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Praying for Prosperity

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The answer to my finances came to me when I turned on my TV in the early a.m. A man with over-gelled hair speaks from the screen: "You have so much potential, if somehow you could just get your candle lit ... This candle is fantastic, but without a light it's not really fulfilling its purpose. Realize that you can have the Holy Spirit light up your life today!

"To help light up your life, I want to send you the green prosperity handkerchief today," continues televangelist Don Stewart, an apparent staple of late-night paid programming. "All you have to do is go to the telephone and dial the number you see on the screen. It's free. It's Biblical. It's yours."

The show segues through a litany of people whose troubles have vanished through the help of a green square of cloth:

• A woman gets a promotion on her job.

• A woman regains feeling in her legs.

• A woman's mortgage dropped from $200-something to $84 each month. (God apparently concerns Himself with FICO scores.)

• A woman's congestive heart failure disappears.

Don Stewart is not broadcast by the Inspiration Networks. But his blatant hucksterism demonstrates the gospel of prosperity taken to the extreme. The words of Jeffrey K. Hadden and Charles E. Swann's 1981 book, Prime Time Preachers, still ring true: "Not since Vatican officials sold papal indulgences -- written protection from the wages of sin -- has there been such a public marketing of Christian favors."

I recently received, upon request, the green prosperity handkerchief from the Don Stewart Association.

The envelope in the upper left hand side read: "Karen, enclosed is your Green Acts 19 Prayer Handkerchief to help you start receiving God's Blessings!"

Inside were exhortations to include "my biggest bill (or check)" to help Stewart "carry on all the work of the ministry. It is a sacrifice for me. God knows it."

Printed in green ink was this all-caps admonition: "Don't break the flowing of God's spirit from my secret place of prayer to your home ... Do exactly as I say!"

Below were these instructions:

Write your name & the amount of money you need on the Hanky.

1. DO THIS.

2. Touch your forehead with the hanky.

3. Place the Green Handkerchief on your billfold or checkbook, something that represents your finances.

TOMORROW MORNING, mail the handkerchief, with your name & money amount on it, to me! DO NOT FAIL TO DO THIS! We will anoint it with oil and place a prophecy that God has given me for you on it. Then we will send this handkerchief back to you with special instructions on how to use it as a Point of Contact for your Miracle.

On the reverse side were testimonies:

• "I made a pledge of $50 and by the end of the following week, I got a check for $400.00, the following week, I got a check for $1380.00 which I didn't expect. WHEN YOU PRAYED OVER SOME BILLS, I GOT ALL THOSE BILLS PAID OFF AND THE MONEY'S STILL COMING IN! And week before last, I sent a check for $20 to you, and coming back ... I just picked up $10!"

• "I received $113,000.00 and a brand-new MERCEDES BENZ when I made a Vow. (Signed) Elizabeth"

With rewards like this, it's hard to imagine why Mother Teresa lived a life of poverty. Nevertheless, I keep the green handkerchief on my desk.

I await the credit union's call, or at least a winning scratch-off ticket. Waiting, waiting ...

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