In January of 2015 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. Afterall, 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 emphasising 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 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 then 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.
I’ve been writing up TMFWMYC articles for years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from them it’s that when Jesus speaks to you, nine times out of ten, you’re probably better off ignoring him.
Take the example of James A. Mucciaccio Jr. who did about $50K of damage to his 2000 Ferrari coupe when he heard the call to drive it off a Palm Beach dock into a lake from none other than the Son of God himself:
Police said Mucciaccio told them he was waiting for a friend to pick him up by the dock. When the officer told Mucciaccio he couldn’t park on the dock, Mucciaccio reversed toward the road but then suddenly switched into drive and drove into the inlet “at a high rate of speed,” the report says.
Police said Mucciaccio, who Palm Beach Fire-Rescue said was uninjured, “was able to exit” the car before it sank and was eventually helped onto a boat by a passing fisherman.
After reaching shore, Mucciaccio walked back to the officer, police said, and said Jesus told him to drive off the dock “and into a 6-foot window.” Mucciaccio also told police, “Money is going to be irrelevant in two days; remember to smile,” according to the report.
The passing fisherman who helped Mucciaccio to shore told police that Mucciaccio said he drove into the inlet because the “officer on the dock was Egyptian and he did not believe in Jesus.”
Now it’s possible that Jesus just doesn’t understand how cars are supposed to be utilized — it’s not like they were around in his time — but that seems like some really questionable advice.
Now I can already hear you furiously typing in the comments about how clearly this guy was nuts and Jesus didn’t actually tell him to drive his car into the lake, but the news article notes that the police haven’t stated if Mucciaccio had or would be charged with any crimes even though he did $1K of damage when he sideswiped a metal ladder that was town property on his way into the water. Clearly the police accepted his claim as God’s honest truth and who are they to stand in the way of an order from Jesus even if it doesn’t make any sense?
If you’re reading this then chances are the world failed to end on April 23rd, 2018. Again. This time courtesy of “numerologist” David Meade. According to Mr. Meade, today the sun, the moon and Jupiter will line up in the constellation Virgo fulfilling one of the signs from Revelation 12:1-2. Specifically, the bit about a woman appearing in the heavens “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Thus heralding in The Rapture via the appearance of the mythical Planet X passing by the planet causing all sorts of holy hell to break out.
One small issue: the sun, the moon and Jupiter won’t actually line up in the constellation of Virgo today. Jupiter will be in the constellation Libra, the moon in Gemini, and the Sun in Aries. At least from the Earth’s perspective. Also, Planet X is a myth.
One other small issue is that this isn’t the first time Mr. Meade has made this prediction. He made a similar claim last September and when, spoiler alert, the world failed to end he tried to shift the date around a couple of times, but the world persisted in spite of his predictions.
Hopefully, you didn’t sell all your belongings in preparation for this latest apocalypse as some folks have done in the past. It would’ve been a real shame if the world had ended today as this is the first really nice weather we’ve had this year and I’m planning on riding my new bicycle.
Plus, had it ended before I got to see Avengers: Infinity War I would’ve been super pissed.
On occasion my mother has recited a story about a deeply religious family member who refused to leave his armchair when his house caught fire due to his utter conviction that God would protect him. He died in that fire because God had other things to do at that moment. That bit of family lore came to mind when I read the following news item:
Bahari Shaquille Warren, 25, faces two counts child cruelty in Wednesday’s crash, according to Gwinnett County jail records.
Authorities said the mother was traveling northbound on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard when she crossed into the southbound lanes and drove head on into a pole, Channel 2 Action News reported. Her children, ages 5 and 7, were in the backseat.
According to the kids, Warren decided she needed to impress upon them that God was real and that he would protect them. The best way should come up with to demonstrate this was to drive into a pole with the kids strapped into the backseat:
“…Her eyes (were) closed and she was saying, ‘blah, blah, blah, I love God,’” the girl said. “She didn’t want us to just have a car accident. She wanted us to know that God is real.”
Police said Warren told her children to buckle up their seat belts before she rammed into the pole, Channel 2 reported. Warren later admitted to cops she intentionally crashed the car to prove to her children God is real.
