CommunityPam's House Blend

ATM for Jeebus

Yes, the fundies have now embraced the digital age — for the coffers. Since most folks don’t carry a lot of cash on hand (with the popularity of debit cards), Pastor Marty Baker of the evangelical Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, GA, helps parishioners part with their cash by providing ATM-like devices in the church.

Baker has waded further into the 21st century than most fishers of American souls, as evidenced one Wednesday night when churchgoer Josh Marshall stepped up to a curious machine in the church lobby.

It was one of Stevens Creek’s three “Giving Kiosks“: a sleek black pedestal topped with a computer screen, numeric keypad and magnetic-strip reader. Prompted by the on-screen instructions, Marshall performed a ritual more common in quickie marts than a house of God: He pulled out a bank card, swiped it and punched in some numbers.

The machine spat out a receipt. Marshall’s $400 donation was routed to church coffers before he had found his seat for evening worship.

“I paid for gas today with a card, and got lunch with one,” said Marshall, 30. “This is really no different.”

Not only does the church, where Baker preaches that the Bible is the “eternal and inviolate word of God,” receive the e-tithing, but the Baker family gets a cut of the buxxx as well.

Gee, didn’t I just post about the growing concern about the “prosperity” gospel producing holy-rolling greedy windbags?

“It’s truly like an ATM for Jesus,” Baker said.

This summer, Baker and his wife, Patty, began selling the devices to other churches through their for-profit company, SecureGive. They are its only employees, but a handful of contractors help them custom-tailor the machines for churches.

…The Bakers charge between $2,000 and $5,000 for the kiosks, which come in a variety of configurations. They also collect a monthly subscription fee of up to $49.95 for licensing and support. And a card-processing company gets 1.9% of each transaction; a small cut of that fee goes to SecureGive.

The next bright idea the Bakers have, if this takes off, is to produce and sell donation machines that attach to the backs of the pews.

***

When I crossposted this at Pandagon, a reader seemed to think that I had an objection to the idea of an ATM in the church. The ATM idea in itself to address the debit card society isn’t a bad idea. The irony is that technology has been adopted by the fundie flat earthers — the same people who will be lining up to go to The Creation Museum.

Unless the Bakers are giving it all away (the article only indicates that they will “give a significant sum to their church”), they are cashing in — per tush-in-the-pew. Trust me, they are “banking” on the prosperity gospel. Once commenter there noted:

This is like giving the metalsmith 1% of each week’s collections, or paying the stonesmith a fee for each dunk/sprinkle, or paying the carpenters a per-butt-in-pew fee every week.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding