ttime sure does fly. A few more days and a month will have past since my last post. But when you give it some thought you’ll notice that many of us bloggers have become subtly inactive. Given up? No,  not really. How can you with the likes of Bibliko, Mario, Hope eternal, Daniel Matsunaga, PDC, Magna ser mutah, and so many others  active in our little forum. These avid free thinkers are the people that keep this blog alive. Their thinking and at times even sarcastic comments make all of us smile – sometimes even burst out in laughter. In this chaotic world; our religion included, who wouldn’t want a ray of sunshine once in a while.

Let’s start with a hugot line (whatever that means) I heard from my daughter. She told me, “Dad, kapag magmahal ka ng isang babae, wag kukuha  ng flat-chested.” I asked why? “Matatalikuran ka ng dalawang beses!” (“Dad, if you are going to fall in love with a girl, don’t choose the flat-chested ones. Why? She’ll be turning her back on you twice!”)

I’m sure all of us are aware by this time that the majority of  church members will continue to remain inside the INC whether they perceive of irregularities or not. Their commitment being the only true church established by God, their faith and loyalty attributed to God, Christ, and the Church; good or bad administration notwithstanding. Arguments for and against this premise continue to this day. Check out Facebook – the most popular I guess is Access the Truth, there is another a new site I think – One with God, Christ, EVM, and the Sanggunian  (As usual the Holy Spirit is missing in action 🙂 ) On the other side we have Sher Lock, Benito Affleck, INCsilentnomore, incdefenders.org, and countless more mine included.

But this article is not exactly about that.

Two days ago for want of something better to do, I chanced upon an HBO movie titled “The Wizard of Lies” starring Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. It was a true story of Bernard Lawrence “Bernie” Madoff based on the biggest fraud committed in US History.

“Bernard Lawrence “Bernie” Madoff (/ˈmeɪdɒf/; born April 29, 1938) is an American fraudster and a former stockbroker, investment advisor, and financier. He is the former non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market [The Nasdaq Stock Market is an American stock exchange. It is the second-largest exchange in the world by market capitalization, behind only the New York Stock Exchange located in the same city] , and the admitted operator of a Ponzi scheme that is considered the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. Prosecutors estimated the size of the fraud to be $64.8 billion, based on the amounts in the accounts of Madoff’s 4,800 clients as of November 30, 2008.”

Now, what is a Ponzi scheme?

“A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors. This is similar to a pyramid scheme in that both are based on using new investors’ funds to pay the earlier backers. For both Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes, eventually there isn’t enough money to go around, and the schemes unravel.”

Putting it mildly, it’s simply getting money from one person  and paying off  that person with money from another person plus interest.  Madoff’s scheme worked to a charm. There was even a time that it would be considered an honor and privilege if your investments were accepted and serviced by Madoff. As investors grew and grew, the only thing he had to watch out was that his clients would not  withdraw their principal investments.  But as fate would have it, sometime in 2008 stocks collapsed and investors started withdrawing their investments in bulk.  Most hit was Madoff simply because his investments were all fake. There was no money left to pay off all his investors. It had reached 65 billion dollars by that time.

The fraud was committed by one of the most respected man in Wall Street. Chairman, Adviser, and Consultant to numerous financial committees and boards;  feared by the Securities and Exchange Commission. His story and how he succumbed to his ego leads us to wonder how the intricacies of a  sociopathic mind works that ultimately resulted to his conviction of 150 years in jail, deserted by his wife and family, alone and serving time at  the Butner Federal Correctional Institution; Federal Bureau of Prisons to this very day. The movie is interesting enough. You can watch it here.

The reason why so many persons were lured into Madoff’s trap was not because of high returns (1 Percent monthly reaching 10 to 12 percent anually) but the security clause and assurance of returns no matter the volatility of the market.

In a way there are many lessons to be learned here. Promises are just that, promises. Getting the cake and eating it are completely two different processes. To put your complete trust with your hard earned cash on the promise of a reward in the days to come would be foolish much so if that promise is not tangible. A the saying goes – anything that’s too good to be true is just that, it isn’t true.

