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Replacing the Sale of Indulgences
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{The following article was first published on Suite101.com.}

After recently viewing a movie about the "life-and-times" of Martin Luther, I have become keenly interested in the church of Luther's day. While there were many fascinating aspects of religion during that time period, one of the things that impressed me the most was the way the church made money. There was a widespread practice of selling God's grace. One could actually buy time off from purgatory (a place believed to exist in order to purify one from minor sins) or, in some cases, buy one's way out of hell and purgatory altogether. These "time-off-passes" (called indulgences) became one of Luther's major peeves with the Roman church.

Yet, in spite of the moral and ethical problems, I believe the selling of indulgences must be considered one of the best money making ideas in Christian history. A "religious-entrepreneur" could easily sell these "reprieves" by using some simple scare tactics. People were all too ready to pay for some time-out-of-the-fire for themselves or for their loved ones. Although Luther meant well, I think it is a shame that he began a movement that eventually made the practice of selling indulgences virtually obsolete.

With so many churches and ministries today existing primarily to make money, it is truly sad that this great tool for raising funds is no longer practical. Even though fear and guilt tactics are still used to increase donations, there is something special about selling the things of God. It's just a more straightforward way of dealing with finances. I believe it's time to do away with the stale practices of begging for money with a promise attached. Statements such as, "If you send me a one time gift of $100.00, God will bless your finances, heal your sickness, and restore your marriage," are no longer fooling anyone. I believe it is time to stop pretending and get back to selling.

It is very unlikely that a church or ministry could revive the practice of selling indulgences today, but I do think there are many God related things that can be sold. Some ministries are selling things like prayer cloths and anointing oil, but that's about the extent of it. A little imagination coupled with the capitalistic spirit for which modern Christianity has become so well known, could accomplish much more. Therefore, I have come up with a few suggestions of my own. Please feel free to use any one, or any combination, of the following ideas to enhance the cash flow of your ministry.

My first suggestion is to use the power of prayer, combined with the human element of greed, to make a profitable service business called Anointed Lottery Numbers. This business would charge money to pray over, or anoint, lottery numbers. While this business cannot claim that anointed lottery numbers have a greater chance of being picked than regular lottery numbers, it can insinuate it. A simple advertisement stating that anointed numbers carry God's favor suggests they have a higher chance of winning.

My next suggestion is to take advantage of the fears many people have of being left behind after the rapture. There are many Christians who secretly fear that they are not holy enough to be raptured and that they will be forced to endure the tribulation period. Some popular books and tape series are helping to reinforce those fears. These Christians are sick over thoughts of being forced to either take the "mark-of-the-beast" on their hand or head or to live a persecuted life of not being able to buy or sell. While many ministries have tried to profit on these fears by selling books and tapes on how to become holy enough to make the rapture, none have, to my knowledge, tried to profit from the "what-if-I-am-left-behind" factor. That is where the semi permanent "Mark-of-the-Beast" tattoo comes in. Your ministry can simply offer an easy to apply tattoo of the ominous "666" logo. The catch is that you advertise it as actually an upside down "999" designed to fool the government of the anti-Christ. The "Mark-of-the-Beast-Tattoo" can be marketed as a practical way to survive the tribulation period without fully compromising one's faith. If sales drop off, offer the tattoo in assorted colors.

There is also a market for those who are confident that they will be raptured. Anyone who has seen one of those movies about the second coming of Christ knows that the clothing stays when the body is raptured. Therefore, create a line of clothing guaranteed to stay on a person's "changed" body while flying away to meet Christ in the air. Place an ad that reads:
No fears of loosing your clothes with the "Take-it-with-You" line of clothing. These form fit garments are so snug that they actually become a part of you. Also check out our "Take-it-with-You" false teeth, contact lenses, and implants. It is time to really get ready for that trumpet blast. (Money back guarantee: A full refund will be given if items do not function as advertised.)

Churches and ministries should consider taking advantage of the cell phone craze. They could offer "Witnessing-Ring" downloads. Instead of ringing or playing a tune to signal an incoming call, the "Witnessing-Ring" will shout a short evangelistic statement such as: "Turn or burn. Turn or burn" or "Read the Bible. Read the Bible." There is an entire market out there of Christians who are embarrassed by their faith, but would like to ease their conscience regarding witnessing. A "Witnessing-Ring" on their cell phones could solve this dilemma.

How about starting a Christian casino? There are Christian nightclubs, Christian bookstores, and Christian coffee shops. A Christian casino just makes sense. Gospel music can be played in the background, slots can be programmed to scream, "Praise the Lord" when jackpots are hit, and tithes (along with taxes) can be automatically taken out of winnings. This would be a great place to hand out brochures advertising the Anointed Lottery Numbers service.

My last suggestion is to develop a series of Christian "How-To" courses. This business is sure to produce a quick profit. It is patterned after those late night infomercials that charge extreme amounts of money for a few tapes and a couple of books on how to do everything from loose weight to get rich. Here are some "How-To" course ideas:

How To Start Your Own Religion.

How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Ministry

How To Subtly Ridicule Religious Practices

I think I could personally create those "How-To" courses, with the exception of that last one. I don't know anything about doing that.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Don Beers 02 Nov 2006
:::::standing ovation::::: Facetious, witty, (hint of) sarcasm, SADLY, it's true. I would have added the Christian counselor that charges $100 an hour (like the lady in our hometown). I really liked this one; likely because I tend to be abrasively bold (which my wife is determined to soften, I might add and after 9 years she has not done so well). Did I say "abrasively bold"? I could tell it like it is: I'm opinionated! Gonna print this one out, thanks for sharing.


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