Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Totally Overlapping Magisteria

Cash on Deliverance
by Christian Walters

Recently, Brian castigated me on the podcast for not having written in too long. Maybe if I wasn't so busy fielding calls whenever he has three Red Bulls and rollerblades through town naked looking for "Romanian cootchie", I'd have more time to write. I have to maintain my day job just to keep him supplied with bail money and hand lotion.

It occurs to me if I were rich, I could lose the day job, write more often, and hire an assistant to pay the hush money to the Bucharest Daily Telegraph. It's foolproof, except for that one small hurdle of finding a giant pile of money. I need to start a cult.

Looking around at the current cults, there appear to be two types that would put me on the fast track to wealth:

Self-Help Bullshit Cults

This is appealing because you can claim absolutely anything is the path to enlightenment, or immortality, or gives you a window seat on the Holy Starship when it has defeated the Giant Space Weevil and comes to bring us home. The more insane your claims, the better. You'll get a few skeptics warning people that all they will get from my one-on-one services will be cold sores and a rash, but we don't truck with those Priests of Sciencism, those Popes of Proof.

First step is to get a wealthy, stupid celebrity to champion your cause. It's tempting to go for Oprah Winfrey, but she's far too diversified with her self-help bullshit. She lacks the laser focus we'd need.

My choice: Jessica Alba. Why Jessica? She's rich enough to afford to tithe. She's attractive enough that the media will listen to her. She's a shitty actress, so there aren't any non-porno roles written especially for her, giving her free time for church duties and making me sandwiches. Judging from her interviews, she's brick stupid. She's portrayed a woman with gonorrhea of the throat, so she is already familiar with the new church's rituals. And she's a mom, so she can claim that "mother's intuition" crap when cornered.

Unfortunately, I will declare mesh tops an abomination and confiscate them immediately.

Drawbacks: Just one. Starting up a cult this insane will get me sued by the Scientologists for copyright infringement. Together, Jessica and I are powerful, but not powerful enough to defeat Jenna Elfman and Chaka Khan when they start throwing lawyers at us. Two places I do not want to be are prison and Clearwater, Florida, and this scheme might get me in both at the same time.

Prosperity Cults

This is a little more like it. It's no less insane than the Self-Help Bullshit Cult, but the cash starts flowing immediately. It's a tasty blend of Christian fundamentalism and pyramid schemes, whipped into a giant cash mousse, waiting for someone to bring a nice long spoon. For those of you not familiar with how a prosperity cult works, let me describe the most famous example: World Changers Church International.

This hallowed institution is founded by the Rev. Creflo Dollar (no, really), right here in Atlanta. Their motto is "You can be rich, healthy and trouble free. Jesus was rich and God wants you to be rich." This is demonstrably true with one look at the Rev. Creflo Dollar (if you can spot him before he jumps into his Lear jet), but this truth is less obvious among the congregation, who are gently reminded to tithe with the friendly "be a shame if something happened to your grandma" approach you normally see from extortionists.

"The Lord has declared I need more champagne in my jacuzz--... what do you mean I'm being sued for fraud?"

I'm not sure where the health part comes in. After you've been getting all prosperous with Rev. Dollar for awhile, you spend your non-church time rooting in the dumpster behind a Red Lobster. I suppose that's the path to health in a sort of tangential, non-medical way?

I don't want to get away from the point here: LEAR JET.

These people are eating this shit up faster than a half-chewed crab cake. They might as well be stuffing bills into your pockets. The World Changers Church only has 15,000 members. I doubt that even scratches the gullibility surface in Atlanta. I have a venue picked out: Philips Arena.

Philips Arena is home to the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Thrashers. So there are always PLENTY of empty seats to have a nice Prayer Shakedown. Thrashers season-ticket holders are right in my target demographic, too: disposable income, full of false hope, and comfortable with disappointment. Of course, there are concerts too, which could get crowded, but look at what's coming in the next few months: Sesame Street Live, Metallica, and Miley Cyrus. Cha-ching.

Drawbacks: There are a couple of big ones.

One is that prosperity cults are getting glared at by the government just now. Killjoys at the IRS are suspicious of Rev. Creflo zipping around in a Lear jet as the head of a tax-exempt non-profit religious institution.

Also, prosperity cults may have destroyed the world. These congregations were convinced the Lord wanted them to have big, expensive houses, and he cleared the way for them by helping them qualify for sub-prime mortgages. Five years later, the Lord decided he did not want them to have such a big house and cleared the way for them to default on their mortgages. Pretty soon they were fighting for a dishwasher box with the same ex-banker that gave them the mortgage to begin with. It's because of this that I have a Google alert set for "Creflo Dollar Drawn and Quartered."

Lastly, for this to work in America, you have to surround yourself with fundamentalist Christians. That's quite a sacrifice on my part just so Brian can get a job as a balance beam for some Romanian gymnasts.

In Conclusion

I have left out a couple of popular cults: death cults and suicide cults. These have their charms. The sense of power you get from standing in front of a room full of followers as they poison themselves while you chant your manifesto... that's got to be a rush. But it's not going to make you rich. Eyes on the prize, people. (It might be a good exit strategy when you get sick of running your prosperity cult, though. Remember which Holy Chalice contains the antidote!)

The more I think on it, the more I think I'll skip the cult idea. The downsides are too steep.

Sorry, Brian. I know you're tired of the endless visits from 60 Minutes. We'll move on to Plan B, but you're going to have to release those Cub Scouts.

Christian Walters lives, loves, and drives in the Atlanta area. He's a technical writer by training, and a Rock Band Adonis by nature. He has honed his reviewing skills on bad movies, which are as rare as pollen grains these days. He has always been a fan of science, and has studied it as much as he could by flinging a Frisbee around campus while getting a liberal arts degree. You can find his personal blog, The Man Version, right here.

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