Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption
August 17, 2015 6:37 AM   Subscribe

In which John Oliver expounds on how televangelists raise income for necessities such as a private jet or two, his faux-penpal correspondence with such a televangelist, how easy it is to set up a church for tax-exemption purposes and, with the assistance of Sister Wanda Jo Oliver, this inevitably happens...
posted by Wordshore (101 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
Blocked by our corporate firewall as 'posing a security risk'....
posted by Mogur at 6:39 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.
- Some asshole that actually ended up doing it
posted by lmfsilva at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


CREPLO DOLLARS!?

Am I being punked?
posted by crazylegs at 6:56 AM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't want to devolve into LOL religion, but this is something I just could never understand.

How can the faithful look at people like Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar making fortunes and flying around in private jets, having previously seen the fall of people like Jimmy Swaggart or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and believe their shit?

It's incomprehensible. They're so obviously con men. How can people fall for this?
posted by Sangermaine at 6:58 AM on August 17, 2015 [25 favorites]


Blocked by our corporate firewall as 'posing a security risk'....

Mine says "recently registered site"
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:00 AM on August 17, 2015


Televangelists ripping people off is a thing again? Are women's shoulder pads making a comeback? Should I grow a mullet?
posted by indubitable at 7:09 AM on August 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


How can people fall for this?

Desperation,"those people were dumb, I'm smart and this looks legit", making sense in their head while merging capitalism and religion, loneliness, good faith...
posted by lmfsilva at 7:10 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's incomprehensible. They're so obviously con men. How can people fall for this?

*Looks at Republican primary group.*

*Weeps.*
posted by xingcat at 7:10 AM on August 17, 2015 [30 favorites]


Sangermine, a two part answer:
First, at least Osteen preaches the Prosperity Gospel. In many ways it is a retread of the idea of Providence, that God is looking out for his favorites, so wealth is an indication of favor. By showing their success, Osteen et al. are showing that they too, are favored by God.

Second, yes, the Bakkers fell. And Popoff was exposed by a fraud by James Randi. However, (and I can't remember if this is from one of Randi's books or a lecture he gave), after he exposed Popoff, he had at least one person come up to him and thank him for exposing Popoff as a fraud, as she would now be able to give to ministers who actually did have a direct line from the Holy Spirit. There have been frauds, but our guy can't be a fraud. See also When Prophecy Fails and True Believer Syndrome.
posted by Hactar at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


From the fine print:
Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption may choose to wind down and dissolve in the near future. Upon dissolution, any assets belonging to the Church at that time will be distributed to Doctors Without Borders, a non-profit charitable organization that is tax-exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (EIN: 13-3433452) and which provides emergency medical aid in places where it is needed most.
Aww, that's alright then. *Gets out checkbook*
Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption will not be able to accept donations from Church supporters from the states of Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, or South Carolina. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Damn. Does he discuss the state exceptions on the episode I haven't watched yet? If not, anyone care to speculate why these four states?
posted by muddgirl at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's incomprehensible. They're so obviously con men. How can people fall for this?

A significant part of the prosperity gospel con is that god will let you in on the con. The obvious wealth of these types of guys isn't putting people off because these people are seeing in the mega-rich pastors a potential version of themselves in the future after they do all the right stuff and believe in god enough (like the pastors did and do.) It's the same thing that makes MLM work: the people running the scam convince the people they're fleecing that if they're not successful, well, clearly they're not trying hard enough. And considering a lot of these people have some intense religious conviction coming into it, the "you'll be rich" part is the carrot and the "make god happy" part is the stick so they have both angles covered. Compare that to, for instance, the state lottery commission or Amway, which have no way to punish you (or to convince you that you will be punished) for not playing.
posted by griphus at 7:12 AM on August 17, 2015 [28 favorites]


Sangermaine, what you see as a bug in the system is actually a feature for those that follow them. When one of the congregation look at rich preachers, they too see the wealth, the riches, and success.

The difference between your viewpoint and theirs is, to them, God has bestowed this success and wealth on the preacher because of the work the preacher does in promoting the word of God. By following the preacher, they too might earn success through the Lord, the more they give, the more likely they are to gain that wealth.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:13 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


When the picture of the three packets of oil appeared, I thought for a moment they were condoms, and experienced severe cognitive dissonance.
posted by crazylegs at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's incomprehensible. They're so obviously con men. How can people fall for this?

somethingsomething...opiate of the masses...somethingsomething...
posted by Thorzdad at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Snark aside, I also find the rabid following of con-men like Osteen sad and more than a little puzzling considering the only truly overt political action Jesus took (and, arguably, the actual act that finally got him tried and crucified) was throwing the moneymen out of the temple. Yet, the fairly unambiguous lesson seems to be lost on the faithful.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2015 [31 favorites]


You know how people will watch a sports team on television win a championship and say, in all sincerity, "WE WON!" as if they are actually part of the team? Hold that thought for a moment.

I work in a field in which a few people are officially above everybody else. They literally wear different uniforms, their pictures hang all over the place, a defined section of the bureaucracy exists to promote them, and it's considered a very big deal when one of those first class people recognize the work of a second class person. You might think that this would engender huge resentment, but it generally doesn't. Most second class people LOVE IT. They treasure autographed pictures of the first classers and hang them in their offices and cubicles. The general feeling is "Wow, isn't this great, I get to work with those first class people!" They feel as if some of what makes the first class people special rubs off on them. As in, "I'm not just a regular person, I get to do things for a FIRST CLASS PERSON."

