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Friday, July 23, 2010

False Profits

Christ driving the Money Changers from the Temple, by El Greco. Image credit: Augusta State University.

MLMers like to cloak themselves in religion almost as much as they like to wrap themselves in the flag. They claim their business is a great one for religious (especially Christian) families and individuals. As Athena Dean notes in All the Glitters is not God, this claim is very far from the truth.

In fact, it is hard to think of anything less religious, indeed less Christian in particular, than the worship of money and profits in the MLM circuit, and the way they see worldly poverty as a sign of God's curse. That is even before going into the enormous deceit and misuse of others in one's "downline" that is endemic to MLMs.

Had Jesus, Isaiah, or Moses suddenly showed up in an MLM meeting, they would be seen as dreamy, unrealistic, crypto-communist weirdos for saying things about rich men finding it hard to get into heaven, or on the need to take care of the poor. Surely these folks should know that those who don't have money just had other people steal their dreams and are therefore broke losers like they deserve to be? So much for "blessed are the poor".

But one can ask: how can MLMers even think that what they are doing is what religion in general, or Christianity in particular, commands? The answer to that comes from a particularly annoying type of (pseudo-)religion known as prosperity theology. It was promoted in the USA first mostly by the aptly-named Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart. The idea behind it is that God will give material riches to those he loved, based on such verses as John 10:10.

"Prosperity theology" makes it far easier for people to become MLMers, for two reasons. First, if you believe God himself wants you to be rich, you are less bothered with the deception, lying, and exploitation of others that is inherent to the MLM business. After all, you're just doing God's will -- trying to get rich -- and therefore, all is forgiven. (We have, alas, seen just this behavior by many other religious fanatics throughout history). Second, you don't need to actually check the economic feasibility of the MLM "plan" -- after all, with God, all things are possible. If you will just want to be rich strongly enough, He will find a way.

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