Back in the days when I was a regular churchgoer (translation: too young to choose; "get in the car NOW"), my siblings and I vied for the privilege of placing the ENVELOPE in the collection basket as it came down our pew. Along with "too young to choose" I was also too young to really question the ENVELOPE. I mean, I saw my mother write a check each Sunday morning and place it in the ENVELOPE provided by the church, so I knew it was a monetary offering of some sort. But beyond that?
When you're ten years old it just blends into the boredom and grownupdom of church attendance.
I was too young to know what happened to my parents' ENVELOPE, along with the others that filled the basket each Sunday. But others did fill those baskets so I knew it was some sort of big deal to be involved. Every now and then, more to curry favor with my parents than anything else, I would remove some change from my piggy bank and proudly place it in the basket with the grown up offerings. If visiting my grandmother, she would shove a dollar bill in my hand when the basket came around. I still had zero idea what happened to money, but hey, look at me playing the game!
It took many more years, and that dangerous age of reason, to finally connect with the fact that I was part of an international pay to play pray scheme. That money was expected because God ... well, insert whatever reason the priest or bulletin threatened that week. It was, and still remains, emotional extortion. Give us your money and we will make sure God hears your prayers, blesses you, blah, blah, blah.
Now, before you get your vestments in a knot and go on a tear about how YOUR church does SO much good with donations, STOP. I do not care how giving your particular flavor of religion professes to be, you know damned well that there is never a direct line between your tithing and the object of true need. In between there are administration costs, rectory upkeep, large percentage to the mainframe of the religion, minister expenses, etc, etc, etc. Very seldom does a donation go from the wallet to the needy without a stop for siphoning.
Let's be honest, that gold at the Vatican is not spray paint.
Yes, there are collectives, like our DGMS Yes, Virginia effort where the only overhead involved for you are shipping fees, or for me the additional money my family kicks in to keep the fund viable up to Christmas each year. Every cent is made to work as it was intended when given: HARD FOR SOMEONE IN NEED.
It's just one of the many reasons I have such disdain for big religion. All the coersive, blackmaily parts; the parts where the manmade problems are created, But wait! If you order NOW, we'll throw in the solution and salvation - just pay shipping and handling! - as if donning a robe or moving up the corporate ladder of the church means you are suddenly a divine Sham Wow spokesperson, connected to the god of your religion's choosing, and able to hand down edicts from God's secret Twitter stream.
I do not now, nor have I ever, needed to pay admission to confab with the Divine. My pursestrings and the Holy Trinity have zero to do with one another. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that currency is worthless in the afterlife. All that swag and gold the pharaohs took with them? Still there in the sand. Gods don't need your stinkin' money. But here on Earth? While $$$ are very necessary to help the less fortunate, they are absolutely essential to having designer suits, Rolexes, mansions, fleets of pricey cars, and personal jets.
Enter the Prosperity Gospel - responsible for millions of parishioners going hungry while at the same time the heads of the flocks are enjoying the finest food and drink on their "necessary" private jets. Creeflo Dollar, Joel Osteen and his equally spray tanned, teeth whitened, designer clad wife, the Copelands, Binny Hinn, Robert Tilton, and on and on and on - all pulpit grifters promising salvation and prosperity in exchange for your hard earned dollars. As if either is theirs to give.
Yet people do give. So full of the fear pumped into them weekly by their pastors, so cloaked in shame lest they do not give as much as the parishioner beside them, so brainwashed into believing that Joel, Binny, Creeflo, et al - NEED all those expensive accoutrements in order to commune with the Divinity.
I find it very hard to feel sorry for those who so readily buy into this garbage, again, this pay to pray scheme cooked up by charismatic, wholly unholy conmen and women. Clue - if you are worshipping in a stadium worthy of a Beyonce concert? Your dollars are not going to the greater glory of God, but to the greater ego of the one on the stage. Yet even when the deceit and outright theft of these criminals is exposed, their flocks still flock, refusing to believe they have been had. It is not unlike the refusal to admit buyer's remorse in a very large swath of Cult 45. They SEE, they KNOW, but it is too embarrassing to admit they have been conned so they dig deep and double down on their bet gone bad. The problem is the dice are loaded and they are never going to win.
Which brings me to this piece of work:
Paula White. Another prosperity leecher preacher. You may recognize her from the Inauguration where she gave the invocation. Or from these scenes where her hands are all over Donald Trump, beseeching God to protect him, empower him.
Empower him how? Trump is a narcissist who worships only one way - in the mirror. These shows of laying on hands are sickening.
Yet not to squander her newfound access to "God's Chosen", she has taken to her flock with her increased influence and threats, a la the religion of Trumpism. On her website she has instructed her followers that they must send her up to one month's salary as "first fruits" lest they face serious "consequences" from God.
I am not making this shit up.
Her line of malarkey?
“The reason is God lays claim to all firsts. So when you keep for yourself something that belongs to God you are desecrating what is to be consecrated to God.”
Excuse me, but God is not in the workplace washing dishes, making beds, nannying, building cars, digging ditches, fighting fires. And I haven't seen God strolling the Walmart lately coupons in hand. I have seen hungry, desperate people trying to stretch what little they have to feed their families. So to blackmail people who have so little? Guilt them, scare them into turning their money over to "God"?
She promises that by emptying their pockets it “supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life.”
No, Harriet Potter, it insures they may not be able to pay their heating bill or feed their hungry children or buy their heart meds.
She winds it up with this threat, "When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience there are consequences.”
Direct disobedience and consequences. Fuck you, you blight on all that IS good and worthy.
God will punish YOU if YOU don't give to HER. Because let's be real here - there is no email, Paypal, Bitcoin account, or mailing address for God. But there sure as shit is one for her.
I swear it makes me hope there is a hell after all this. A place where she, Joel, Creeflo, and all the other religious conmen and women who cry crocodile tears, and scare money from those who cannot afford it, will find themselves. Slowly turning on a spit, like the pigs they are, for all eternity.
As an adult, I do know where all my parents' ENVELOPES and my sweaty handfuls of change went. Into the corporation that is the Catholic Church. Into a business that denies my equality, denies my son, promises salvation at the hands of pedophile priests they continue to protect, and still extorts money each Sunday from those at the base of its pyramid. If Jesus walked into the Vatican - the Jesus supported by many historical texts, the Jesus who was a simple man teaching and preaching love, kindness, decency, in robes, not Rolexes? He would be kicked out for not being able to pay the price of admission. He would be sickened by how something so simple as be kind has been bastardized by the money changers, how holy faith has been wholly monetized.
Many of you attend church. Many of you give your hard earned money. It is my hope that you receive something for your faith - comfort, community, some assurance that you are not buying your preacher's next trip to Gucci. If it works for you, great. I just wish for you that you don't attend or give out of fear. If you truly believe in a higher power, that higher power has access to the one thing that proves your worth - your HEART, not your wallet.
As for me? My heart is wide open, as are my eyes. And they will never get another cent from my wallet again. So help me God.