My point is that I think there's a sense of transference. I think when people align themselves with a successful person, they feel as if part of that person's success is their success too. "We did it!" Those poor people watching rich people preach about Money Jesus don't resent the guy on television, they feel as if their part of the same team. His success is my success and I'm going to succeed just like him. My sports hero eats Wheaties cereal and I'm going to bug my mom to buy Wheaties so I can be just like him. My lifestyle hero with the private jet preaches about Money Jesus and I'm going to believe in Money Jesus too so I can be just like him. On and on.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:36 AM on August 17, 2015 [61 favorites]


Paging Dr. Bob. Someone is redoing your shtick.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Before there was this, there was Marjoe Gortner (documentary, 1972).
posted by The White Hat at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you call the phone number from the episode you get to hear John Oliver yelling at you to go find a friend with money and saying "praise be" a bunch.
posted by phunniemee at 7:43 AM on August 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Okay, I JUST watched the James Randi documentary on Netflix, An Honest Liar, and the thing that most shocked me wasn't the gayness or the indenity theft, but that Uri Geller and the Evangelical faith healers he exposed, like nakedly, publicly exposed as frauds, are still working and still drawing crowds. There doesn't seem like a way to actually stop these people.
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


Okay, I JUST watched the James Randi documentary on Netflix, An Honest Liar, and the thing that most shocked me wasn't the gayness or the indenity theft, but that Uri Geller and the Evangelical faith healers he exposed, like nakedly, publicly exposed as frauds, are still working and still drawing crowds. There doesn't seem like a way to actually stop these people.

Yeah, when people were all like "ooh...the big reveal in the documentary..." I thought - um, who cares? The big deal for me was the same - Popoff and Geller are still around and have a viable business doing the same thing they were exposed for.

To your point, even Robert-freakin'-Tilton is still around.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:07 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


People want it to be true, that you can put your hand on a TV screen and pray and God sends you a windfall. It's like urban legends; people want to believe that guys with chloroform perfume samples are waiting to grab you outside a mall, or that P&G really does have a Satanic symbol on its packaging for Sinister Reasons.

I mean, haven't you had the experience of sending someone a Snopes link on something horrible they posted, and they get mad at you, that Horrible Thing isn't true?
posted by emjaybee at 8:07 AM on August 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm dying to know what field this is, LastOfHisKind.

It hasn't been answered, so: Yes. Creflo Dollar is a real human, and that human insists that his real name is most certainly NOT "Michael Smith."

I live in a Southernish place, so his yammering about the new plane was news here, but mostly in the "holy shit look at this asshole" sense.

Incidentally, the Southern-ish place I live (and have lived for 20+ years) is Houston, home of Osteen Ministries. Lakewood Church was a huge suburban deal for a long time. They were, initially, a Baptist church, and were founded by Osteen's dad in the late 50s. By 1979, though, Wikipedia says they had 5,000 in attendance. That's enormous, but enormous doesn't mean creepy, i don't guess.

Anyway, I had no real opinion or awareness of them, though, until about ten years ago.

By that point, the younger, more telegenic Osteen had been in charge for six years. Under his leadership, they'd outgrown their facility, and went looking for something else.

So they bought the recently-vacated Compaq Center (formerly The Summit) from the city. That's right; Lakewood meets in an arena formerly used for the Houston Rockets and a few other teams (the WNBA was there, plus hockey's Houston Aeros). The last time *I* was in that building was to see the Foo Fighters (with Kool Keith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers opening).

That's kind of weird.

Oh, it's also immediately next door (more or less) to a Mercedes dealer.
posted by uberchet at 8:14 AM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Jesus wept.
posted by bstreep at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been told insistently, now and then, when I ride public transportation that praying to Jesus would make me non-paralyzed. I always wish I was faking my paralysis when that happens, because then I could get up and say I'M HEALED and blow that person's mind.

Anyway, doctors with their science and what not and sometimes with doctors who lack a good bedside manner are not comforting. It must be tremendously comforting to go from the 'well we will poison you and maybe you will live longer" to the confident "if you make this financial contribution YOU WILL BE BLESSED with no pain, no nausea, just happy times."

To reiterate Oliver's point.
posted by angrycat at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm dying to know what field this is, LastOfHisKind.

I don't know anything about LastOfHisKind's resume, but I'd be amazed if he wasn't talking about the military, because I was nodding along the whole way.
posted by Etrigan at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


And Jesus said to the gathered crowd, who had paid handsomely for their spot in the amphitheater, "Pray loudly in public all the time, to show everyone how righteous you are. Also, you can't serve two masters, but God and money are totally the same thing."

And then he rode into Jerusalem on a golden chariot pulled by a team of the finest white horses, draped in the finest of rainment. He approached the money changers in the temple and entered into an exclusive licensing deal with the one who offered Jesus the best terms. Amen.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:50 AM on August 17, 2015 [66 favorites]


To your point, even Robert-freakin'-Tilton is still around.

I think you misspelled a word there.
posted by wyndham at 8:53 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything about LastOfHisKind's resume, but I'd be amazed if he wasn't talking about the military

Indeed. I am not sure that LastofHisKind is not sitting in the cubicle next to me... ::peers suspiciously over the divider::
posted by suelac at 8:56 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd be amazed if he wasn't talking about the military

Sure could. Not that it matters that we get an answer but this could equally be a pro sports franchise, a movie studio or even Buckingham Palace. The point is, that it's a fairly common pattern that the religious, and particularly the evangelicals and charismatics use.
posted by bonehead at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of a broken record on this issue, but feel compelled to point out that the majority of American Christians are in churches with fewer than 100 people, and the vast majority of pastors are somewhere between poor and lower-middle-class. Most of them wouldn't consider the Osteens and Dollars of the world to be good representatives of Christian faith. Osteen, in particular, is fairly regularly denounced for his unorthodox views. I think on Metafilter people sometimes think "why has the majority of religious folk been conned by the charlatans?" when a more accurate and interesting question is "why have the vast majority of people who have religious beliefs resisted the attractions of the prosperity gospel folks?"

I haven't seen research on the background of people in Osteen's church, but my guess is that most of the newcomers had no previous religious affiliation, and didn't have the innoculating benefits of a healthier religious tradition.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2015 [33 favorites]


arguably, the actual act that finally got him tried and crucified

according to Resla Aslan's "Zealot", which Fox News was all upset about a year or two ago, wandering around Galilee procaliming the Kingdom of Heaven was also a crucifyin', since in that political context it was likely to be taken as proclaiming the end of Roman rule and the restoration of rule by the line of King David.
posted by thelonius at 9:24 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen research on the background of people in Osteen's church, but my guess is that most of the newcomers had no previous religious affiliation, and didn't have the innoculating benefits of a healthier religious tradition.

