On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver picked a ripe target in America’s “prosperity gospel” preachers, evangelists who bilk followers out of hundreds of millions of dollars, explaining “this is about the churches that exploit people’s faith for monetary gain.”
Oliver explained that prosperity gospel evangelists preach “that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and that donations will result in wealth coming back to you. That idea takes the form of ‘seed faith’—that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest.”
The host shared what seemed like an endless collection of clips of evangelists boasting about their private luxury jets — paid for with believers’ donations — and demanding viewers send them more “seed money” with the promise that it will lead them to great wealth one day.
“The argument is, sow your money in the ground and you will reap multiple returns many time over,” Oliver explained. “Except, as an investment, you’d be better off burying your money in the actual ground because at least that way there is a chance your dog may dig it up and give it back to you one day.”
Describing the call for funds “predatory,” Oliver shared a clip of evangelist Mike Murdock encouraging followers with burdensome credit card debt to use those same cards to send him $1,000 with the promise that, in doing so, God will step in to make that debt disappear.
“Think about that,” an incredulous Oliver said. “That is the equivalent of saying, ‘The key to losing weight lies at the bottom of this giant Costco bulk bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s, go find it, it’s definitely down there.'”
Seeing an opportunity at hand, Oliver created his own church — Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption — with an assist from Sister Wanda Jo Oliver (played by former SNL star Rachel Dratch) and encouraged his new followers to quietly meditate on the nature of fake non-profit money-grubbing tax-avoiding churches.
Praise the Lord, and pass the donations.
Watch the video below from HBO: