#297: Pledge Drive

March 21st, 2014

The voice curls out from downtown Chicago. It licks out on the airwaves, online. It spreads through homes and churches and through the Jamaican man’s cab where I’m gently dozing in the back (although the story’s not about that) and it joins with voices arising across the nation and spreading, licking, moving to homes, churches and computers around the world to raise one joyous refrain:

Give the Christians $3 million.

I mean, the real tally is much higher. The $3 million, really $3,088,000, is what Moody Global Ministries is asking radio listeners to pony up as part of their annual Share pledge drive for their Chicago station alone (y otra $80,000 si también contamos la estación local en español).

Share 2014 is also asking for $210,000 for their station in Dixon Mills, Ala. And $785,000 for their Tampa Bay station. And bits and pieces and dollar amounts to keep the word of god rolling at each of the 36 Moody stations across the nation.

The voice calling for faith and cash at first seemed to fade in and out, but then I realized I was. Dozing in the sun as the Jamaican man drove me to O’Hare, I nodded off and on as the voice licked around me.

Moody Bible Institute was the world’s first megachurch, formed right here in Chicago. They have stores and conferences and a publishing house and 36 Moody radio stations (plus about 700 Christian stations they provide programming for) and a series of seminaries across the nation.

From their downtown HQ and spreading out to the world, Moody puts the “fund” in “fundamentalist.”

In fairness to the pledge drive gently caressing me as I wavered on consciousness in the Jamaican’s taxi, Moody matches every monthly donation with a gift to educate Dalit children in India. The children, often called “untouchables” are taught math, science, health, nutrition and the Christian faith.

Can’t get something for nothing. Can’t send that aid without buying a few converts, am I right?

(And I do donate to secular charities, so fuck off if your argument starts with the words “At least they’re.”)

She called for faith and told them they were only at $1.8 million. She told a story of a listener whose child wanted to donate his own money as an example of a child’s faith. She talked about how there’s no inequality in god’s eyes, so both rich and poor should give Moody money.

She pleaded and begged and cajoled for cash because, y’know. Like god and stuff?

There are more vicious bible-thumpers in the world — we just lost a prime specimen of divinely sanctified hate yesterday — but in my mind there are few tackier than Moody. The mixture of money and messiah, of G-O-D and C.O.D. is one I’ve always found particularly nasty.

I dozed in the back of a cab in the sun, listening to the hum of traffic, the rhythm of tires on road and the voice of god, begging me for money I didn’t have.

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