There's also the benefit of an unhealthy religious tradition wherein someone finds themselves in a crisis of faith, or has some great hypocrisy revealed to them. Aftwards, they approach religion with a healthy skepticism having already been burned or disappointed in some way by it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I once read a quote from a a sage who observed that it is amazing what illogical propositions people were willing to accept if they believed it was in their pecuniary interest to do so. This is the essence of why con men continue to flourish and why the "prosperity gospel" continues to draw acolytes.
posted by rdone at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2015


Humans crave meaning and connectedness. They generally like there to be rules for how to behave. They tend to be tribal. They want to believe there is some greater power in control, that there is magic, because the random world is senseless and terrifying. Religion supplies all sorts of things people need. I'm not a believer, but I sometimes think about joining a church because I would like the community. If Oliver opened a church near me, I'd drop by. so, I guess I do have something to believe in.
posted by theora55 at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think you misspelled a word there.

When we were kids, my brother and I came across Tilton's broadcast. We started doing our own mashups by recording a few seconds of his preaching on the VCR, hitting "pause" and then unpausing it again a few seconds or minutes later to "edit" part of another sentence into the flow. Sometimes we'd drop in bits from a cooking show or another program.

It was a hit-and-miss process, but we did end up with a few bits of footage that had us rolling around on the floor laughing uncontrollably.

Then we'd get yelled at. "What are you doing to the VCR? STOP THAT."

We didn't know what a mashup was at the time, but our crude efforts at same were endlessly hilarious to us, and Tilton's show was the comedic bedrock on which it was founded even as he was trying to defraud people.

All of which is a long way of saying that maybe little kids can see through this stuff for the patent bullshit it is a lot better than adults sometimes can.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:41 AM on August 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


People like these "preachers" make me wish I believed in hell.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Though ultimately it's heart-breaking to see sincere people manipulated into giving away their money to bad people, this stuff is really fascinating too. I've always wondered how much these preachers, especially faith-healers, really believe what they're saying and doing. I think that some know that it's a complete racket and that the healing is a show (Benny Hinn perhaps?). Others might have started off really believing in the healing, and even after realizing that it's a sham and a show, they continue on with their big egos and tons of money. The love of money corrupts.

These prosperity gospel guys know exactly what they're doing though. Maybe Osteen is somewhat sincere, it seems. Does he pressure people into giving money? Anyway I bet that most of them have no illusions about the manipulative corkscrew they're using on people.
posted by beau jackson at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2015


To your point, even Robert-freakin'-Tilton is still around.

At least Tilton will have this following him around until the End of Days.
posted by Ber at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


> I work in a field in which a few people are officially above everybody else. They literally wear different uniforms, their pictures hang all over the place, a defined section of the bureaucracy exists to promote them, and it's considered a very big deal when one of those first class people recognize the work of a second class person. You might think that this would engender huge resentment, but it generally doesn't. Most second class people LOVE IT. They treasure autographed pictures of the first classers and hang them in their offices and cubicles. The general feeling is "Wow, isn't this great, I get to work with those first class people!" They feel as if some of what makes the first class people special rubs off on them. As in, "I'm not just a regular person, I get to do things for a FIRST CLASS PERSON."

I'm guessing you don't work in Ireland? I'm with Bono on this one:

"In the United States, you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I'm going to get that bastard."
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 AM on August 17, 2015 [34 favorites]


They're so obviously con men. How can people fall for this?

People flock to Joel Osteen because they want to be like him or they want to be around him. He is playing a role. His role is the coolest kid in the high school, except he isn't judging your level of coolness and he accepts anybody. I have studied his schtick closely over the internet and I have never seen him ask anybody for money and his church does not charge any fees, not even parking to the best of my knowledge, and he is the richest preacher in the state. On his homepage there is no splash, no big ad footprint, just one unobtrusive give button near the bottom of the main menu. I have never been inside so I don't know the details of their funding pitch but my impression is it's the slickest pitch ever made, hardly anybody even knows they are being pitched.
posted by bukvich at 9:48 AM on August 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


My only personal knowledge of faith-healer belief was my grandmother, who attended her local Assemblies of God church but also sent money to the Bakkers when they were a thing. She had grown up dirt-poor, married at 15, had six kids, never learned to drive, and in general lived in a world that was incredibly small. She had not seen much evidence that humans were good at solving her problems, and had been raised to believe that prayer was her only hope if she wanted things to get better. (Well, and hard work). You gave money to Godly causes; it's just what you did. It made you feel good and feel like your life had more purpose and meaning even if you scrimped by on your husband's pension and babysitting money while living in a trailer park (as she did).

The Bakkers had a folksiness to them, an unsophisticated approach (Tammy Faye's makeup looked exactly like what a deep-country girl would think was beautiful and fancy) as though they were people like her who had Made Good and been blessed to do God's work. She sent them money because she believed they could use that money to save souls around the world, something she could not go and do herself.

Prosperity gospel types seem like a different animal, like a way to simultaneously assuage any guilt you have over your privilege (especially if you are a white person in the South, I imagine) and also to "invest" in a spiritual concern that promised your wealth was not only good, but would increase. A sort of Bible-flavored investment seminar. I nearly said "Jesus-flavored" but I would think you'd want to avoid all but a tiny number of Jesus' actual statements in such a setup.
posted by emjaybee at 9:49 AM on August 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


How can the faithful look at people like Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar making fortunes and flying around in private jets, having previously seen the fall of people like Jimmy Swaggart or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and believe their shit?

Consider that most of the people making donations are elderly and possibly suffering from the beginnings of dementia, or are mentally disabled in some way (e.g. on the autism spectrum), or are just more or less trapped in a cult and not getting outside information.

