The latest in multipurpose religion, courtesy of the mailbox

I got a letter in the mail. Not unusual; it’s from a group of churches based in Tulsa, OK, though the address is printed on tiny font on the back of the envelope at the bottom. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable and several small, irrational fears pop up. Since when did churches have access to the same list of addresses that junk mailers do?

I’m about to toss it; it’s got text all over the envelope and it’s obviously someone wanting my money. I shake off the paranoia that they’ve had at my money just by having my address, then flip it into the wire wastebasket with the furniture store ad and the Amazing Car deal.

It sits in the trash for a few days, unopened, but for some reason, it catches my eye. It doesn’t crumple as easily other junk mail.  It is a white tooth jutting out, willing you to stare. Someone took effort to make sure a lot of paper folded into this envelope; that’s what makes it stiffer than a credit card offer. My curiosity of that care takes it back into my lap.

There are odd underlined phrases all over this envelope:

“This very old church loans this to you, to bless someone connected with this home. Then, it must go to another family that desires God’s blessings. See letter inside… ”

And right after that, in different font: “YOUR HOME FIRST!”

Oh, boy. This should be interesting. Religion by mail is a new one. I flip it over and spot a spelling error in the prayer typed out in handwriting font. Then I open the seal.

There are five pieces of paper inside, each folded individually. One is a business reply envelope with “The letter you write today-could change your tomorrow.” printed on the fold and “This is the next morning” printed in large, capital letters where the return address should be. Happy to know you won’t be sending anything else to me-until I flip the envelope over and see that my address is printed there with “Resident- To a Friend” as the heading. In different font next to it, there are two rows of empty boxes with “PLEASE PRINT first name”, “Int.” and “last name”. Gauranteed that I’ll be plagued for eternity once I send it all out to you.

What are they asking for? Well, it’s actually a triple barrage. There’s a formal letter here, full of different fonts, things circled and underlined in blue — the envelope’s lines were red-phrases bolded, phrases in caps AND bolded, and phrases with all the effects applied. The letter reads like a horoscope (“We feel that something very wonderful is trying to come to you”) and is covered, front to back, in text. The entire first page tells how to use the “unusual, Bible, Faith, Church Prayer Rug” or the “Holy Ghost, Bible, Prayer Rug” included in the envelope. The first objective: use the checklist to determine what you want, use the prayer rug, then send it back to us.

On the first page, there’s only one mention of the other two objectives. Mind you, it’s underlined, bolded, and in all caps, but there’s only one sentence on the front of this letter mentioning their “free, Deuteronomy 8:18 Prosperity Cross”. The end of the first page, right above the blue arrow that asks us to turn the paper over, sounds like a chain letter; it asks us to not” break this flow of power between us” as we stuff the used prayer rug into their envelope.

The second and third objectives are handled in the last four paragraphs of the letter printed on page two, right above the easy checklist of what you want from these guys. The second objective is to get you to check the box that says, “Yeah, I want the cheap-o gold cross that’s blessed by the church.” The third objective is mentioned in only one sentence in a paragraph all its own, the second to last before the blue signature that reads “Saint Matthews’ Senior Bishop”. The sentence reads:

Dear Jesus, help this one get their best seed to sow towards their coming harvest (Galatians 6:7). We pray in Thy name we pray. Amen.

An odd prayer, until I read the check box underneath “I want the cross” box: “Enclosed is my seed gift to God’s work of $_________.”  This is their only plug for money in all five pieces of paper that they sent. The only other interesting thing about the formal letter (pages one and two, front and back) is the very bottom of the back. Apparantly these guys have been sending this stuff out since 1951, and they’re copyrighted.

The Prayer Rug itself looks Indian in nature. It’s strictly purple and orange-yellow. Beautiful, except for the instructions-with a horrible sentence splice– on a white strip at the bottom. The center of the rug is a huge picture of Jesus’ head, thorns, tear on the nose and all. Jesus’ closed eyes do indeed have eyeballs shine through if you stare at it long enough. Cute. Apparantly, I’m definitely not supposed to keep this piece of paper, but I’m supposed to send it back to them so they can send it out to someone else. Tough. I bet they don’t even use recycled paper when they print these off for the masses.

Another piece of paper is covered in full-color pictures. It’s essentially a testimonial page. You know, “I wrapped my head with this prayer rug and now I have hair!” That kind of thing. These guys always refer to forty-six thousand dollars as $46,000.00. On the back of the testimonials is more full-color instructions on how to get your cross. Apparantly, you can put the thing in your wallet (you know, to bless your $46,000.00), and it’s referred to as “a Blessed by the Church faith, grace, Deut. 8:18 Prosperity Cross“. And in the smallest print, in red italics, is a plug about one of their two websites.

Essentially, more than one someone has subscribed to all this. Does it make you wonder if they attend this church after they got their money miracle? Did they send any of it to Saint Matthews? Did they make color copies of Jesus’ eyes to see if they’d open and close for friends?

The last paper is sealed with a sticker. It’s not to be opened until you send off the envelope. If you don’t send the stuff off, then “this sacred prophecy must be destroyed, unopened and unread, because this is a sacred, spiritual prophecy, sealed word, concerning you and your future.” Ah, the mysticism of a chain letter.

It honestly brings chills when I pick it up; it must have been charmed by the church and its priests. I do hesitate, and I do shudder from the chills. But I subscribe  to a different religion. Yes, I’m a Mormon, but this feels more than Catholic in its jumped-up mysticism. Inside the seal is crammed with text; only five sentences, all in the first paragraph, are in lower case, though they are italicized.

