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An Oklahoma pastor has apologized after smearing his spit in a man’s eye during a sermon: ‘It got too live’

An image from a KTUL broadcast shows pastor Michael Todd smearing his spit onto a man's face during a sermon on Jan. 16 at Transformation Church in Tulsa.
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Pastor Michael Todd spit in his hand and cupped it there for two minutes as he continued to preach.

Todd held it as he finished telling his Tulsa megachurch congregation that Jesus Christ had rubbed his own saliva on a blind man’s eyes to miraculously give him sight.

He held it in one hand as he used the other to touch the shoulder of a man standing beside him with his eyes closed.

“God’s saying, ‘Can you physically and spiritually and emotionally … stand when getting the vision or receiving it might get nasty?’” Todd asked.

Then, the pastor of Transformation Church rubbed his hands together, turned to the man and smeared his spit across the man’s face.

Parishioners gasped and groaned. Clips of the sermon have gone viral, including one that had been viewed 1.7 million times as of Tuesday morning. People questioned Todd’s theatrics as coronavirus infections in Oklahoma have jumped 56 percent in the past week, according to The Washington Post’s covid-19 tracker.

Todd has since apologized on Twitter and Facebook, calling his actions “disgusting” and saying they “crossed the line.” Todd said he’s passionate about giving people hope, “so much so that I try to do extreme things.”

“That was a distraction to what I was really trying to do,” he said in a video message. “I was really trying to make the Word come alive and for people to see the story. But yesterday it got too live, and I own that.”

Todd and the Tulsa World identified the man whose face he’d wiped his spit on as his brother, who did not immediately respond to messages from The Post.

It’s a bump in a journey that started in 2015 when Todd took over as lead pastor at Transformation Church with its congregation of about 300 that, at the time, was worshiping in a former grocery store, the Tulsa World reported in October. He has since helped grow the church that, at its last service since the pandemic began in March 2020, drew in roughly 4,200 parishioners.

The pandemic has not slowed Todd and Transformation, according to the newspaper. As many as 24,000 watch the church’s services online. In the past two years, the church more than tripled its staff from 30 employees to 100-plus, the paper reported. To keep pace, it spent $66 million buying property, including one of the Tulsa area’s largest office buildings.

Gary McIntosh, founding pastor of the church, told the Tulsa World that Todd achieved his vision of what Transformation could be — a place of worship that could transcend barriers and resonate with anyone.

“He can speak to a younger generation — and he does that exceptionally well — but hold the attention of an older generation,” McIntosh said.

On Monday, while apologizing for his sermon the day before, Todd joked about what happened “when the spit hit the fan.” He said he’d checked in with his brother to see how he was doing after the uproar.

“I just called him. He was bald before I spit on him, and he’s still bald today. So no miracle here.”

The incident came about 40 minutes into Todd’s two-hour service. He started that part of his sermon referencing Mark 8:22-25, a passage in which Jesus and his disciples arrive at the village of Bethsaida and are quickly met by people begging him to heal a blind man. Jesus did, eventually, but first took the man outside the village before rubbing spit on his eyes, thus restoring his sight.

In his sermon, Todd said Jesus escorted the blind away from Bethsaida before performing the miracle because he didn’t want to debase the man in public.

“He didn’t want … his reputation to be tarnished,” Todd said.

Within minutes, Todd was rubbing spit across his brother’s face in front of his congregation, both in-person and online.