The WOW factor…

Hey Mom and Dad!

Tired of buying gifts that your kid just tosses aside as boring? Here’s a fun sensation that’s gonna grab your son’s attention like a bang!  Introducing the all-new Junior AR-15 assault rifle.

Don’t let this fool you – it might be kid-sized, but like its bigger brother, it packs one helluva whollop!  It shoots real bullets – just like Mommy and Daddy’s guns!  Ideal for graduations, birthdays, first communions – or those occasions when he seems a bit down and just needs a mommy hug and something to cheer him up.

Come and get this super-soaker guaranteed to cool his summer down.. This is one stress-reliever that keeps the WOW factor with the kids. Buy now and we’ll include “Why Everyone Needs an AR-15: A Guide for Kids” for free. This helpful AR-15 guide walks you through how awesome the Second Amendment is.

Take it from Sarah Palin: “an AR-15 makes a great gift – what more says ‘I love you’”?

Evangelical Sin, Not So Private and Personal.

You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever. – Micah 2:9

“The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

Dave Ramsey is a so-called Christian financial planner, who mixes in a few Bible verses with his garden variety advice. Thousands have paid to attend his seminars, where he presides like a fundamentalist preacher, folksy delivery and self-assured scolding included. It’s made him a multi-millionaire many times over. His empire includes Ramsey Solutions, his signature for-profit company – featured as a“2020 Best Workplaces” – plus various investment spin-offs and 501(c) (3) non-profits. 

What is less well-known is that Ramsey Solutions also functions as church. In order to be hired, applicants undergo an extensive process – including a spousal interview. The employees attend a mandatory chapel/pep talk each week. Their work day is scrutinized and their private lives snooped upon to see if they are truly living righteously 24/7. Some allege it leads to a dictatorial culture of suspicion and gossip. Discovered secret sinners get shown the door. Dave can run his company any way he wants, as he often reminds the entire world. I don’t care about his spiritual rule over employees; his business culture is not the point of this post.

Trending lately have been comments he made on his radio show, that if his tenants are displaced because he raised the rent to meet market price, it does not make him a bad Christian. “I did not displace the person out of that house if they can no longer afford it. The marketplace did. The economy did… I didn’t cause any of that,” he challenged.

Who caused that, the renter? No, the renter is a victim. The landlord is a victim. We’re all victims. Ramsey points the accusing finger at a marketplace that demands it. This admission is a significant departure from evangelical insistence on individual sin as the cause of all evil.

For the cold-heartedness of his advice, Ramsey got a mild spanking from Christian Post. Another critic tweeted, “He benefits from the unjust weights and measures that cause housing prices and rent go up faster than wages. He wouldn’t change that if he could, because he values his wealth over his soul.”

Wealth has an amazing power to deceive us. In his Powers Trilogy, theologian Walter Wink emphasized that both individually and collectively, we are vulnerable and exploitable by structural evils – the whole Kosmos that lies in the power of the Evil One. The domination systems, to which we give imperceiving obeisance, make up our culture and society. Individualistic evangelical theology that only recognizes sin only in terms of personal behaviour is inadequate to explain how our souls are manipulated by the faceless, supernatural power structures (Ephesians 6:12) that surround us.

Thus, as a godly landlord, I can’t be personally blamed for a universally accepted economic system which compels me to pursue my own interests, even if it puts people out on the street. In fact, no single individual is guilty. We are all guilty of individual responsibility for corporate sin. As Jürgen Moltmann observed, “anyone who exists in these structures becomes sin’s accomplice, even if he wants only what is good.”[i] The domination system of mammon is participatory; no one is excluded. It entraps even “good” people into valuing money more than people.  Particularly those having the power to impact the lives of others because of their authority or position.  Ramsey’s comment reflects our complicity in the mammon system such that we cannot recognize our idolatry for what it is. Jesus calls us to a domination-free blessed community where, contrary to Cain’s impertinent reply, we together are our brother’s keeper.


[i] Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001, pp. 139-40.