One has to question her confidence in God considering she told the kids to buckle up just before ramming the pole. It’s not clear what she expected to happen, whether she thought God would prevent the car from hitting the pole or just keep them from being seriously hurt, but I’d argue the seatbelts and the design of modern day vehicles did more than God in terms of protecting them. Maybe she thought God would swap her out with a mother than wasn’t crazy.
The end result is the kids are OK and in the custody of their grandparents and mom went to jail with a $22,000 bond. God couldn’t be reached for comment.
Well, that was quick. Had someone who asked me to friend them two or three days ago unfriend and block me within the past 12 hours. I only agreed to accept the friend request because we had a mutual friend, but apparently she didn’t look first to see if she’d appreciate my point of view on things spiritual before sending out the invite.
It all started when she posted this Atheism meme on the right here to her wall. It was exactly the sort of thing I find hard to let slide by without comment. So I pointed out that Atheism has nothing to do with the Big Bang Theory or the Theory of Evolution. That atheism says nothing about a person’s beliefs beyond the fact that they lack belief in god(s). Above and beyond that, it misrepresents the science of both theories.
Click to embiggen.
Things went downhill quickly from there. Someone else asked what it was the meme was trying to say and I pointed out that it was a poor attempt to clapback at a similar meme on Christianity (also to the right). The difference between them being that the Christianity meme hits on actual tenets of Christian faith — everlasting life through belief in a resurrected god, the taint of sin, Eve and forbidden fruit, etc. — that sound ludicrous when you think about it whereas the atheism one doesn’t because atheism isn’t a religion that requires adherence to doctrine.
Then a fourth person made a comment about “a-theism” meaning they must be “a-gainst God” to which I responded with the fact that it’s hard to be against something that doesn’t exist. You may as well say you’re against Unicorns for all the sense that would make. That the word “atheism” has been around since before the 5th century and is derived from the ancient Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”. When I next returned to this thread because someone had liked my comment I was surprised to see it had been deleted.
My new friend then started asking me if I didn’t understand “allegory”, but rather than take up the argument, I pointed out that a previous comment had been deleted. I said I was happy to have this discussion with them if it wasn’t going to upset them, but if my comments were just going to be deleted then I was certain I could find better ways to spend my time.
It was at this point that she took it upon herself to explain to me that her concept of god was less old-white-bearded-guy-in-the-sky than it was “Consciousness” with a capital C. She went on to tell me that there are no atheists in fox holes and that the reason I didn’t believe in whatever it is she considered to be God was because I lacked the curiosity and desire to truly know the truth.
One of the things that always irritates me is when someone who barely knows anything about me attempts to explain to me what I do and don’t know or how much effort I’ve put into understanding or learning about something. So I pointed out to her how arrogant it was to presume that I must not have been sufficiently curious enough or wanted to know the truth bad enough just because I don’t believe the same things she does. I said it was that kind of you-must-not-have-believed-enough “victim blaming” was, frankly, offensive. I pointed out that dismissing my viewpoint being a result of my apathetic curiosity was a lazy way to avoid having to provide support for her beliefs.
Of course, I was much more eloquent in my phrasing, but I’m trying to recall all of this from memory because it appears I’ve been unfriended and blocked as there’s no sign of the comments she had left on posts on my wall and I no longer see her in my friends list.
Not that I am at all bothered by this. Clearly she was happy to be my friend so long as we expressed similar viewpoints. Which, politically at least, we did. However, the moment I disagreed with her on her spiritual beliefs she couldn’t unfriend me fast enough. The thing about it is, I worked very hard not to suggest she was an idiot and even when I got irritated, I tried to keep it civil. I also attempted to drop the matter with a I’ll agree to disagree and move on, but she had to go and try and tell me how I had failed to be curious enough.
Chalk one more win up to my sparkling personality.
Jesus is known for being a bit of a practical joker and is always pulling pranks on people. Like the time he pretended to “die” and then showed up three days later just so he could freak out his mom, but this time his prank could’ve gotten someone seriously hurt.
Chad O. England, the latest target of Jesus’ weird sense of humor.
It seems Jesus thought it would be funny to call upon 33 year old Chad O. England of Tennessee while the poor sap was speeding along I-81 and tell him to close his eyes and let go of the wheel so Jesus could take over. You know, as a kind of co-pilot or something. Except Jesus didn’t take the wheel which resulted in Chad’s 2015 Toyota Tacoma truck veering off of the freeway and flipping over five times while bouncing off a rock wall before coming to rest in the emergency and right lanes of the road.