The Wizard of Lies. Let’s put it bluntly. Do we the church (INC) share anything in common with the Madoff scheme? Do we promise big “returns” for big “investments”? No, you say. We do not have investments. Next question. Do you preach citing biblical passages that the more monetary offerings you give, the more blessings you receive? That you should set aside a portion of your earnings for the offerings and glory of God? Stressing that every offer is voluntary without coercion for “the Lord loves a cheerful giver” , but putting stress that we should follow the example of the poor widow who offered only half a penny but considered worthy to God than all the rest because that half-penny was all that the poor widow had and she had decided to offer it to the Lord unlike the others where offerings were mere “excesses.” Thus, it means that what you offer should have substance to please the Lord. But don’t forget, these were the times of the Christ and the apostles.

Fast forward. The EVM era. The same stress. The same biblical passages. The same church. But and that’s a very big BUT. But no longer Christ, no longer the apostles, no longer Ka Felix, no longer Ka Erdy. No longer Ka Benjamin, no longer Ka Bening, no longer Ka Sandoval. No longer Ka Tucker, no longer Ka Daniel. But in their stead, we have the King and Knights of the Crooked Table. Why crooked? We promise overflowing blessings for those who please the Lord with their offerings. We instill fear to those who may have mixed feeliings on giving by citing verses on Ananias and Sapphira who chose to keep a portion of their sold assets and paid with their lives. (Actually, that’s a wrong connection. The sins of the two were their violation of the judgment agreed upon by the apostles and not on the giving of the offerings per se. )

The question that remains. Have the majority of its member who had been offering for years a portion of their hard earned money made a return on their “investments“? Look around. Our poor deacon/ness brethren who live under bridges who continue to function as officers of the church; the brethren who push green-white-red carts filled with junk so that they  can make offerings come Thursday and Sunday; the jobless brethren (and there are so many) with on and off jobs who continue to hold office as SCAN, Secretary, Katiwala, Kadiwa, Buklod, etc. with the pathetic excuse that the office they hold in the church is more important than any worldly office.  One reason why the church has difficulty recruiting white-collar as well as blue-collar workers – they can’t convince them to leave their jobs and accept an office with the church. Besides, accept it or not, the backbone of the organization are these white and blue-collared workers who make money for the church and not the jobless ones who are mainly recruited for “labor”. Labor for church related activities.

How many if any, have actually experienced overflowing blessings because of offerings to this church? I can name a few. Starting from the King.  He started with a regular housing complex inside Central grounds but now he has a mansion (presently undergoing extension) inside the compound and two others at plush villages in Manila (if it hasn’t been sold yet).


The King’s mansion extension beside a vacant lot which used to house the former Executive Ministers house and family

Not to mention an air bus and jet plane, helicopters and trips around the world on the guise of pastoral visits. Why guise? Why bring along your entire family and  granchildren too? Not contented you have to bring along your Knights and their families too. You also have to be booked at 5 star hotels during those visits. All at the expense of the church. Your offerings, our offerings. High-end cars for the Knights and their trustees. Who says there are no returns on investments. In fact the returns are so huge and mind-boggling but only to the King and his knights of the crooked table. The rest (us) will have to make with scraps left behind. Making church-ends meet –  special offerings, donations, and more special offerings. We have to deal with, “Patience is the virtue of the Godly” when it comes to personal blessings being anticipated. If none comes your way during your lifetime, the rebuttal would be, “God loves you so much that he knew that giving you bountiful blessings would cause your abandonment from the church.” No win situation … for us.  But to them we are the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Hmmm, not sure but I wonder if the King’s birthday would be a big celebration as hinted during the ministers night on Christmas season last year when cars were given out to lucky winners. It was announced that on his birthday a few days from now, aside from cars, there would be laptops and  even a trip to Hongkong for the lucky ministers and family. Are we the plain brethren included in their extravaganza? Sorry but that’s an exclusive affair. Probably “Pagputi ng uwak” (“when the crow grows white”) as the saying goes. What’s our participation then to the affair? Only one. Our continued offerings to make the King and his Knights smile. Oh, and are they smiling. All the way to the bank!

Definitely, the church has discovered the Midas Touch but just like Madoff and his Ponzi scheme, it won’t last because greed never overcomes reality. One day, they’ll realize that there is nothing left. Payables overcoming the assets. Only one way to go from there – downhill with a big loud thud when it reaches rock bottom.