Thursday, December 2, 2010

For-Profit Prophets

There's a trend I've noticed, and I'm surely not the first: So often when a preacher makes some great declaration about the future, he seems to be in it for the money. Oh, he'll put on a good show of being earnest, declaring that God has spoken to him and given him a message that the big guy needs to get across to his True Believers.

Two recent examples come to mind.

First is a local pastor whose name I don't know. Occasionally at work, if I'm bored, I'll listen to a kooky little local Christian talk radio station. They boast a wide variety of content, from nationally syndicated 'bible study' programs to call-in marriage advice shows to whatever the local ministry has on its mind. Every Monday afternoon, the Australian-born (or New Zealand-born? Sorry, my Aussie and Kiwi friends - I'm not familiar with the accents) pastor will rant on about Obama, the New World Order, and whatever swims else through the water lining his brain.

About two months ago, he made some rather bold - and specific - predictions. Citing a supposed Obama official who said that the world population had to be reduced to about two billion, he said that while driving to the radio station he'd been given a vision. Blood would literally flow in the streets of America. The government would shut off the nation's electricity, and sick and elderly people would start to die horrible deaths as their sorely-needed medications went bad. The Obama administration would start rounding people up and sending them to death camps. (But true Christians would be saved!) All within the next four weeks. Clearly, if it's been almost two months, his deadline has come and gone, and (surprise, surprise) nothing happened. And yet there he is still, every Monday afternoon, ranting about the latest indignity committed by the "Obama regime", as transmitted to him by Glenn Beck.

His church flock is still just as full as ever, and he commented last week about what a "miracle" it'd been that the November church donations were bigger than they'd been the whole year. I can't imagine the sort of things he must've been saying to his faithful, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least to find out that he was saying they needed to give of their "financial gifts" to help God prevent such horrible things from happening.

The second example is one Hemant Mehta blogged about:
The fans of Family Radio Inc., a Christian radio network, have sponsored dozens of different billboards in select cities around the country proclaiming the exact date when Jesus is coming back.

May 21st, 2011.

You know, just like the Bible “predicted.”

They have a website about it, of course. It's a delightfully insane blend of numerology, Biblical contortionism, and general rectal extraction. They're giving away a bunch of stuff for free, though they're limiting how many copies each household can get. Weird... the world is going to end in less than half a year, and they're worried about spending all their money on shipping The Truth to The Lost?

I like Hemant's ideas:
If they are serious, let’s see them put their faith to the test.

I want to know now what these Christians are going to say/do when the Rapture doesn’t happen.

I want Family Radio to promise to go off the air if the Rapture doesn’t occur on the predicted date.

I want them to commit to giving a certain amount of money to Foundation Beyond Belief on May 22nd if they’re wrong. (I promise we’ll only ask them to honor their pledge if Jesus didn’t appear…)

I want a promise that they’ll film a video while saying, “My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?” while wearing banana costumes. It’ll be put up on YouTube on May 22nd… but only if they’re still around.

He's right, of course; they won't do any of this, because deep down they're just expecting to be let down again. What they will do, though, is continue to accept donations. Because nothing says "I really believe the end times are coming" like asking for financial support.

Just goes to show you. "Prophets": Con artists, the whole lot of them.