The pastor and the Ponzi scheme

Pastor Michael Wilkerson of the New Millennium Life Restoration Fellowship in Spring City, Pennsylvania, preached the “prosperity gospel.” The basic idea is this: God wants his followers to be prosperous, and they can find the road to wealth in faith, positive thinking and contributions to the church.

This is what Wilkerson preached, and he followed up by inviting congregants to invest in his company, which was acquiring suburban mortgages. Last month, however, federal prosecutors accused Wilkerson and two others of conspiring in a $6.3 million mortgage fraud. The congregants have lost everything.

The whole story appeared in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer. What I found really interesting about this article is that it put the pastor’s misdeeds in context—religion based  affinity fraud is big business:

A 2006 study by the North American Securities Administrators Association estimated that losses from religion-based affinity fraud had reached $2 billion. Those rip-offs have only become more common since, said Ole Anthony, who helms the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, a watchdog group that investigates the financial misdeeds of religious figures.

“In the past several years, I’ve seen more and more fraud in the name of God,” he said. “It remains a serious problem.”

It’s a problem that can be seen all over very-late-night television, which my husband sometimes watches if he can’t sleep. He considers the televangelists to be great theater. And they would be, if they weren’t so dangerous.

I imagine some of them are legitimate. But many of these TV preachers seem more interested in the money than the message. And to further their agendas, they engage in the worst type of manipulation, playing on people’s faith, hopes, dreams and fears.

Speaking in mesmerizing cadence, televangelists rhapsodize about the riches that God wants for us, the sleepless viewers. We can, they say with hypnotic certainty, achieve everything we ever wanted. All we have to do take the first step and plant a seed by sending the good pastor a contribution of $100, $1,000, or even more.

My guess is that the only one getting rich is the so-called preacher. Like the good Pastor Wilkerson. He owned a $1.7million home in the country, with a Lexus and an Escalade in the garage. Not bad for a guy with a long rap sheet, including drug trafficking and theft. But then, of course, he found religion, and the road to prosperity.

Read Church folk stuck when they gave pastor their faith and their money, on Philly.com.




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29 Comments on "The pastor and the Ponzi scheme"

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Ah shucks – I was really hoping for another “Copernican Revolution!” But I forgot you are a physics teacher (!), so I will take your word for it. I had heard earlier in the week that they were waiting for the experiment to be “independently verified,” though from what you say it doesn’t sound too hopeful. Bummer.

On the other hand it took Einstin several hundred years to overturn Newton, so maybe if we wait long enough the same thing will happen to Mr. Einstein’s relativity theory!

Hehe Constantine… I’m trying to become a physic’s teacher 😉 Actually my math professor referred to the mistake made in some of the Euclydian space and vector math he was explaining this week. My best friend had learned of it about 3 weeks ago, and waited for the first peer reviews to come out. He told me the outcome a week ago I believe. He was very curious to what might happen 🙂

Relativity tells us that 1 second is not the same second if you travel at slower or higher speed. Travel speed determines the duration of time. This was tested with high speed airplanes carrying an atomic clock which was then compared to the atomic clock that remained on the ground. When the plane landed both atomic clocks showed a difference in time. The time on the plane was the projected arrival time. The time on the ground clock showed they seemingly arrived earlier than planned. Basically the same thing happened with the neutrinos sent from CERN to Italy. They traveled at a great speed and the measured times from clocks that did not travel along seemed to say ‘they arrived too early!’. But if the neutrinos were capable of carrying atomic clocks along their time would have been within limits.

But yes, it is possible that one day it will be overturned. Einstein didn’t like quantumtheory because I think he feared it could mess with relativity at some point. There has been a math scientist who at the first half of the 20th century put out several questions and problems he wanted to be proven or disproven. One of those questions is whether physics ha axiomas like math does or not. The question is still unanswered. Speed of light might be an axioma, but it may not be. (axiomas in math are truths taken as fact without proof… such as if you have 2 points there always can go 1 straight line through them and only one. Axiomas are then used to prove the rest)


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