Some years ago I was in the Miami airport to pick up a friend. As I walked through the terminal, a convert of an Eastern cult got my attention. You know the kind I’m talking about: beads, sandals, frozen smile, backpack of books.
“Sir,” she said. (I should have kept walking.)
“Sir, just a moment, please.” Well, I had a moment. I was early and the plane was late, so what harm? (I should have kept walking.)
I stopped and she began her spiel. She said she was a teacher and her school was celebrating an anniversary. In honor of the event, they were giving away a book which explained their philosophy. She placed a copy in my hand. It was a thick hardback with a mystic cover. A guru-looking guy was sitting cross-legged with his hands folded. I thanked her for the book and began to walk away.
“Sir?” I stopped. I knew what was coming.
“Would you like to make a donation to our school?”
“No,” I responded, “but thanks for the book.”
I began to walk away. She followed me and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Sir, everyone so far has given a donation in appreciation for the gift.”
“That’s good,” I replied, “but I don’t think I will. But I appreciate the book.” I turned and began to walk away. I hadn’t even taken a step, however, when she spoke again. This time she was agitated.
“Sir,” and she opened her purse so I could see her collection of dollars and coins. “If you were sincere in your gratitude you would give a donation in appreciation.”
That was low. That was sneaky. Insulting. I’m not usually terse, but I couldn’t resist. “That may be true,” I responded, “but if you were sincere, you wouldn’t give me a gift and then ask me to pay for it.”
She reached for the book, but I tucked it under my arm and walked away. A small victory against the mammoth of hucksterism. Sadly, the hucksters win more than they lose. And, even more sadly, hucksters garb themselves in Christian costumes as much as those of Eastern cults.
You’ve seen them. The talk is smooth. The vocabulary eloquent. The appearance genuine. They are on your television. They are on your radio. They may even be in your pulpit. May I speak candidly?
The time has come to tolerate religious hucksters no longer. These seekers of “sanctimoney” have stained the reputation of Christianity. They have muddied the altars and shattered the stained glass. They manipulate the easily deceived. They are not governed by God; they are governed by greed. They are not led by the Spirit; they are propelled by pride. They are marshmallow phonies who excel in emotion and fail in doctrine. They strip-mine faith to get a dollar and rape the pew to get a payment. Our master unveiled their scams and so must we.
How? By recognizing them.
Two trademarks give them away. One, they emphasize their profit more than the Prophet. Note the emphasis of the message. What is the burden? Your salvation or your donation? Monitor what is said. Is money always needed yesterday? Are you promised health if you give and hell if you don’t? If so, ignore him.
A second characteristic of ecclesiastical con men: they build more fences than they build faith. Medicine men tell you to stay out of the pharmacy. They don’t want you trying other treatments. Neither do hucksters. They present themselves as pioneers that the mainline church couldn’t stomach, but, in reality, they are lone wolves on the prowl.
Christ’s passion on Monday is indignance. For that reason I make no apology about challenging you to call the cards on these guys. God has been calling a halt to babblers building towers for centuries. So should we.
Excerpt from And the Angels Were Silent.