By Curtis Shelburne: CNJ Religion Columnist
Good news/bad news.
The bad news is that “hucksterism” of one sort or another has become so rampant that it tries to reach out and touch most of us on a daily basis.
The good news, I suppose, is that hucksterism is so common that most of the time we quickly recognize it for what it is and deal with it accordingly.
It’s a sleepy Monday morning as I write. I just opened my e-mail to see what has accumulated in the “box” while I’ve been, as usual, otherwise occupied on Saturday and Sunday.
Hmm. Not that many messages. Only 46. But before I can deal with the real messages, I almost automatically hold down the CTRL key and begin highlighting the “spam” messages I want to delete first.
Of my 46 messages, 37 are spam. Of those 37, most are just annoying junk promotions of one sort or another. I got one a day or two ago whose subject line read: “Momentous letter. You require to read.” Wrong on both counts.
Others are worse than annoying. One advises me that I need to confirm my Ebay account information by “clicking on the link below” and re-entering my account information. If I don’t, it warns, “this problems” won’t be corrected and the account will be suspended. Again, these folks, fairly obviously not residents of this hemisphere, are hucksters. They’re “phishing” for my credit card or other information. Jerks.
Even before I began cleaning out my e-mail in-box this morning, I got a call from a friend and banker who, I’m thankful to say, keeps close watch over the mission account where contributions are kept to fund our church’s mission and relief work among AIDS orphans in Uganda. My friend asked if my missionary son had recently written a check on that account for $27,000. My friend knew the answer before I gave it: A resounding no.
The sad thing is that I wasn’t all that surprised that some scum would give this scam a try. Though this fraudulent check and the signature on it were unusually good, this was just the latest among a number of attempts at thievery of the sort that missionaries all over the world have come to expect as a “normal” hazard of doing such work.
What is wrong with a situation in which we hardly raise an eyebrow when 80 percent of our e-mail is huckster-mail?
What is wrong when we come to expect that four or five times a year, usually-bungling thieves will try to pillage donated funds from a mission account?
Is there a special place in hell for particularly pernicious pilferers who would in effect try to shut down relief to AIDS orphans? Should I feel bad for wanting to say I hope so?
How much better the world would be if everyone tried to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at