“He said that Jesus was calling him and advised him to let go of the wheel, and that’s what he did,” the report states. “He stated that he did not take off running, he was ‘being called and was traveling to bow before someone.’ He also stated he was not driving, but he was behind the wheel.”
Officers searched the wrecked truck and located about six grams of marijuana, a vial of white powder residue, which the driver identified as cocaine, the report states. The officers also said they found a couple partial pipes, rolling papers, a nearly empty bottle of alcohol and “huffing” cans.
Ha ha! What a joker! To be fair, Jesus was looking out for Chad as the man did make it through what is an impressively major crash with no injuries to speak of. However, he is going to need a new truck.
Now some of you might doubt this man’s claims because of the drugs found in his vehicle, but given what we know about Jesus’ fondness for pranks — is there a food item he hasn’t drawn a crude picture of himself and/or his mom onto? — I think it’s wrong to doubt the truth of Mr. Chad’s claim. After all, we know Jesus talks to people all the time.
Judge Jack Robison apologized to jurors for the interruption, but defended his actions by telling them “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it,” according to the Herald-Zeitung in New Braunfels.
The jury went against the judge’s wishes, finding Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of continuous trafficking of a person and later sentenced her to 25 years in prison. They found her not guilty of a separate charge of sale or purchase of a child.
I bet Jesus is pretty pissed with those jurors right now. At least the Judge can rest easy knowing that he did his duty in passing along the message.
Hopefully Jesus will return to some of his tamer pranks that don’t result in people losing their means of transportation and, for that matter, their freedom. Like when he told several different Republican presidential candidates that he wanted them to be President of the United States only to turn around and put a man wholly unqualified and disinterested into the office instead.
Conservative Christians like to make a lot of noise about morality despite the fact that they’re often not capable of adhering to the morals they insist the rest of us follow. Whether it’s the deeply religious fundamentalist who protests at the local abortion clinic that ends up getting an abortion the moment they have an inconvenient pregnancy only to go back to protesting abortion the next day or the Christian who rails against the evils of homosexuality only to be caught engaging in the very thing they decry.
So too it seems is this true about pornography. According to a study by Samuel L. Perry of the University of Oklahoma recently published in the Journal of Sex Research, there is no shortage of Christians who consider porn to bad yet still watch it just the same:
“Having studied what conservative Christians think about pornography as well as their consumption habits, I started to notice a bit of a discrepancy. In every study of which I’m aware, conservative Christians are far more likely than other Americans to reject pornography on moral grounds. There is basically no justification for it whatsoever in their minds. However, I also started to notice that, despite their unequivocal rejection of pornography, conservative Christians aren’t considerably less likely than other Americans to report viewing it.
“Sure, a number of studies show that, say, conservative Protestants and frequent churchgoers view porn somewhat less often than other Americans,” Perry told PsyPost. “But that’s not the case in every study. In some studies, for example, being a conservative Protestant or frequent churchgoer didn’t make much of a difference at all in terms of porn use.
He sat down and went through data from a 2006 Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) which tracks religion, morality, politics and other social issues and found that 10% of Americans who viewed porn as morally wrong still reported having watched it within the previous year.
“In fact, evangelical Protestants and other sectarian Protestant groups were the most likely of all religious groups to report the experience of ‘incongruence,’ saying porn is always immoral, but viewing it anyway. To put that in perspective, less than 6% of religiously unaffiliated persons reported believing porn is immoral but watch it anyway, compared to over 13% of evangelical Protestants or other sectarian Christian groups.”
Interestingly, this incongruence was only amongst the men as he found little evidence that religious women who held porn as morally wrong still viewed it anyway. Ironically for men, the more they attended church the more likely they were to view porn in spite of their belief it was bad:
“When I looked at measures of religiosity, I found there was an important gender dynamic at play. The connection between church attendance and prayer frequency and experiencing an incongruence between one’s porn beliefs and usage only applied to men. But as men’s church attendance or prayer frequency increased, their likelihood of experiencing that incongruence (believing porn is wrong, but watching it anyway) increased in a linear fashion,” the researcher explained.
