Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jesus = $$$$, Even In a Bad Economy

Business news coverage of the economic decay fails to tell me about the effect on one of America’s biggest enterprises, Evangelical televangelism, so I went looking for myself to see if the folks at Trinity Broadcasting might need a government bailout. All I can say is, “Hallelujah.” The Scriptures still provide a successful business opportunity.

Kenneth Copeland’s giant BVOV operation in Texas has adopted the time-tested sales strategy of selling the features and benefits of the product. The product in this case is eternal Salvation, and it’s pitched to TV viewers much like an extended service warranty on a new kitchen appliance, only in this case the appliance is our personal invisible soul. The point of Copeland’s message is that money sent to BVOV is not a donation. It’s an “investment” in the future. None of this is required to pass SEC scrutiny.

Paula White, as she does every January, is pitching her message of “First Fruits.” The idea, here, is that TV viewers are asked to send Paula their salary for the first week of January, or even their first month’s salary if they feel especially generous. This, they are told, will work like a seed planted in the ground, and will generate a bountiful harvest of fruits multiplied many times over. Contributors must take Paula’s word on this. No seed, no harvest. Also, no scrutiny from the SEC for Pastor Paula.

As with Wall Street CEOs, Evangelical religious leaders can bail out with a substantial golden parachute if their career goes in the tank. Take the case of Ted Haggard. Two years ago, he was found having a homosexual tryst, which for Christians is the equivalent of robbing a bank with an AK-47. His New Life Church sent him on his way with $152K in salary, $62K in salary for his wife, $11K for legal fees, $26K for assistance with their special-needs son, and $26K for counseling to convert him back to heterosexuality. The counseling fund turned out to be a waste of money. Haggard says now that his sexual identity is “complex,” which must be of marginal comfort to his wife and children.

If Bernie Madoff goes to jail, he can contemplate the idea that he made his money in the wrong business.

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