Purple Jesus Prayer Rug Scam
Purplexed by the Jesus Prayer Rug Scam
My girlfriend - and everyone in her apartment complex - recently received this religious scam in her mailbox. It's a picture of Jesus (looking very Rastafarian) on a fold-out piece of paper ambitiously called an "Annointed Jesus Prayer Rug" that allegedly comes from Tulsa's Saint Matthews Churches" - an entity that exists in P.O. Box address only. (I love how the postage allows this for-profit scam organization coveted "Nonprofit Org." status while I have go buy extra penny stamps to meet the most recent postage hike so I can pay my bills!)
Apparently, "This Prayer Rug is Soaked with the Power of Prayer for you. Use it immediately, then please return it with your Prayer Needs Checked on our letter to you." It must be mailed to a second home that needs a blessing after you use it. Prayer works. Expect God's blessing."
Anyway, I stated to investigate it on The Internets (President's Bush's terminology), but I see Stupid Evil Bastard has already fully vetted the Immaculate Deception on his website. Neither Amy nor I could find the suspected salespitch ("Where's the hook?") when we read the attached letter, but reading SEB's dossier, we realized it was there, in the form of a plea for a "seed gift":
To see the sales pitch, click on the image of the Prayer Needs Checklist above and look at the line reading "Enclosed is my seed gift to God's work of $___."
The full checklist:
Pray for my family and me for
( ) My Soul
( ) A Closer Walk With Jesus
( ) My Health
( ) A Family Member's Health
( ) Confusion In My Home
( ) My Children
( ) To Stop A Bad Habit
( ) A Better Job
( ) A Home To Call My Own
( ) A New Car
( ) A Money Blessing
( ) I Want To Be Saved
( ) Pray for God to bless me with this amount of money: $________
( ) Please, especially pray for this person:
( ) Enclosed is my seed gift to God's work of $________
Confusion in the home? Anyway, the letter goes on to ask:
"Would you like to have God’s blessings upon Your home, your family and your finances? Say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, I do need Your financial blessings upon me and my family’s finances!” Deuteronomy 28:6 Just put a mark (√) by your needs below, telling us that you want prayer. Also, check any other needs you are facing. Pray about sowing a seed gift to the Lord’s work. Give God your best seed and believe Him for His best blessing (St. Luke 6:38). Now, go and use this Church, Faith, Prayer Rug. The Lord is watching and waiting. You are about to enter the Holy Spirit of God right here in your home, through this faith exercise. Then, it is a must that you return it for another to use."
Suckers' seed gifts alledgedly go to Saint Mathew’s Churches, which are no relation to any churches of that name listed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In fact, according to SEB, "The only person getting rich from this scam is the Rev. James Eugene Ewing who seems to have built up quite a racket with this and other similar scams to the tune of several hundred million dollars." Rev. Ewing has been called the father of the modern-day "seed-faith" scheme that fuels a multibillion-dollar Christian industry known as the "health-and-wealth gospel."
Continuing, SEB reports:
The approach reaped Ewing and his organization a gross income of more than $100 million since 1993, including $26 million in 1999, the last year Saint Matthew’s made its tax records public. And while much of the money is spent on postage and salaries, Ewing’s company receives nonprofit status and pays no federal taxes.
Though Ewing claims it is a church, Saint Matthew’s Churches, once called St. Matthew Publishing Inc., has no address other than a Tulsa post office box. It has two listed phone numbers in Tulsa and both are answered by a recorded religious message.
The organization is not related to other Tulsa-area churches named St. Matthew’s, though many of them have received calls asking to be removed from its mailing list.
Ole Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit religious watchdog group, has tracked Ewing’s organization for years. The foundation was largely responsible for exposing televangelist Robert Tilton in 1991 after Anthony said he found prayer requests sent to Tilton in Tulsa trash Dumpsters.
Tilton and Ewing shared the same Tulsa attorney, J.C. Joyce, who incorporated "Saint Matthews Churches" at at his Tulsa law office. Ewing paid Joyce over $2.6 million for legal services over a three-year period, a mere drop in the ocean given his "Seed Principle" junk mail haul.
The hook of this principal seems to be Saint Matthews Churches' inclusion of faux religious artifacts such as "miracle" prayer rugs, cakes, coins, prayer cloths and fake currency.
And it's a successful scam. Blogger George Loper claims that the "seed faith" approach has reaped Ewing and his organization a gross income of more than $100 million since 1993, including $26 million in 1999, the last year Saint Matthew's made its tax records public. (In 2002, the national Better Business Bureau's charity watchdog group Wise Giving Alliance reported that Saint Matthew's Churches refused to provide information about its finances, programs or governance following inquiries to BBBs across the country from individuals who have received direct mail letters from this organization.)
The son of a Texas sharecropper, Rev. Ewing reportedly speaks in broken grammar and one of his early model letters contained 17 misspellings. But who's laughing now? He's clearly pulled the rug over the world's eyes!
Religion In America: St. Matthews Churches mail Minsitry Is Highly Lucrative
Purple Jesus Prayer Rug
Aces Full of Links
Ole Anthony's Trinity Foundation