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Megachurches in Texas are big business... just not big enough, apparently. Twice this week, while trying to enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant, I've overheard animated conversations at an adjacent table between megachurch representatives and people pitching them ideas on how to shake down people more aggressively fundraising marketing schemes.

Don't get me wrong: people are free to donate whatever they wish to any church or any other organization, either during their lifetime or in their estate planning. Maybe I should be relieved that they're channeling their funds to the church and not a Karl Rove SuperPAC or some Tea Party 501(c)(4). Still, I think that megachurch donors would have felt a chill had they overheard the cavalier discussions that I've overheard. Yes, dear donors, you are part of a big business scheme, and one that's about to get a lot bigger if these folks have any say in the matter.

In each of the two conversations I overheard, a "marketer" was pitching a scheme to a couple. Each of the wives had perfect blonde hair (thanks to the ministrations of the hair salon, not [insert name of deity here]-given). The one this morning wore two large diamond rings on her ring finger of her perfectly manicured hand. The husbands were similarly well groomed. The marketers were each clean-cut men who looked to be in their 30's or early 40's. I probably don't need to tell you that all these people were white.

Here's the essence of what I overheard:

(1) Evidently, tithing is no longer in vogue. People could - and should - give more than 10% of their income if they are that gullible wish. Tithing is too limiting considering all the money that's out there. Oddly enough, I agree that tithing makes no sense, but for different reasons. Why, for instance, should a single parent with a learning-disabled child give anything to the church? They should maybe be a beneficiary of the church's largess.

Oh. Sorry. I've forgotten myself. The funds that these folks were talking about aren't intended to help alleviate poverty or ease suffering. Nothing personal; just business. Those funds are already earmarked for the megachurch pastor's lavish mansion, luxury automobile, private plane, staff, and - if there's anything left - construction projects expanding and redecorating the megachurch, making it more telegenic for those broadcasts to new marks a national - even international - television audience.

(2) The megachurch needs to hire pastors who are "great speakers". This shouldn't be a problem, given the number of underemployed charlatans motivational speakers, car dealers, Amway dealers, and politicians. Nothing was mentioned regarding other character traits, much less anything about them being pious or devout. What's needed, said the perfectly coiffed blonde lady with the scary-whitened teeth, was someone "inspirational".

I think maybe what she meant was "aspirational". Someone who can look out across that half-vast congregation and share the megachurch's message of abundance and joy. This is not your grandpa's church, mind you. The megachurches in my neck of the woods are all about the power of prayer. Opening your life to wealth and joy and fulfillment. If you just believe, all things will come to you. If it's not happening for you, dear donor, you're probably not praying hard enough. Of course, if you're in a hurry to get "all things", you can step to the front of the line with a cash donation. But you'd better hurry, because today's humble cash offering simply will not suffice, because...

(3) Fundraising needs to move into the 21st century. While it's nice to ask for donations and see what people chip in, the megachurch is a business, and needs to avail itself of modern mind control marketing techniques.

The marketing plan was presented as a pen-on-paper sketch. Nothing high-tech and anyway, PowerPoint wasn't mentioned in the Bible. It involves a series of "steps". Donors begin on the bottom step, and can earn the right to advance to the next step and the next step and so on. I'll bet you've already figured out the criteria for advancement. Straight out of the SuperPAC playbook, the more the donor contributes to the megachurch, the more access they'll get to eternal salvation megachurch fundraisers and pastors (in the event that these are separate people).

This donor hierarchy will confirm for everyone who's truly susceptible to megachurch psy ops devout. It will also enable megachurch fundraisers to raise more money from fewer donors. Sure, they'll still shake down your grandma for a few bucks, but it's all about cost of sales. Attach themselves like a money-draining parasite to those deep-pocket donors, and stay with them, in this life and in the next as they "remember" the megachurch in their estate planning.

And there will be estates. After all, that's the whole message at our local Texas megachurches. Come in, believe, pray, get rich... and give us the money. Don't worry, dear donors, we won't waste it on the poor, the unemployed, the uninsured, the sick, or any other "takers". If they want to turn around their situation, they could just start attending the megachurch where the inspirational pastor will show them the path to abundance.

Somewhere, Jesus weeps.

Still, here's the part that really makes me physically ill wonder: why is it that these megachurch folks are discussing these schemes in broad daylight in a public place? They were plenty loud. I didn't need to strain to hear them. Are they really so brazen that they'd laugh and joke about how they're going to fleece their flock? Maybe, but I'm willing to bet there will be plenty of donors dreaming of climbing that Stairway to gullibility Heaven. Maybe it's a victimless crime... if you ignore the poor, the unemployed, the uninsured, and the sick.

Originally posted to cassandracarolina's fossil record on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 08:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Houston Area Kossacks.

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