But setting all that aside ... they're believers. People drop lots of money on casino gambling and cigarettes, and no amount of math or health education will convince them that what they're doing is harmful. Similarly, you're not going to see an Osteen believer suddenly have a come-to-Jesus moment (so to speak) by reminding them that Swaggart and Bakker once had scandals nearly 30 years ago.

The key is stopping it before it happens (Hey everyone! Call your grandma! Confiscate her checkbook!), because the people swept up in televangelism are already doomed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of a broken record on this issue, but feel compelled to point out that the majority of American Christians are in churches with fewer than 100 people,

Are you sure about this? I would expect this to be much like workplaces: The overwhelming number of workplaces are small, but most people work for giant companies. While I can believe that small churches would outnumber big ones 100:1, I would be a little surprised if the vast majority of Christians belonged to churches with fewer than 100 people (unless there's some sort of counting of members that isn't just "people who commonly show up here").

You know religion, I know. But I know stats.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Bakkers had a folksiness to them, an unsophisticated approach (Tammy Faye's makeup looked exactly like what a deep-country girl would think was beautiful and fancy) as though they were people like her who had Made Good and been blessed to do God's work.

Tammy Faye also knew enough to not one-up a drag queen:

"I was gonna wear my wig, but I knew I couldn't outdo you."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:58 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yep...most churches are small, but most Christians belong to at least moderate sized-churches. From here Emphasis mine:

So, though half of the churches in the US have 75 people of less, with 90% of the churches having 350 people or less, still, half of the individual church-goers are part of churches that have more than 350 people.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


The thing that drives me crazy is that the Prosperity Gospel is plainly incompatible with what Jesus says in the Actual Gospels. I mean, anyone who just glosses over the Synoptic Gospels will get the general impression that Jesus came to bring God's eternal love and grace for everyone, with the sole exception of pompous frauds like Joel Osteen, who is basically a caricature of the kind of person Jesus has no patience for.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


The overwhelming number of workplaces are small, but most people work for giant companies.
But large businesses only employ about 38 percent of the private sector workforce while small businesses employ 53 percent of the workforce.

posted by Etrigan at 10:06 AM on August 17, 2015


I have never observed Joel Osteen quoting scripture verbatim one time in about twenty hours of watching him.
posted by bukvich at 10:08 AM on August 17, 2015


One of the more questionable things I did as a teen - and there were plenty - was taking mushrooms with a friend one Sunday morning and going to Tilton's Word of Faith megachurch just outside of Dallas. In hindsight, of course I have no idea just what we were thinking. Tilton had been all over the news and I remember seeing a copy of the Farting Preacher someone had on VHS. I suppose the absurdity of it all was appealing in that way that makes you do dumb shit as a teen. We lasted about 15 minutes before everything dissolved into a psychedelic version of hell and we had to book it on out of there.
posted by item at 10:09 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Question: what happens if the IRS or whoever does go after Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption? Will this bring any pressure to actually change the religious exemption laws?

Also, I wonder how much money they're going to get. Actually putting something in the mail requires a lot more effort than just tossing some money their way via Paypal.
posted by yasaman at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2015


Fave this, and your faves will come back ten fold!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


half of the individual church-goers are part of churches that have more than 350 people

I wonder if they're making a distinction between "church" and "parish."

There are 70 million Catholics in the U.S., and you could say they're all in one church that's spread out across 18,000 parishes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:19 AM on August 17, 2015


Me, I prefer Our Lady of the Perpetual... Downforce.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember being wasted regularly back in college with a friend who had one of the old radio-button cable boxes. We'd stay up late, listening to records and jumping from one channel to another at a terrific speed. I would get INTO it. After about 2am, it was wall to wall PTL Club, 100 Huntley St., Peter Popoff....

Good times.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:29 AM on August 17, 2015




Fave this, and your faves will come back ten fold!

1 Like = 1 Prayer
posted by phunniemee at 10:37 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have never observed Joel Osteen quoting scripture verbatim one time in about twenty hours of watching him.

He was in town here in Toronto a while back at the Air Canada Centre (not a small venue), and there were people outside protesting him for not being "Biblical" enough, from what I could gather.

Unsurprisingly, I recognized a couple of those protesters from Pride parades past as being among the dudes who show up with the SODOMY and REPENT signs.

So I guess what I'm saying is you're probably right.

"Lifestyle" Christianity, I guess? Rather than a chicken in every pot, an Osteen in every bookshelf and a Kinkade on every wall?

I can see it appealing to people over wrestling with hard theological questions and existential doubt.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Huh...Etrigan...interesting...There's no citation given there and the stat is provided by an organization that promotes small business. I'm a little suspicious. I believe the original source of my statement was the National Organizations Survey, though where specifically I first read it (possible here, admitedly outdated, but I don't think somehting like that would change much). I just looked up the General Social Survey (a nationally represenative US survey) and the have this data for 1998, which shows 78% of respondents with employers employing at least 500 people, and the modal category is 10K+.

The US Small Businss Administration (a US government thing according to the banner at the top of the page), shows 46% of employess in organizations smaller than 500 people, and a around 27% in orgs with fewer than 50 people (a more realistic definition of small business IMO).

I suspect the stat in the article you cited was carefully chosen and carefully defined to play up the yay-small-businesses angle.

[/derail]

Also, I wonder how much money they're going to get. Actually putting something in the mail requires a lot more effort than just tossing some money their way via Paypal.

I strongly suspect that that's why they're only giving a snail mail address.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Consider that most of the people making donations are elderly and possibly suffering from the beginnings of dementia, or are mentally disabled in some way (e.g. on the autism spectrum), or are just more or less trapped in a cult and not getting outside information.

So my grandfather had this happen to him. He was retired from a career in the military, working for the park service in Texas, married to his second wife. He went to the office one day and somebody had him read a letter to the editor in the local paper.

