My priest had to send out a scam alert this past week.
Not because our church was running a scam, you understand.
And not because someone was scamming the church, either.
It was because someone had the audacity to scam people by pretending to be with the church, asking people to send money or gift certificates to the priest — but of course the link didn’t go to the priest, it went to the scammer.
I would be inclined to exclaim “How dare they!” except that obviously they did dare, and they did the deed.
What’s even more astonishing to me is that, as our priest reported, this particular scam has been repeated numerous times with numerous parishes.
In other words, if at first you don’t succeed, etc., etc.
There’s a part of me that’s impressed, in a way, by someone who has the nerve to go up against God like this.
It would be one thing to attempt a scam of a mere mortal business — offering fake gift certificates to Zeno’s, for instance (which I would be totally susceptible to) or Vapor Zone (not so much). But to pull a con using the Almighty and implicating His holy representatives here on earth is gutsier than I could possibly be.
I would worry that on that fateful day when I arrive at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter would have some very intimidating questions for me:
St. Peter (frowning at his screen, stroking his beard): Doug, during your time on earth, did you run some kind of a scam?
Doug (wide-eyed with innocence): Scan? Like a medical procedure?
St. Peter: No, scam. A con. A trick, to make money illegally.
Doug: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
St. Peter: Doug, you know that lying can keep you out of heaven.
Doug: Well, just for the sake of conversation, could you be more specific? I mean, I understand that if you’re a liar on earth, you can’t go to heaven, but at this moment, I’m no longer on earth, so if I lied just now, would that necessarily keep me out? Because if so, I think this should be specified in the rulebook. At least in a footnote somewhere.
St. Peter: So what you’re saying to me is, you’re lying to me now.
Doug: By no means. I’m just attempting to ascertain the parameters of the regulations governing admittance.
St. Peter: Huh? Look, I was a fisherman. Didn’t you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? In fact, I was a fisherman before there were regulations. So I don’t really do four-syllable words.
Doug: Let me simplify for you. Better yet, forget about words. Let me show you — just a little demonstration. This will make it totally clear. Let’s say you give me a $20 bill. Do you have a 20 on you?
St. Peter (searching the pockets of his robe): I think so. Uh, yeah. (hands it over) Here.
Doug (taking the 20): Okay, great. Now let’s say I come to you and I’m like (holds out the $20 bill), “Hey, Pete! Can you change a 20?”
St. Peter (searching his pockets): Uh, I don’t think so, let me look. (fishing out some singles and a $10 bill) I only have $18 here.
Doug (taking the $18 and handing him the $20): You know what? You’re a friend. I’m not gonna quibble over $2. Here. You keep the $20. I’m sure in the same situation, you’d do the same for me. Maybe someday you can buy me a drink.
St. Peter (pocketing the $20): Thanks, sure.
Doug: So that’s all I’m trying to say, Pete.
St. Peter: Huh?
Doug: I’m saying that people are too suspicious these days. If I’m willing to take $18 and leave you with $20, does that make me a bad guy? Of course not. Didn’t Jesus say “Turn the other cheek” and all that? This is how corrupt our culture has become. Look: I’m willing to give you a $2 advantage, and yet I’m the one who falls under suspicion? That isn’t nice, is it? I say it’s about time we opened our hearts to the goodness in our world, and stop looking for the bad. Don’t you agree?
St. Peter (a little dazed): Well, I guess so.
Doug: Of course. So there’s no problem at all with me coming in.
St. Peter (trying to focus on his screen): Uh, I’m just trying to zero in on this scam. It was Ascension Church, in Ipswich, Massachusetts, back in October of 2019.
Doug: Oh, that! (he snorts) Episcopalians! They fall for stuff. (sailing past the Pearly Gates) See you at the bar. I’ll buy.
Doug Brendel, a full-fledged Episcopalian, runs a so-called fundraising business from his home on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow his Outsidah posts at Outsidah.com, and his even snarkier daily commentary at ComplicatedEnglish.com.