One day when I looked out from the pulpit, it was as if seeing for the very first time, like I’d been cured of blindness. I saw clearly those in the congregation who never put anything in the offering basket and those who give the same meager amount every time. That motherfucker over there didn’t put anything in, that one too, that one over there too. They just come in to warm the pews, meet their friends, and go home happy. I know people got problems but damn this not a social club. Besides, if everyone were to do it all the time my family will end up in the streets.
That is not going to happen because days when a preacher was poor as a church mouse are long gone. It’s time I started getting these clowns who come in and sneak out without putting anything in the basket to pay up. Shaming is the best way to pressure on them. They’ll feel uncomfortable and fall in line, at least some will. It’s the cringe factor you got to rely on to put your flock in line.
See the lord gave me a large voice that rumbles like thunder, so when I say something everyone, no matter how far they are, hears. So if I start calling names of those that never pay their tithes or never bring an offering, everyone will look at them and next time they’ll pay up. That’s how shame works. And when the pay up, they’ll want to make sure everyone sees them, sees how much they are giving, then they’ll sit back and relax knowing that no one can reproach them for not giving to the lord.
With that revelation, I sent the congregation down guilt trip lane.
See, the Lord is not happy with you right now. You come to his house, get his blessings but you don’t bless him back
Preach it! (congregation)
You give without love, halfheartedly, you give while grumbling. People, the Lord loves a cheerful giver! Give and it will come back to you!
Repeat this with me. Give and it will come back to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over
Don’t you love it? Pressed down, shaken together and running over! This is too good not to repeat again. Repeat it with me please. Pressed down!
Pressed down! (congregation)
Shaken together (congregation)
And this here is the good part… oh sweet Jesus … RUNNING OVER!!
Running over! (congregation)
Anybody feel the spirit?
I said anybody feel the spirit move up in here!
Amen! Hallelujah! Bless the lord! Yes Jesus! (congregation – various answers)
Now here’s what the Lord wants you to do! You want to obey the Lord don’t you?
Take out your wallets. Let’s see them. Let the Lord see ‘em. Hey you brother over there. Ain’t got no wallet? So what you doing not waving it around, the Lord wants to see it.
Wave your wallets in the air. Wave ‘em. Wave ‘em. Let the Lord see ‘em. Now here’s what the Lord wants you to do. Take out the bills. Not coins. Don’t insult the Lord like that. He’s not a beggar you give chump change!
I’ll tell you what happened that day. I saw a sea of green bills, some crisp, some creased, some clean, some dirty, all smelling the same, the smell of money. I saw myself in big mansions with a swimming pools, views of the ocean, mountains, the latest sports cars, yacht club membership, overseas trips, invitations to speak at business conferences, meetings with stinking rich preachers worldwide. I saw myself in my own mega-church overflowing with people. Whether the congregation gave from the hearts or from fear of not wanting to be shamed because I was watching from the pulpit and they all felt like I could see them, and dropped whatever was in those wallets into the baskets without looking, I have no way of knowing. I stood amazed by what a little shaming of the congregation can do.
After people had finished giving, I didn’t want them to feel down. I made them feel good, made them know they had just done a good job for the kingdom, my kingdom. I told them what it means to be blessed. What a blessed person looks like. That the lord is going to turn them all into rich folk. I told them people are poor because they think with poor minds. And the only way to be blessed is to start thinking like rich folk do, think big and start seeing themselves as blessed and they will be blessed. I told them faith is seeing what has not yet come to pass as if it has happened for them already. I told them the only way the lord shall bless them was if their opened their hearts and hands, and gave with a cheerful heart. Gave without worrying about what they’ll eat because they were doing a good job for the kingdom and the lord would provide for them. And no one who gives to the kingdom goes unrewarded. I led them in singing uplifting songs, the congregation’s favorite, the kind that made them feel good. And that is what we call the art of the holy shakedown.
I kept thinking of ways to get them to give some more. I’ve even considered selling tokens. Tell people they can only get to heaven if they stock up on them. What part of heaven they end up in, posh or poor, is determined by how many they buy. Instead, I bought tiny cameras, clandestinely installed them in the church ceiling, above every row so I could watch the tapes later in the night and make a list of those who give and those who don’t. I went to collect what was due, what they owed to god. And since I had all members of the church register, I knew where they lived, I knew where they worked. I carried the list on my laptop, went from one member to another, told them details I had of them, how many kids they had, where they worked, how much they got paid monthly, how much they put in the basket, how much they shortchanged the lord, and how much they owed him. I had my people in every business, my spies who fed me information. I’m just keeping up with the spirit of our times. In our age of information, data is the word. Everyone collects data these days. Why should it be different for the man of god? I’m savvy enough to keep data on the congregation. When you say you know a person, a large part of what you know about them is just data. So and so is this age, he has a wife, she has a husband, two children, he works here, they go to school there, they live there.