The letter in the paper was handwringing about moral decay, but the author noted that, to save herself, she had donated all the funds in her husband's savings account to a televangelist (and I don't remember which one, Falwell, Swaggart or Bakker). That letter was written by his wife. That's how he found out that his life's savings were gone.

A lawyer told him he could institutionalize her or divorce her, but not both, so he divorced her. She later sued my parents, George HW Bush, and Robert Gates claiming a conspiracy in which the CIA replaced my grandfather with a robot as the cause for their divorce.
posted by peeedro at 11:10 AM on August 17, 2015 [35 favorites]


So these "send back these oil packets or something bad will happen to you" letters. Aren't those literally illegal chain letters? "They're illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants."
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


People say that the one thing they really hate is being lied to, but in practice it seems like there's nothing they love more—providing that the lie is something they want to hear. Many people seem to feel that it makes you a cynic if you make an effort to develop a sense of when you're being lied to. How many? Enough, apparently.

I assume that these are the same people who listen to Donald Trump's Billy Mays-inspired sales pitch and think, "Hmm, authenticity."
posted by Flexagon at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, uh, LastOfHisKind... if you need to escape North Korea, I think I might have a few leads...
posted by qcubed at 11:47 AM on August 17, 2015


Hey, uh, LastOfHisKind... if you need to escape North Korea, I think I might have a few leads...

Hmm, I thought for sure it was Washington, DC.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:20 PM on August 17, 2015


Well, it's the pictures all over the place that makes me think more of the Great Leader, Dear Leader, and Great Successor moreso...
posted by qcubed at 12:32 PM on August 17, 2015


With respect to the church size question, the first part of the 2006-2007 American Congregations Study (pdf) is really interesting. From the study:
Most congregations in the United States are small, but most people are in large congregations. Despite the recent proliferation of very large Protestant churches we call megachurches, the size of the average congregation has not changed since 1998.

* In both 1998 and 2006-2007, the average congregation had just 75 regular participants.

* In both 1998 and 2006-2007, the average attendee worshiped in a congregation with about 400 regular participants.

... In a nutshell, the largest 10% of congregations contain about half of all churchgoers.
I wonder how things have changed in the last eight or nine years. If the trend observed in the study continued, we should expect American church-goers to be even more concentrated in the largest churches.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 12:36 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, it's the pictures all over the place that makes me think more of the Great Leader, Dear Leader, and Great Successor moreso...

Every U.S. military unit has a "Chain of Command" board, featuring pictures of the President, Secretary of Defense, service secretary, and then all the generals and colonels (and sergeants major) in that unit's direct chain of command. Yeah, it's kinda creepy.
posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Really?

Well, at least you don't get sent to the gulag if the pictures get smudged.

Right?

...right?

please tell me i'm right
posted by qcubed at 12:41 PM on August 17, 2015



"Lifestyle" Christianity, I guess? Rather than a chicken in every pot, an Osteen in every bookshelf and a Kinkade on every wall?

I can see it appealing to people over wrestling with hard theological questions and existential doubt.


I call it "Christ therapy." A mix of the worst pap from popular psychology plus some quotes from the Gospels.

Relieves existential doubt while the original product inflicts it.
posted by ocschwar at 12:43 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wanna know what's really terrible? Swaggart's fall wasn't really a fall. Dude is still around and EVEN HAS HIS OWN FUCKING TV CHANNEL! I saw it on Memorial Day weekend and was like WTF?

My mom was really into that shit. I think she still watches, but maybe doesn't give as much(?) It was hard to watch her watching Benny Hinn, and all that bullshit. But we went to an Assemblies of God and so all that Faith Healing bullshit was strongly believed.

I don't deny that people can have experiences that seem otherworldly - I've spoken in tongues and had "the peace of the Holy Spirit" come from some sort of meditative place once. I've experienced some really fucked up "spiritual" shit too (spontaneous experience, not during any sort of religious ritual). I don't believe it, but I experienced it.

But it's one thing to have an experience, it's another to believe it and it's another yet to fucking milk and leech off the well meaning people who are being used and abused by your filthy snake oil (or magic cloths).

If Jesus were real he'd be shitting down your throats you evil Televangelist fucks, or at least coming into your churches with whips and throwing over your tables...
posted by symbioid at 12:53 PM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


>I'd be amazed if he wasn't talking about the military, because I was nodding along the whole way.

My first thought was professional sports.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:07 PM on August 17, 2015


If Jesus were real he'd be shitting down your throats...

Christ Coprokrator is my favorite depiction of him.
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


P.T. Barnum had it covered.
posted by twidget at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


>I'd be amazed if he wasn't talking about the military, because I was nodding along the whole way....

My first thought was professional sports.


Come on, people. It's obviously Scientology.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:52 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's curious is that Tilton, who apparently makes time to keep up with his correspondences religiously, hasn't issued any sort of response to this. Presumably he figures there's 0 overlap between John Oliver's audience and his?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2015


What's curious is that Tilton, who apparently makes time to keep up with his correspondences religiously, hasn't issued any sort of response to this. Presumably he figures there's 0 overlap between John Oliver's audience and his?

Kosoma mebata, thank you lord.

Sorry, what?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:12 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really miss Dr. Gene Scott (tm). I wish Pastor Melissa hadn't embargoed most of his Teachin' such that the good ones are no longer available.
posted by Warren Terra at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


John Oliver provides healing for my soul. I feel quite confident if there were a god, she would be quite pleased with his endeavors.
posted by xarnop at 3:11 PM on August 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Someone recorded the message from 1-800-THIS-IS-LEGAL. Praise be.
posted by Gary at 4:48 PM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Eek, peeedro, that sounds like absolutely textbook Capgras Delusion. How tragic.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:21 PM on August 17, 2015


even Robert-freakin'-Tilton is still around.

FFS Jim Kreskin* is still around! We were just cleaning up at my newly deceased mom's house, and he's using the same "I'm psychic! Send me money and I'll show you how you can be rich too!" schtick that a whole bunch of other con artists are using to steal money from your aging parents.