The rest is hilarious. It’s all horoscope-y sounding, and I’m not going to quote any of it to you. When you get your envelope in the mail, remember: toss everything except the sealed paper, then cut out your favorite phrases and put them where you put the rest of your Chinese fortune cookie fortunes. After you go to their websites and stare at Jesus’ eyes.

The chills from all the hype in this little envelope feel funny. They make me want to laugh because they feel different than what I feel at church; they feel like the chills from those ghost shows brought to you by reality TV. You know, with mystics sitting in crumbling buildings, their makeup enhanced by the nightlight from the camera. But after all, it’s such an elaborate persuasion; you have to enjoy it somehow. Even if you just scour eBay to see how many of these crosses are being sold.

18 responses to “The latest in multipurpose religion, courtesy of the mailbox”

  1. Oh no! You looked at the special seekrit letter? Oh man, you shudn’a done that…

    Mass printed chain mail sounds really weird. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a thing, that I can recall. I guess it’s not really chain mail if you’re supposed to send it back to the church rather than along to 5 friends, but the composition sounds a lot like a chain letter.

  2. Marleyfan says:

    Church of the Holy Misconception. And by the way, you freaked me out with the open/closed eyes thing. You post should have begun with a disclaimer, now I’ll have bad dreams for a week.

  3. lane says:

    yeah Kate!

    I’ll read this at lunch.

  4. Jane says:

    I went to the website. There are pages and pages of information with a few “give us money because it goes to spreading the word” sections, and there are also some guilt-ridden, save-yourself posters thrown in every once and a while.

    WARNING: Do not get stuck in the clicking game! Internal determination might lead you to want to click through every page to see how many there are. I will save you the trouble. There are 72 pages.

    Here is one of my favorites:
    I’m too busy…

  5. Jane says:

    Okay…one more…

    Below is a link to the “Do You Need Prayer?” sheet. Did you know you can ask them to pray to make you more charming?

    If you are a woman, would you like to be more attractive and charming?
    If you are a man, would you like to become more handsome and charming?
    Are you over or under weight?

    …because “over or under weight” has EVERYTHING to do with charm…

    You might also notice that on this page, a women can ask them to pray for her to get a boyfriend. But don’t fret, gentlemen! Your girlfriend prayer comes 14 pages later.

    Okay…I really need to quit now.

    prayer sheet

  6. I’m too busy…

    Oh my gosh! It’s Ebeneezer Scrooge!

    Do not get stuck in the clicking game!

    A far better place to get stuck in the clicking game, is at Burger King’s Where Fire Meets Desire site. With some kind of nsfw warning thrown in.

  7. (And some kind of “close link” tag thrown in.)

  8. Kate the Great says:

    Jane, those pages are hilarious. I confess I hadn’t thought to seek out the websites before I wrote this post. I didn’t dare look at them; I’ve waited since June to have this published here. Browsing their website might have erased my submission to Dave and made the letter I have in my memory boxes disintegrate.

  9. lane says:

    Hey Kate, great post, I wish you had included photo’s so we could see this amazing letter.

    “Yes, I’m a Mormon, but this feels more than Catholic in its jumped-up mysticism.”

    This was the line that caught my attention. As I’ve sorted through my Mormon upbringing, I’ve become interested in Opus Dei, a branch or Roman Catholicism. I think there are certain parallels to Mormonism in that it claims to be “restorationalist” – back to the true way, sort of thing.

    Also, I think it’s funny that Mormonism is sometimes lumped in with Protestantism and its rejection of high ritual. And yet, as some of us know, Mormomism is a highly ritualistic as any religion out there. It just has a better PR campaign.

    In any event, great post!

  10. Kate the Great says:

    Thanks, Unc. Thanks.

  11. Jane says:

    6: What a cruel, yet amazingly awesome link. Thank you. I watched flame meet desire for over 5 minutes straight before it started to repeat…

  12. PB says:

    OK as the resident Jesus freak of TGW – I would like a word here. I read every religious tract I can get my hands on, The weirder the better. I would have been in “heaven” to have gotten your mail. What facinates me is not how bizzare but the need people have for the bizzare. The desire to believe is so strong – we are willing to pay for it, or behave for it, or sacrifice for it, or in some cases kill for it. It is at the core of so much of human experience. It facinates me.
    And to be fair – there is plenty of the wacky, only if you were raised on it, legend and liturgy in the Mormon faith. Covington says in the book Salvation on Sand Mountain that feeling after Christianity is dangerous business. No one religion has a corner on the “clap your hands if your believe” fairy tales. Although the Mormon’s may spell better, and tidy, They are tidy.

    Welcome to the site kate – I am glad your submission curse was lifted.

  13. Mark says:

    That’s some awesome junk mail.

    Me, I got a copy of Reader’s Digest (not the large type edition, just regular) in the mail today. How weird is that? I’ve never subscribed, even though I do like to read the little funnies in Life in these United States and such.

    BTW, you can get Jack Chick tracts online to put on your website. Those are classics.

  14. lane says:

    those are called “Jack Chick tracts?”

    i remember those. i got my first one in fourth grade while camping out in Pasedena the night of the big parade.

    it scared the crap out of me.

  15. Dave says:

    it scared the crap out of me.

    Did it scare the Hell out of you, Lane?

    If you were to die today, do you know where you would end up? Are you sure?

  16. Mark says:

    Oh yeah, that’s a good one. I was just checking out the site and the comic books are a hoot as well.

    are awesome