In January of 2005 my brother chatted with me on MSN Messenger (remember that?) about a mailing he got from an organization calling itself Saint Matthew’s Churches. They had sent him the amazingly wonderfully amazing Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug which, they promised, would perform a legitimate miracle by opening its closed eyes if you just stared at it long enough and prayed.
The idea was that “Jesus sees your needs” and all you had to do to be financially blessed by the Son of God was say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, I do need Your financial blessings upon me and my family’s finances!” and then send a “seed gift” to the folks at Saint Matthew’s Churches along with the prayer rug. After all, you have to spend money to make money, right? Apparently, the same rules apply with God. Though you’d think you’d get to keep the prayer rug. I guess they didn’t have enough to go around even though it was clearly a cheap printing on low-quality cloth.
They also had a big form to fill out where you could check off what things you were struggling with and then they’d pray for God to help you with those things, but the big thing they kept emphasizing in the package was just how much money other people had been “blessed” with. One woman got $46,000 after praying to the rug and sending it back with her seed gift and another person got $10,000. You can read my original blog post about it here.
Fast forward 14 years and I come home from work to find this envelope waiting for me in my mailbox:
When I saw it was from Saint Matthew’s Churches, I knew I recognized the name and as soon as I opened the envelope I knew why. It’s the same scam as my brother got almost a decade and a half ago.
Well, not quite the same as there is no amazingly wonderfully amazing miracle Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug this time. No, this time it’s a Prosperity Handkerchief. Production values have definitely gone down over the years as the Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug was printed on something resembling cloth whereas this Prosperity Handkerchief doesn’t perform any miracles and is clearly printed on a standard 8×11 sheet of copier paper. Seriously:
The spiel, however, is very close to the original. Using this amazingly wonderfully amazing Prosperity Handkerchief has resulted in folks having all manner of Spiritual, Physical, but — most important of all — FINANCIAL blessings rained down upon them from the Good Lord above. God sees that you need money and He’s willing to be most generous so long as you’re willing to be generous first with Saint Matthew’s Churches.
As you look through the scans of the brochure they sent me below, note the lack of specificity of the rewards compared to 14 years ago. Clearly the number of folks complaining about this scam to the BBB and various charity watchdogs has had an impact. Instead of “this woman got $46,000” it’s now “I used this [Prosperity] Handkerchief and … I received [a huge financial blessing].” I guess so long as you make the testimonials vague enough and put shit in brackets with lots of underlines then it’s A-OK.
I also find it amusing how so much of the artwork and styling looks like something crapped out in the 1950s. They claim to have been established in 1951 so I suppose that’s not surprising, but you’ll note that in that last scan above there’s a very modern roll of hundred-dollar bills and a Cadillac SUV that has been crudely photoshopped in. Sure, folks got jobs and raises and just plain old happiness, but LOOK AT THE MONEY AND CARS!
“But,” I hear you say, “what about the miracle?” Well, this time they have something even BETTER than a miracle! They have a PERSONALIZED PROPHECY! You may remember seeing something about that on the back of the envelope up above. You’re not supposed to open it until after sunset the day after you get the mailing for reasons that are never specified. Additionally, you shouldn’t open the prophecy until after you have sent the paper handkerchief and your “seed” money back to the church. If you’re not going to send the money then you must DESTROY the prophecy without reading it!
Ha! Yeah, I’m not sending them shit and I am reading this supposedly highly personalized prophecy that God dictated to them to send to me even though He could’ve saved on postage if He’d just show up and tell me Himself. I wonder why “He” doesn’t just do that?
Wow, that was, underwhelming. Lots of generic talk about a “greater purpose” that I “haven’t discovered yet” and “the power was IN YOU ALL ALONG” bullshit. I’ve seen phony psychic readings that were more specific than this claptrap.
Lastly, we have the final page that has the “what other shit other than money do you need us to pray for you which we totally won’t do” form. I particularly like how personalized the opening is: “Dear … Someone Connected with This Home, Who Needs Prayer and God’s Divine Help and Blessings… In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. ” Yeah, that’s totally not my name.
So, yeah, 14 years later and they’re still at it with a few tweaks to the message to stay just this side of legal. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised as they were at it for longer than that prior to my brother telling me about them.
When I first wrote about them in 2005, I mentioned that Saint Matthew’s Churches made $26 million in 1999, which was the last year they made their tax records public. As of 2007 it’s estimated they were pulling down $6 million a month. That’s a lot of sheep being fleeced. Mostly elderly sheep too. They construct their mailing lists specifically to target older believers many of whom are the least likely to be able to afford sending along money and you can bet your ass that those who do will find a whole lot more prayer scam letters showing up in their mailboxes.
In that original post about these asshats, I said that I was torn between feeling angry that the religiously gullible are being taken advantage by an unscrupulous organization and feeling that they’re getting what they deserve for being gullible sheep to begin with. That hasn’t changed much over time and neither has the tactics of Saint Matthew’s Church. So, I suppose the only thing to say is: buyer beware.