*Just to add a non-religious example.
posted by sneebler at 6:42 PM on August 17, 2015


My mother and all her friends have taken up the fad of watching Joel Osteen (it's the lazy way to church it!), so if she's around and it's 10 a.m. on Sunday she makes me watch it. I will concur with bukvich that I've never seen him ask for money ONCE. Yeah, he mentions books at the end in a commercial and I gather he's having some kind of giant stadium gathering in NorCal sometime soon, but I've never seen him hyping for donations like the traditional evangelists do.

I'll put it this way: if you're a non-Christian being forced to watch a TV preacher on a semi-regular basis, Joel Osteen is the one you want to be forced to watch. He can be funny, makes fun of himself*, and generally he's just preaching optimism and "some day, things are gonna get better for you, it'll happen"--I believe it's phrased along the lines of "the rain will come." Which isn't bad, per se. Not even a "the rain will come and you will give that rain to me for God," just plain "things will get better." I can live with that. And I say that as someone who is creeped out by Christian megachurches and makes fun of them and still thinks that having a damn sports stadium for your preaching is too huge.

And as far as I know, my mom and her friends aren't sending Joel Osteen money. Mom bought some book of his once for me which ended up on my floor, and I think she has another one at her house somewhere, but that's about it.

* frequent commentary out of my mom: "he thinks he's soooo good-looking!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:22 PM on August 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hey, uh, LastOfHisKind... if you need to escape North Korea, I think I might have a few leads...

Hmm, I thought for sure it was Washington, DC.


No, its Becky.
posted by dr_dank at 9:24 PM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


You know, I have to admit: Donald Trump managed the same scheme without the benefit of tax-exempt status. It never occurred to me to think of it this way, but here's a group of people who manage to make Trump look better by comparison. He's basically selling the same thing, minus religion. I'm almost surprised he didn't make a religion, too.

Makes casino gambling look downright honest. At least you've got those low-percentage odds (sometimes as high as 48%!) of making money back. If you consider state lottery a donation, why, you win literally every single time. At least if you give money to the state, you may be inadvertently feeding somebody or helping to maintain roads.

Finally, since people have already brought up Mid-Level Marketing and Scientology, which have both starred on the blue before, I link you to the wikiquote section of quotes about L. Ron Hubbard.

I've lost the ability to hate casinos or state lotteries. Now casinos seem to be approaching the honesty of prostitution by comparison. Prostitution is as honest as it comes, folks. Cash for services rendered. Don't hate them, either. No matter what you think of them or what they do, they're trading fairly.
posted by Strudel at 10:52 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can people fall for this?

Isn't taking money and telling lies the bread and butter of the tradition?
posted by dashDashDot at 5:15 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


While its hard not to just love the righteous skewering of televangelists, it is kind of disappointing to see John Oliver just completely fail to even address the reasons why the system is built the way it is as he calls for its dismantlement.

The application, informational filing, and compensation limiting requirements for non-profits that aren't churches to receive tax exempt status that the IRS has are there primarily because the non-profit community has demanded them for the kind of structure and expectations they provide so as to enforce and communicate legitimacy. It is not an onerous punishment the IRS doles out but a helpful service it provides to the community to help it weed out bullshit artists by establishing basic standardized structures and expectations for governance that are reasonably resistant to fraud. The goal is to enforce uniform governance structures that fail in ways that are predictable, are at least vaguely difficult to hide in, and are broadly familiar. The problem with requiring that churches fulfill similar kinds of requirements in order to be certified as non-profit organizations before receiving that tax exempt status, as John Oliver is broadly arguing, has to do with what that would actually mean. Doing the same things that have broadly cleaned up the non-profit sector (forcing them to share power with a board that has regular attrition in structured ways and limiting their compensation to market rates for the size of their organizations) would cause massive problems for honest churches, be massively problematic from a constitutional perspective, and attempting to do so would necessarily have basically no meaningful effect on the real problem anyway.

A lot of what makes different kinds of churches, synagogues, and mosques different from each other are their fundamentally different governing structures and governing values, which are essential parts of their religious doctrines. The first amendment explicitly declares that the government has no right to establish, as in the opposite of Disestablishmentarianism, any kind of church over any other as being proper for religious exercise. Making the IRS force any specific kind of governance structure or expectation on churches puts it in the both really uncomfortable and fundamentally unconstitutional position of regulating doctrinal questions in these kinds of non-obvious ways. Even most Christian churches have governance structures that are fundamentally incompatible with the ones imposed by federal non-profit status, and in ways that are fundamentally a function of religious exercise, because non-profit status forces an organization to do things like appoint a board with certain powers to the exclusion of other powers, as well as corporate officers with certain defined powers who can't hold multiple offices simultaneously. For example, the American non-profit structure, which was incidentally originally designed from very congregationalist protestant models for religious governance, does not mesh at all with more episcopal churches like Catholicism. They would force Catholics to disenfranchise their bishops and priests in favor of their laity in ways that would make Catholicism either illegal or taxable to the exclusion of other religions and other non-profits, which for good fucking reasons is not constitutional. Churches have been wrestling with how to effectively govern themselves for a lot longer than non-profits have and, while I would happily geek out at you regarding the benefits and drawbacks of specific aspects of their systems, Presbyterian churches, Episcopalian churches, Conservative synagogues, Baptist churches, Sufi mosques, Orthodox synagogues, Sunni mosques, Sikh Gurdwaras and other houses of worship all have their own very different and generally pretty equivalently effective governance structures that align with their ideas about how we should govern ourselves in groups - but are pretty fundamentally mutually incompatible. A single system could not be made to accommodate all of them, even though they are all basically fine. Televangelists, as well as a small minority of non-denominational churches, are also basically the only ones that take the piss with compensation, as the vast majority of churches pay well below the already barrel scraping market rates for equivalent positions in non-profits. Non-denominational churches tend to have more problems with governance, but a eager willingness to trade structural rigidity for those problems is still an inherent part of their religious exercise. Bonafide churches neither need nor want the kind of standardization that the non-profit community both needs and wants, except for those churches that voluntarily go through the standard process for various reasons as they are free to do, and this kind of meddling in other people's religious affairs is exactly why we have to protections of religious liberty from establishment in the first amendment.