How To Become A Mega-Rich Evangelical

If you love being an evangelical so much, it makes perfect sense to make money off it. Multi-millionaire church leaders might seem like an oxymoron. But the leaders of the top 50 megachurches in America reads like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Many have done it using various methods, but if you want your faith to make you stonking rich, just follow this make-bank business model developed by the top of the evangelical stardom heap:

  1. Become a minister Pastorpreneur. Never mind seminary education and ordination, that’s old school. All you need is to have “vision” and trailblazing aspiration. 
  2. Begin a church. It doesn’t have to start as “mega” – every church has the potential to be church-growthed into a prosperous economic enterprise.  Make sure you form the 501(c)(3) and by-laws to remove transparency and make yourself bulletproof. Appoint your family into all the top positions. Make sure every employee signs an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement.
  3. Make outsiders think they possess a slice of authority, but never sacrifice control. And never, ever disclose how much church finances benefit you personally. Instead, humbly state it “would be the most arrogant thing I could do.”[i]
  4. Zero in on a comfy, white exurban area with down-market churches you can harvest. Cater to their lifestyle, offering greater spectacle and more buoyant life-affirmation. With a little talent, a dynamic praise band, and heavy advertising, soon you’ll be attracting people bored with their own churches to come and own a part of “what God is doing”.
  5. Tout yourself as the community’s church. Come up with high visibility events that get on local news. Become friendly with a few wealthy locals that will share your vision of moving up into that abandoned mega-mall across town. But never, ever ruin your pristine carpet by taking in flood victims!
  6. If the Bible doesn’t fit into your revealing of the deep mysteries of Scripture, make stuff up. Just speak in the love language of God. Nobody reads the Bible anymore anyway.
  7. A rock star preacher does more than pastor a church. Podcasts, Facebook followings, books, blogs, uploaded sermons, public appearances, speaking engagements and conference: these all make Jesus – and particularly you – famous. The more prominent you are, the more you become a religious wholesaler on the path to riches. The impetus is to diversify the client base into a religious conglomerate.
  8. You have a flock of sheep people that can work for you!  Checks in the offering plate can bankroll your writing side-business. Use staff time and church resources to do the leg work behind your books, the royalties of which wind up in your pocket. There are some loosely-worded financial accountability standards, but most churches don’t mind sermons and study materials developed on church time and with church resources (double-dipping). The bigger the megapastor’s footprint, the greater that church’s stature and influence. No ambitious church can argue with heightened public image and political clout.  Having a pastor who is a “go-to” media celebrity only enhances the cult status of the church and its brand recognition.
  9. Retain the enormously profitable proprietary rights over your books, videos, etc. Set up your own parachurch organization (which by the way pads the payroll with family members) to manage all your money under the same tax-free roof. Your parachurch can be transformed into an IRS-defined “church”, with greater opacity of finances to make it hard to follow the money.
  10. Form a separate for-profit business to receive book royalties, income from video productions, freelance speaking gigs to hype your products, etc. And while these assets are produced during your work for the church, and church resources are used to develop them, the copyrights are owned by you, the mega-pastor, through your personal side business.
  11. Disguise your books to look like works of love, not lucre. Donate copies of your books to the church for a personal tax deduction. Remember that your congregants are essentially captive customers. Sell thousands of them to the church bookstore below retail cost. No need to mark them up; you will already receive royalties up to 20 percent of wholesale. The objective is for the church to spend tithe money on numerous copies of your books to drive it onto a bestseller’s list. Everything the church does must be designed around your product line.
  12. For tax purposes, pour your assets into a CRUT (Charitable Remainder Unitrust) and name yourself as trustee. This complex tax shelter allows you, the donor, to pay yourself up to 90 percent of the assets over your lifetime, with 10 percent committed to a charity. (In the time-honored tradition of Ananias and Sapphira, it’s telling just the teensiest lie when a celebrity preacher boasts about donating his book proceeds to his church. He enjoys a hefty nest egg, while the church has to wait for whatever leftovers the trust has not exhausted by the time of his death).
  13. Expand your product placement without even having to leave the building through McChurches. Because the dream-weaver can only be physically present at one venue at a time, your image can now be teleported to preach in multiple campuses via video simulcast uplink. Franchising strings together a conglomerate of satellite operations to expand the revenue base. You do the speaking and take the offering plate, while a local staffer facilitates the satellite feed locally. You continue to profit as the main attraction, without having to pastor anybody.
  14. Remember that you are not only a person, you are a trademark. And that means protecting your property from potential rivals. The congregants are your job security, and they will take their business wherever mega-grifters offer greater spectacle. You’ll need to be trendier and produce more and better theatricality because your church’s back door is as open as it’s front.
  15. Follow these rules, and soon you’ll be a celebrity-leader collecting holy piles of other peoples’ money.

[i] Morgan Fogerty, “The Get with Morgan Fogarty: Pastor Steven Furtick”, WCCB-TV, Inc., November 10, 2015. http://www.wccbcharlotte.com/news/local/The-Get-with-Morgan-Fogarty-Pastor-Steven-Furtick–345443532.html  (accessed November 20, 2015).