“For example, among those Americans who ‘never’ attend church, only about 7% of men report experiencing an incongruence between porn beliefs and usage. But at the highest frequencies of church attendance, over 25% of men report experiencing an incongruence. That means that for those men who attend church services several times a week, roughly 1/4 of them say porn is always immoral, but they watch it anyway. The results were similar for prayer frequency as well. ”
All of that said, the data was limited enough that questions about frequency of viewing porn or why these men watched something they considered morally wrong couldn’t be answered. In the end it would seem “the power of your dick compels you” is the best explanation we’re likely to get.
The ruling was announced in a letter to bishops by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
He has said the bread can be low-gluten, but the wheat must contain enough protein for it to be made without additives.
For those of you who aren’t Catholics, one of the core beliefs is that the wafers and wine they consume during mass literally turn into the flesh and blood of Christ once they’ve been consecrated. This belief was obligatory in 1215 with the Fourth Council of the Lateran.
Don’t even THINK of using these in the Catholic church.
The Vatican appears to be declaring that, despite being an all-powerful entity responsible for the existence of all creation who can literally do anything he can imagine, God is incapable or unwilling to perform transubstantiation on gluten free bread.
He added: “The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition.
“It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.”
And don’t you even begin to think any old wine will do as Jesus blood:
“The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances.”
Leaving aside the cannibalistic aspects of this ritual for a moment, you would think God would have had the foresight of the sort of problems that a Jesus cracker with gluten in it would cause Catholics with Celiac disease, what with being all-knowing and all. Which calls into question that whole transubstantiation thing to begin with. I mean, if the cracker literally becomes the flesh of Christ then wouldn’t that remove any gluten in it? Or did Jesus have naturally occurring gluten in his flesh?
Probably best not to think about that too much.
Lutherans, who also practice this odd ritual, don’t seem to be as hung up on what the cracker is made out of and generally leave it up to the local churches to decide if they’re willing to substitute gluten free bread. Methodists can also use gluten free bread or rice cakes. I’ve not checked into the other denominations that engage in a similar ritual, but I’d bet they are also more accommodating.
One can only assume that the Catholic church doesn’t think God is capable of turning anything other than unleavened wheat bread into Jesus flesh. Or he’s just that much of a petty bread snob that he refuses to do so.
Meet Christian pastor/asshole David Grisham of Last Frontier Evangelism. David isn’t happy with parents telling their kids that Santa Claus is watching over them and judging whether they’ve been good or bad and then rewarding them appropriately because that’s Jesus’ job. That’s why he took it upon himself to head to his local mall where parents and kids were lined up to visit Santa and tell everyone the truth about how he’s not real:
Of course the irony here is that Pastor Asshole is insisting that folks should substitute one myth for another. Regardless, he’s another example of a Christian who isn’t happy that some folks are celebrating Christmas in a manner he doesn’t approve of and he’ll be damned before he lets anyone get away with that.
He’s not all that different from the Christians who demand that people say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.” Upset that someone, somewhere isn’t acknowledging the Christ is CHRISTmas, they post indignant Facebook memes insisting “Merry Christmas” is the only acceptable greeting as though there aren’t a multitude of religious holidays that take place this time of year and that someone might be something other than Christian.
Christmas is one of the best bits of PR Christians have going for them. It’s been embraced as a national holiday in a number of countries and is seen as a celebration not just of the birth of their imaginary friend, but as a celebration of peace and goodwill towards others. It encourages folks to reconnect with friends and families, to be kind and generous, and to aspire to being better people. Regardless of whether anyone buys into the idea of Jesus, the holiday goes a long way to making people be better than they usually are.
At least up until some Christian gets annoyed because they think the people celebrating aren’t putting enough emphasis on the Christ part and decides to ruin the goodwill by pissing all over how other people choose to celebrate. You guys need to realize this is as much a secular holiday as a religious one and has been for a very long time. More importantly, you should stop to think about how you look like an asshole every time you insist others should conform to how you think the holiday should be observed.
You can say Merry Christmas all you want and most folks you say it to are going to take it as a gesture of goodwill. There’s no need to ruin that by insisting everyone must celebrate the holiday the way you do.