Where I now live in Belgium, there is a Federally Established structure that all state supported churches are expected to have based on the traditional Catholic structure that Protestants, Jews, and Muslims just have to deal with if they want state funds. In the Anglican church that I'm involved in the governance of, we deal with this by simply having parallel governance structures, one for the state and one for the church that just meet at the same time and consist of mostly the same people in order to qualify for some limited building funds and a stipend for our priest. This largely functions because we all have similar ideas about where the church should be going, but that is not really what governance structures are for - governance structures exist for when people don't agree. The weird limbo we're forced into could very easily turn things very ugly very fast as expectations about who is in charge of what exactly get confused, which keeps happening in the Belgian Muslim community in ways that are dramatically exacerbated by the contradictions between Belgian Catholic expectations and Sharia law, which are both independently fine but mutually incompatible.

Similarly, while Televangelists tend to distill ecclesiastical governance problems down to their essence, it would be hard to argue that enriching Joel Osteen or Creflo fucking Dollar isn't a conspicuous or inherent part of their groups' religious practice. If there is 'fraud', as in deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, what deception there might be is for the most part fundamentally religious in nature, and it is thus fundamentally outside of the purview of the Federal or State governments to regulate. As much as we all might hate the religion of the prosperity gospel, it is a religion. Thus, from a constitutional perspective, it is none of our damn business how bad we think it is for people for all the same very good reasons why it is none of the State of Mississippi's goddamn business whether its residents skip church or not no matter how bad the State of Mississippi might think that is for people. Even though State interference with religion can be made to work in ways that are at least not terribly unhealthy, like in a lot of Western Europe, the temptations inherent to that interference are a really bad match to the American electorate.

Yes Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption probably is legal, yes it is pretty absurd and awful that both Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption and the Televangelist churches it mocks are legal enterprises, but there are very good reasons why that is the case.

TL;DR: To establish what kind of governance structures and expectations for churches are acceptable for tax exempt status as John Oliver is demanding the IRS do would be to Establish which kinds of churches are acceptable to the State and discriminate against all others, which is exactly what the Establishment clause of the first amendment was designed to prevent. The current paradigm has a lot of serious problems, as John Oliver eloquently points out, but its kind of shitty that he doesn't even bother to engage with the reasons why things are the way they currently are.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:30 AM on August 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


> I've lost the ability to hate casinos or state lotteries. Now casinos seem to be approaching the honesty of prostitution by comparison.

I was in a provincial casino this past weekend in Ontario. When I was at the bar, the bartender refused service to someone who seemed tipsy and told my stepfather-in-law and I that if we gambled we would be virtually guaranteed to lose money. When I expressed surprise at both of these things she told me she was required by law to do them.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:22 AM on August 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


And Jesus said to the gathered crowd, who had paid handsomely for their spot in the amphitheater, "Pray loudly in public all the time, to show everyone how righteous you are. Also, you can't serve two masters, but God and money are totally the same thing."

And then he rode into Jerusalem on a golden chariot pulled by a team of the finest white horses, draped in the finest of rainment. He approached the money changers in the temple and entered into an exclusive licensing deal with the one who offered Jesus the best terms. Amen.
I mean seriously, Christianity is an entire religion based around worshiping a Dude whose signature act was allowing himself to be so weak that He could be nailed naked to a tree next to common thieves and left to die, suffocated by the weight of His own body. He willingly left Himself in excruciating pain with His conspicuous suffering and powerlessness displayed openly for all to see after being abandoned by nearly all who loved Him. Its pretty fundamentally unfriendly to the idea of the conquering triumphant Christ who is rewarded by God and rewards Christians according to their piety. When people wear those WWJD bracelets that were so weirdly popular not so long ago, it is easy to forget that Jesus flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is not out of the question. Jesus didn't live his life seeking the negative peace that is the absence of tension but the positive peace that is the presence of justice.

The Prosperity Gospel betrays the same kind of hypocrisy and audacious conceit necessary to describe America as a Christian country. That is, even though those who have prisoners for neighbors and do not visit them, have the hungry for neighbors and do not feed them, have the naked (or I suppose in a more modern context visibly disgraced) for neighbors and do not clothe them with dignity, or have foreigners for neighbors and do not welcome them into their homes cannot plausibly claim to be Christian. When this is a nation that clearly not only neglects the duties it would need to fulfill to be even close to describable as Christian but says that there are prisoners who should not be visited, hungry people who should not be fed, people who should not have dignity, and foreigners who should not only be unwelcome but hunted.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:17 AM on August 18, 2015 [18 favorites]


That is, even though those who have prisoners for neighbors and do not visit them, have the hungry for neighbors and do not feed them, have the naked (or I suppose in a more modern context visibly disgraced) for neighbors and do not clothe them with dignity, or have foreigners for neighbors and do not welcome them into their homes cannot plausibly claim to be Christian.

Well, you don't expect me to treat those people as neighbors, do you?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2015


Well, you don't expect me to treat those people as neighbors, do you?

If only there were a parable about that ... or something.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:16 AM on August 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Consider that most of the people making donations are elderly and possibly suffering from the beginnings of dementia, or are mentally disabled in some way (e.g. on the autism spectrum), or are just more or less trapped in a cult and not getting outside information.

Most? No, I don't think so. There aren't enough elderly and/or mentally disabled people in the country with enough wealth to account for the numbers, and "trapped in a cult and not getting outside information" is also a pretty minority situation.

Contributing to evangelists is not really such a fringe activity. You probably know someone who has, but they're not going to tell you about it, any more than they'll volunteer information, apropos of nothing, about what makes them cry in private or what they have nightmares about or what they hoped happened to their loved ones who died.
posted by desuetude at 10:00 PM on August 18, 2015




Most? No, I don't think so. There aren't enough elderly and/or mentally disabled people in the country with enough wealth to account for the numbers,...

