Friday, October 22, 2010

Beware Evangelists Bearing Gifts

I have to get this off my chest. I have a pet peeve, and I find this thing so utterly annoying that I simply could not resist the temptation to use this blog as a personal soap box on this topic.

I have seen many religious television programs, listened to many religious radio programs, or religious audio programs over the Internet... or what media have you. I have heard evangelists over the years a plenty. One thing that sets one evangelist apart from another in my mind is how they ask for donations.

Now, I readily admit that after decades of intense fleecing at the hands of the old Worldwide Church of God and its offshoots, I am very, very, very sensitive to any request for money of any kind. More sensitive than I should be. The first time I visited a United Methodist church, they told me my money belongs to God and I have to give it to Him and then they passed the plate. That offended my admittedly heightened sensibilities toward that sort of thing, and I never went back.
Hey, everything belongs to God. Do I have to give Him some of my liver, or one of my kids, or my exhaust manifold from my car, or perhaps one of my windows from my house? Those are His, too! How foolish is it, then, to tell me that my money belongs to God and I should give some of that to Him? Why is it always the money?
And how is it that my money is God's, and it needs to go to Him, but it actually goes to some preacher. Is he God? No. Then how did my money make its way to God again? If it's God's, and He wants it, I should rather burn it as an offering. Wouldn't you think?

OK! OK. Ok... churches need money. I get it!
Any organization needs income or it becomes incredibly difficult to have any outflow of any kind. I understand that churches rely on donations. Come on! I told you I was overly sensitive! In my defense, no one can deny that this is grossly abused all too often! But I understand that generosity is mandatory. I'm not speaking against giving. I want people to give. Give to your church. Give to organizations that you benefit from. Give to worthy causes. All I really want to speak against is the distorted sales pitch.

Here is my pet peeve.
My pet peeve specifically is when evangelists ask for donations and then say, "For your generosity, we are going to send you this gift." Or, "This wonderful thing will be in the mail to you as my way of saying 'thank you'."
Say what??

Why is it that when places need charity, they all seem to offer "gifts" for your generosity? If they ask for money, then give something back that costs money, doesn't that kinda, you know, defeat the purpose?

I'm going to explain this simply and directly. The free gift for your generosity is not a free gift for your generosity. They're not really saying "thank you for your generosity." What's really happening is you're buying a book, or a calendar, or a trinket, or whatever. They can't outrightly "sell" you the thing, or they'd have to charge tax. Never the less, they're selling you a thing at a profit, and they keep the difference.

When I go to the book store, I buy a book. I don't donate to the book store, and they don't give me a book as their way of saying "thank you." I buy a book. The book costs money. I hand them slightly money more money than they bought the book for, they hand me a book and they keep the difference. It's rather thankless, but I want a book and they need money. It's in both of our interest. We both benefit.
Or how about this example...
When I go to a bake sale fund raiser, I don't give someone money and receive an apple pie and 4 gooey double-chocolate brownies as their way of saying "thank you" for my generosity. They tell it like it is. The church needs money, and they're going to sell me baked goods at a profit to raise that money.
It's the exact same thing!

Then why do some evangelists choose to try to put a spin on it? For pity's sake just tell me like it is!
Just say, "Look, this ministry needs money to continue offering what we do. Please send in a cash gift if you want to continue receiving the benefits of this ministry, or if you prefer, I wrote a book and I'll sell it to you at a fair price."
Something like that. Why is that so hard?
Spare me the "free gift for your generosity" spiel.

If it really was a free gift for my generosity, they would send it to me at a time when I'm not donating money. It's a free "thank you" gift, right? Why not send it to me randomly? Why do they only give me this free "thank you" gift when I first give them money? Answer: it's not a free thank you gift. I buy the gift for an inflated price, and they keep the difference. Just like at the store. Just like at the bake sale.
And it annoys me no end when people put that spin on it to make us think that's not precisely what's going on!

Sorry. I just had to get that out of my system.

As a parting thought, I want to point out that ABD really is free. We have never sold anything and we have never asked you for anything. Well, perhaps we ask you for prayers... or maybe an email. I mean to say that we don't ask you to send anything of value here to us, and we aren't going to send you anything to guilt you into sending us more. That's how HWA roped a lot of people in.
There is no obligation. No plate is passed. No free gifts as our way of saying "thanks." Just high-quality polemics at no charge or obligation to you.
What do we want from you? We want you to prayerfully enter the New Covenant. If you're already there, we want you to take what we offer and use it in your conversations with others. Help them to enter the New Covenant. Perhaps you can say, we want you to "pay it forward."

By the grace and generosity of God, we donate our time and effort (which belong to Him) to you! See how a real free gift works?
To our thousands of visotors from 74 countries or territories on 5 continents across the globe... thank you for reading our blog!


Mike (Don't Drink the Flavor Aid) said...

If God wants me to tithe, he'll have to send me an invoice.

Henrik V Blunck said...

You are making a very valid point - and certainly hit the nail right into the problem. It is indeed a trick to tell people you have received this, and we need co-workers. HWA, and later hirelings, have mastered this very eloquently. It is all about mind-control, and once you see through it it becomes so obvious indeed.

Thanks for an inspiring blog. Do keep up the good work. :-)