The Heavenly BMW

Gawker, where KtB gets all its religion news, reports that police found Zachery Tims, Jr., pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, an 8,000-strong megachurch in Orlando, dead with what appeared to be drugs in his pocket in Times Square this week. As it happens, I’m pretty certain it was Tims that KtB cofounder Peter Manseau & I met when we pulled into an Orlando area megachurch back in 2002 while reporting our book, Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible. That was our practice — big church, big temple, great sign, odd name– we just walked up and knocked. But nobody was home at New Destiny. Then a man in a shiny black BMW pulled up. Said he was the pastor. Could he help us, he asked. Not really. His shtick was utterly conventional prosperity gospel but for the fact of his special brand emphasis: He used the car as an example of God’s plan for us.

“Nice car,” we said.

“It is a nice car,” he agreed. “God gave me this car.”

We looked at our beat up, faded maroon Ford Tempo, which we’d used $1 of the Killing the Buddha fund to purchase from my sister, who was looking to get rid of it before it coughed its last. We’d been living in it on the road for the past couple of months. “How’s that work?” we asked. “Could we get a car like that?”

“Not only can you get a car like that,” the man I’m assuming was Pastor Tims told us, “God wants you to have a car like that.”

“God wants us to have nice cars?”

“God,” he said, “wants you two boys to be driving BMWs.”

We didn’t write about Pastor Tims in A Heretic’s Bible, and I felt bad about that, so I gave him a cameo in my 2008 book The Family. In the introduction I wrote about how “Jesus” means so many things in America, from the cowboy Christ we encountered in east Texas to the Santeria Jesus of Miami to the baby Jesus in New Mexico who enchants dirt in a little shrine in the mountain so that it’ll heal you of cancer. And, I wrote, there’s “a Jesus in an Orlando megachurch who wants you to own a black Bimmer.”

R.I.P., Pastor Tims. You were an honest man, in your way. You knew what you wanted, and you knew who to ask. May your heavenly chariot come fully loaded, with seats of heated leather, power-adjustable.


Jeff Sharlet is a founding editor of Killing the Buddha, coauthor with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (2004) and co-editor of Believer, Beware (2009). Sharlet is also the author of Sweet Heaven When I Die, (2011), C Street, (2010), and the New York Times bestseller The Family (2008).