Hmm, my reaction was that given a country of 325M+ folks, there probably are enough in those categories to sustain these ministries. For example, there are ~20M who are age 75 or over, and if only 25% are experiencing cognitive decline, that's still 5M. Add in the younger folks with cognitive impairment and you've probably got well over the 16M the CDC says are living with that problem. That's a healthy market size for these scammers. Of course, we have no idea how much cash they rake in, but I suspect a lot of it comes from folks who can't afford it, as the givers are disproportionately black and female.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:34 PM on August 19, 2015


Take away their tax exemption for any church income above some low level. Any church that can afford private jets can afford to pay taxes on private jets.

And if taxing churches bothers people, put that money into things people cannot argue with: feeding and sheltering the poor, for instance. Force churches to do some actual good, if only through the good their taxes do. If church leaders and parishioners don't like that, they can take it up with Jesus.
posted by pracowity at 12:59 PM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


pracowity: "Take away their tax exemption for any church income above some low level. Any church that can afford private jets can afford to pay taxes on private jets.

And if taxing churches bothers people, put that money into things people cannot argue with: feeding and sheltering the poor, for instance. Force churches to do some actual good, if only through the good their taxes do. If church leaders and parishioners don't like that, they can take it up with Jesus.
"
Neither the Federal Government nor the States can tax churches without taxing other kinds of organizations that do not operate for profit, because discriminating against any specific church, or churches generally, with the tax system on the basis of their religion would represent an attempt to prohibit the free exercise of that religion. The United States Federal government, as well as each of the fifty States and almost all local governments, broadly provide tax exempt status to all non-profit organizations, which means churches necessarily need to also be tax exempt under those tax systems, because specifically targeting churches would be dramatically unconstitutional. Non-profits are, in essence, organizations that use surplus revenues to achieve their goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends, and being a non-profit is an essential part of what a church is. While churches, like any other non-profit, are currently free to generate surplus revenue to sit on, the moment that revenue is distributed as profit any organization already instantly ceases to be a church for tax purposes and that profit is taxable.

The whole plan of taxing the revenue of large churches on the basis of their religion, ie: without also taxing other large non-profits, would constitute naked religious discrimination and would be fundamentally unacceptable. The problem of taxing some churches unfairly to get rid of them is specifically the problem the founders wrote the free exercise and establishment clauses to address. Incidentally, before you start fantasizing about how great it would be to change this, I'd recommend reflecting on how much the State of Mississippi might love to be free to discriminate in the other direction.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:23 AM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb, I see where you're coming from, but in your previous comment, you talk about why churches need to be treated differently from other nonprofit organizations, while in this one, you say that they need to be treated more or less the same as other nonprofit organizations.

I'm not the biggest fan of ideological consistency above all, but it seems like the goalposts are kind of moving around on us here.
posted by Etrigan at 6:14 AM on August 20, 2015


Etrigan: "Blasdelb, I see where you're coming from, but in your previous comment, you talk about why churches need to be treated differently from other nonprofit organizations, while in this one, you say that they need to be treated more or less the same as other nonprofit organizations.

I'm not the biggest fan of ideological consistency above all, but it seems like the goalposts are kind of moving around on us here.
"
This is exactly why, despite how characteristically subtle and glorious the skewering of televangelists might have been, Oliver's treatment of the IRS here is still disappointingly empty. If one can stomach the tediously boring intricacies of tax law, non-profit accounting, and enlightenment era disestablishmentarian rhetoric that Oliver could have sugar coated like no other; we're left with a beautifully intricate constitutional contradiction between two clauses that the IRS must somehow navigate like one of Asimov's creations finding some way to obey the Three Laws of Robotics.

The IRS necessarily can neither directly establish rules for regulating churches because that would Establish what kind of church is acceptable nor discriminate against churches relative to the otherwise identical organizations it necessarily must regulate in order to avoid being fleeced. The IRS's current paradigm has many aspects that seem to work horrifically badly, but many of these are in fact features of the system rather than bugs while the rest for the most part cannot be gotten rid of without a profound reorientation of the American relationship between church and state.

The goalposts are static here, but they're also complex. I just wish Oliver had actually engaged with the reasons why the IRS does the bizarre and seemingly negligent dance it does rather than just point and laugh at the contortions.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:18 AM on August 20, 2015


put that money into things people cannot argue with: feeding and sheltering the poor, for instance
Sadly, you get a lot of people in government who are against feeding the poor or sheltering them.
posted by soelo at 10:42 AM on August 20, 2015


And, the backlash:

Christian Today: "This didn't sit well with Jennifer LeClaire, director of the Awakening House of Prayer in Florida. In her column on Charisma News, LeClaire said Oliver went overboard in his expose."

Raw Story: "Looks like Oliver struck a nerve. On Wednesday, Christian minister Jennifer LeClaire said Oliver shouldn’t “mock what you don’t understand,” calling him a “false reverend.”"
posted by Wordshore at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2015


I think she means "false megareverend".
posted by Gary at 2:35 PM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wordshore: Raw Story: "Looks like Oliver struck a nerve. On Wednesday, Christian minister Jennifer LeClaire said Oliver shouldn’t “mock what you don’t understand,” calling him a “false reverend.”"
“I do believe in supernatural debt cancellation,” LeClaire writes. “And I don’t believe we should mock so-called prosperity preachers, even if we don’t believe they hear from God. Nor do I believe we should insinuate that God is cursing at them, as Oliver did.”
Ya lost me at "supernatural debt cancellation," unless you mean "I'm praying that God sends natural disasters to wipe out banks that keep accounts of our debts."

And hints of an official IRS response: IRS Getting Pressured To Crack Down On Televangelists Following John Oliver’s Segment (CBS, no real word on what the "pressure" or efforts to "crack down" actually mean).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 AM on August 25, 2015


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