Call it what you want but this business of bringing souls to the pews is also the delicate art of balancing the books and these days the message is just a bonus. There are kingdoms and empires to be built. They are founded on the dollar. Every person that walks in through the door is a dollar value for the church, for the kingdom, my kingdom. I am the kingdom. There goes Brother Jerry, that’s two hundred dollars of tithe every month and about one hundred of offering. I’ve not seen Sister Joan in two weeks. That has cost us about one hundred dollars in offering already and we’ve not seen her tithe for this month either. I should send someone to see what’s going on with her. A person lost is dollars lost. And if Sister Betty or Brother Samuel dies those are dollar lost forever. They must be replaced by recruiting three or four more people. The younger the better because they’ll be in the congregation a long time, meaning they have many years of tithes and offering left in them unless something beyond our control happens. Like a terminal illness, or a fatal accident.
Make no mistake; building kingdoms and empires is dirty business. Our profession exists because of people’s fear of death, a fear so gripping we created a myth that there is a place to go when they die. While this has been a consolation to many people, it has done nothing to ease that fear. You have to maintain in your congregation a level of ignorance so that they will listen to everything you say. You have to tell them how to live: follow a prescribed way of living, follow certain rules that have been set in stone. You do this by tainting everything as immoral, and you know what happens in hell, you burn in a fire that doesn’t stop burning. This tried and proven trick that has been used for centuries still works. Believe me they will follow everything you say. But you are also a making preemptive move to shield yourself from the smart ones who will question your ideas. These get drowned out by the voices of the many who through fear and manipulation you have managed to keep ignorant and when it fails, because these single voices of dissent are poisonous and can plant that evil seed in the hearts of many, the seed of doubt, and make them start doubting your authority and questioning you, for that there is excommunication. No one wants to be lonely, to be cast off by those he or she considers family, fear of being an outcast works to your advantage, keeps them in check. In the old days of the inquisition we used methods that are frowned upon these days. The church doesn’t use them anymore but I’m sure some have been tempted to build underneath their mega-temples rooms devoted to teaching dissenters a lesson.
I repeat: Building kingdoms and empires is dirty business. It’s all about image; showing off your blessings, shouting them from the rooftops so everyone can see you’ve been blessed by the lord. Keeping the image going requires ambition, and ambition has made a lot of really good preachers, like me, cross lines that they shouldn’t have crossed. You know how the saying goes: As long as you don’t get caught…
Give and it will come back to you, sounded like it had come directly out of the financial guru playbook, written by financial gurus who know that no one comes out debt but still sell their advice knowing a trapped person will believe anything even when it’s a lie so as to free themselves, only to get trapped even more, and become more desperate, and believe even larger lies, and pay for them with the hope that whatever they are paying for will release them, even when they know it won’t. They do not address reasons why people are trapped in debt and can never extricate themselves from it. It was like a light in my mind had switched on. I decided that I too will use the financial guru techniques and extract every drop of blood from my congregation. In short financial gurus profits from desperation. I thanked the lord for insight on financial gurus.
It is from the poor that one becomes wealthy. That has always been the logic of wealth.
I know what keeps them poor? It’s low wages. But I don’t give them the facts, they know them already and they want, just like anyone else, to believe they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps. I give false hope, straight out of the false-hope-industrial-complex playbook. I tell them to give and the money will come back to them tenfold, as if somehow by magic it is going to come flowing out of their taps. It is how false hope works, take their denial and desperation, suck them completely dry and even when in their minds they know they are being lied to, they suppress that truth as thoughts from the devil, how can you think that against a man of god? These then are the fruits of fear strategy well implemented. And they keep giving to the man of god who now owns a jet and goes on all fancy vacations at their expense while they wallow in false hope, and their despair they hide with their presence at the pews hoping a miracle will strike, the pews where I tell them to give some more and more will come back. They know not to question a man of god dolling out opium for the masses.
I’m just a politician in a cloak, the institution of the church is a political party and I’m its leader, always finding ways to chain minds. I’m tied by one reality: not to touch on the reality that is the here and now. The here and now is not good for our pockets. Instead I preach of the coming kingdom. A kingdom that for me who is rolling in benefits of ripping them off has already come. And for these poor sods in the congregation, it shall never. Too bad because this is the only life there is. There is no other in the future. Heaven is just an illusion, a palliative against the devastating truth that this is it, this life is all there is and will be. But that doesn’t stop me from saying to them, blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the kingdom. I say this as I laugh my way to the bank.