Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God’s feeling the pinch II

A follow up to God’s feeling the pinch; the church in the hole.

I did not see until this morning Andy Birkey’s excellent story in the Minnesota Independent about Mac Hammond’s detour on the path to prosperity grace. (The photo is a picture of Mac Hammond and his wife Lynne from the MinnIndy story.)

This whole story is so sweet with irony that it could give you cavities. For the whole sugar fix, though, you’ll have to go read Andy.

There is one teensy aspect of the drama that I do want to highlight. From the MinnIndy story:

In May, the church was served with papers demanding the return of $2.2 million in money it received from Gerard Cellette, who had been convicted of fraud. Cellette ran a Ponzi scheme and lawyers for the victims were attempting to collect the money from Living Word for remuneration.

The church said in a statement in May that it felt it shouldn’t have to give the money back to the victims because of its status as a church. “This lawsuit, on behalf of Mr. Cellette’s investors, to take back the funds from LWCC and repay the investors is unfair. Our church is essentially being asked to be the guarantor to principally out-of-state, sophisticated investors that made bad investments with Mr. Cellette.”

Absolutely shameless.

Let’s use a slightly different hypothetical. A parishioner robs a gas station — or a bank — and with the cops in hot pursuit, drives to the LWCC, wheels into the parking lot, races into the church, drops the money at Mac’s feet, and says, “This money is for the church’s good works, Pastor Mac. I’ll be going away for a while, now.”

And sure enough, he does!

The question: whose money is it? The gas station or bank’s, or Pastor Mac’s? The answer is pretty easy, isn’t it?

The real case is no different. Despite the dissembling and obfuscation of the LWCC’s statement, it is simply trying to keep money that was not parishioner Cellette’s to give. It is a moral stain on the church to claim otherwise.

The sophistication of the investors — whose sophistication is suspect under the circumstances, anyway — is irrelevant to the fact that they money was stolen from them. That’s it: it’s dirty money. You can’t launder it and make it pure as the driven snow by making mortgage payments on the church building with it. The fact that some of the defrauded investors were from out of state also matters not at all.

Charity is great — and we’ll give LWCC the benefit of the doubt here — but you have to be just first.

Update: Mon Dieu! The LWCC church building is in foreclosure, but Pastor Mac can still find money to contribute to Michele Bachmann and cling to his Citation jet. A truly inspiring tale for our time.


DiscordianStooge said...

You prefer constabulary?

DiscordianStooge said...

I was thinking more like the 13th century style of sanctuary.

Phoenix Woman said...

Sanctuary much!

Phoenix Woman said...

Crivens!  It's Commander Vimes!

Phoenix Woman said...

Gee, Michele Bachmann's favorite de facto precinct captain involved with a Ponzi scheme?  Say it isn't so!

blogspotdog said...


That was back in a time when "the Church" was more like a separate parallel state (well, even more than it is today), and a church was like a little embassy.

Phoenix Woman said...

Thanks for the heads-up!  http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/67259

Phoenix said...

By the way, you should check out the trollie we've got trapped in the comments thread -- he's frantically trying to throw the discussion off-course, but everyone is laughing at him.