I was clearing rubble out of the house we are rehabbing, and every once in a while I found some kind of personal item. There were Christmas decorations, a child’s building block, a little girl’s shoe, etc. Among them, I also found the occasional religious pamphlet. I looked at them for a while and discovered what they are. They are Christian scam mail aimed at getting poor Christians to send money in exchange for a myriad of fulfilled promises from God. They instruct the person receiving them to “plant seeds” (send money) and they will receive blessings.
This is appalling to me.
What made me even more sad is that someone had actually filled some of it out. I don’t know if the former occupant of the house sent money back or not, but I do know that they don’t live in the house anymore. I can only imagine the family that was living there, watching their children grow up in poverty, watching their ceiling cave from the leak in the roof, and going hungry so that their children can eat. I see them, in desperation, giving the little money they have to this mail-service “ministry.” It promised them that it would break the curse of “lack and poverty” if they sent in their “seeds of faith.” It promised that “money blessings” would be drawn to the home. It even included a small piece of sackcloth that you are supposed to wrap around your wallet and slip under your pillow, only to send it back with money inside.
The blessings didn’t come. The family may have wasted their money on a scam that preyed on their religious sentiments. They were evicted, or their house was foreclosed on, or their house was condemned when the roof caved in. Whatever the reason, they don’t live there anymore. They think that God let them down, but it was Christians who failed them by letting this practice continue without outrage.
I looked into the company that sent the materials. It is a “non-profit” called St. Matthew’s Churches that is based out of Tulsa, OK, but has fake churches in Texas and New York as fronts so that it can keep it’s 501(c)3 status. The last financial statement that was released to the public showed that they have an income of over $6 million per month! The founder was a man names James Eugene Ewing, who used to write fundraising letters for Oral Roberts. James lives in a $2.2 million mansion in Beverly Hills. Oral Roberts gave way to other billionaire ministries like Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyers, Jesse Duplantis, and Paula White, who said a prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration. They all have multi-million dollar mansions and private jets. Their mail scams specifically target the poor and elderly by using census data.
Jesus was angry and threw over tables of money-changers in the Temple. Why? They were monetizing faith and getting rich in the process, only they were not nearly as rich as these TV ministers who have turned the Gospel into snake oil. Martin Luther created his 95 Theses and started the entire Protestant movement because the Catholic church was selling “blessings” in the form of indulgences. We should be equally angry, but how many churches are speaking out? Where is the Christian outrage?
Churches are afraid to speak out against other churches, or to limit them, because who would decide where the cutoff is? Sure, we can agree that pastors shouldn’t be billionaires, but should they make millions? 6 digit salaries? Nothing? Who gets to decide? The truth is that money is a cornerstone of our church system. The majority of churches don’t buy houses for their pastors. Most of their money is going to rent and utilities. It is paying for pastors, music ministers, sound systems, projectors, and eventually larger and more expensive buildings if possible. Most churches are non-profits that are almost all overhead, with a little left over for community support and direct aid.
How did we get this way? When did our relationships with the church start centering so much on money? What are we going to do about it?