LAST WEEK TONIGHT: The Sins Of Televangelism

Let’s get real for a second. A majority of the people reading this right now, at one point or another, have found themselves in a situation where you have killed half a bottle of whiskey, it’s 1 am and for whatever reason you are watching some overcooked, spray tan of a human being with impossibly perfect teeth aggressively “preaching” and going off about seeds on an obscure channel. You don’t know why on earth you are there (hint: it’s the whiskey) but that Televangelist is really doing it for you. It is so for one specific reason: it turns up to 11 on the hilarity scale.

Last night John Oliver ripped into the dark, tea-party-acid-trip-with-the-Mad-Hatter that is the world of televangelism. As Oliver reported, there are currently approximately 350,000 congregations in the United States alone. Furthermore, as a “church”, you are entitled to enormous tax breaks with little to no oversight. Oliver and his team did their research on that bit, noting that the IRS only audited two churches in 2013 and only one in 2014. It’s like a fucking free for all where it rains money around the clock and instead of digging for seashells on the figurative beaches, you dig for big fat checks wrapped in a Rolex. Or, perhaps, as John Oliver figured out, buy pimped out private jets in cash like heavy hitter televangelist, Kenneth Copeland. That’s one hell of a preaching machine, sir.

Obviously this is very problematic for several reasons. The most important, however, is this concept of seed faith. By their logic, the more seeds you plant, or rather the more sizable seed you plant, the greater the harvest. In this instance, that seed is cash and lots of it. Yes, this seems absurd. But a lot of people are eating this up like a juicy porterhouse. Namely an elderly woman named Bonnie Parker, who instead of getting treatment for cancer sent all of her money to Copeland.  According to her daughter, she truly believed that it would heighten her chances of beating the cancer. John Oliver made the perfect correlation to sum all this up: sending tons of cash to a televangelist to solve your problems is a lot like trying to find the solution to a weight problem at the bottom of a Costco-sized bag of M&Ms. Televangelist essentially rob people blind (most of whom can’t afford it) but it is PERFECTLY LEGAL because of their church status with the IRS.

Quite triumphantly, John Oliver ended his segment with a grand announcement: he started his own church. This church? Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption (ha..ha…). He followed this up by showing the 14 point criteria you have to meet in order to be qualify a church. To prove how vague these stipulations are, he pointed out that by simply gathering every Sunday in ritualistic fashion, you check the box one one of those points. Then, in a cozy living room set, he staged his own televangelist program where he guided viewers to a corresponding website and telephone number. Both of which work. I know because I visited the the website, featuring John Oliver’s twinkling smile plastered everywhere, and called the number (1-800-THIS IS LEGAL).  The message that picks up when you call the number, by the way, is phenomenal. For example, midway through, the celestial background music cuts and John Oliver screams “GIVE ME MONEY!” over and over. So without any hesitation, John Oliver and Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, I am now a believer and please take all my money. Praise Jesus! — MEGAN MATUZAK