Via PZ, a story of how evangelical churches exploit the weak and vulnerable that surprised me because of how happily the ministers admit it.

In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled — almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs.

Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

Mars Hill is that notorious church that slaps tattoos and piercings on everything, but still considers women to be inferior to men, created as a servant and sex class for men. In general, this story demonstrates why, even if Obama reaching out to Rick Warren is merely a symbolic gesture, it's silly to try to reach out (except maybe to discredit Rick Warren, which this probably won't do). I know the Democrats are chomping at the bit to chip off evangelical voters, and maybe they did that to a degree because of the severity of hard times, but in the end this story demonstrates that the evangelical churches will never, ever side with Democrats. It's not in the pastors' self-interest to do anything but shill for the Republican party, and it's not just because the Republicans are warmer to hating on women and gays. It's because Republican rule means more desperation, and more desperation means more people who turn to the Sky Fairy for hope, and the more that happens, the more money and power these pastors amass. And no amount of inaugural prayer will change that.