able to stand in the vision that God has given you and to declare in the midst of darkness where you see the light of God coming into that situation," he detailed.
"At Transformation Church, vision is most valued. … Vision is more important than people. Because if you don't have a vision for the people, you're going to damage the people. May I suggest to you that many people are hurt by Church, not because of bad leaders but because of lack of vision."
“Your marriage may not be bad because you’re with the wrong person. It may be challenged because of a lack of vision. The job that you’re on right now ain’t the wrong job. Actually, you’re ordained to be there," he continued. “You’re actually supposed to solve a problem there. But the reason you have your two-weeks' notice on deck at all times … is because of a lack of vision.”