Articles Pertaining To Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong and The Worldwide Church of God
PT Home Page
Complete Articles Index
Read the Ambassador Report
Download the Ambassador Report (Right-click and choose "Save Target") 12.2 megabytes
Email The PT
Primary PT Sub-Pages
Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of
What About the Bible?
The Age of Reason
Acts of God
Alcoholism and the
Worldwide Church of God
Suicide and the Worldwide Church of God
411, Information Please
Death Notices For The Worldwide Church of God
You might have grown up in the Worldwide Church of God
if . . .11/27/06
Garner Ted Armstrong and Geraldo
Rivera Video Download
Stanley Rader on "Sixty Minutes" with
Mike Wallace Audio download
The Graveyard Church of God
Google Adwords for Herbert W. Armstrong
Can You Spot a Con Man?
by John B
| Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits
whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone
out into the world.
1 John 4:1
Have you ever been "conned"? Has anyone ever taken
advantage of you or betrayed you by using nothing but the force of his
I think most of us have. At one time or another, most people have
encountered a slick salesman, a fast-talking promoter, or someone with a
pathetic sob story. It's easy to be fooled if you aren't on your toes,
and the most dangerous aspect is that you are usually caught off guard.
Con men (short for "confidence" men -- someone who gains your trust)
come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, and both sexes. There is a
stereotype for con men, but not all con men fit the stereotype. We often
think of a used car salesman or a door-to-door salesman when we think of
con men, but there are many kinds of cons and their practitioners come
in many flavors.
From time to time we hear a warning on the local news that someone or
some group is working the phones for a phony "charity" and bilking
people, usually the elderly, out of large sums of money. Other stories
tell of men who romance lonely widows, sometimes even marry them, then
clean out their bank accounts and disappear. Others sell phony stocks,
perform unnecessary home or auto repairs, or feed off the charity of a
local church. Some of these are prosecutable acts, but many are not, and
quite often those who perpetrate these acts are never brought to
Street Corner Con Men
Have you seen those poor "homeless" individuals at the intersection,
standing under the left-turn light, with their home-made cardboard
signs? "Will work for food", some of them say. "Homeless and hungry"
others declare. "Disabled vet". Or something similar to tug at your
heartstrings. Some of these people, no doubt, are genuinely in need of
help. They all look hungry. But are they really?
About 15 years ago, a local radio talk host in the city where I work did
a two-hour special on these people, and those who called in told an
amazing range of stories. Several callers said they had offered some of
these men jobs, but were turned down. Another lady, who had just done
her shopping, handed one of them a loaf of bread; he asked her if she
didn't have some Twinkies instead. In short, many of these beggars were
revealed to be frauds, and the result of the radio show was that angry
drivers began confronting them; within a few days most of them
disappeared from the intersections.
For a while.
Another beggar in a nearby city worked the same intersection for over a
year, until one day someone followed him at the end of the day and saw
him get into a late-model car and drive away. The word spread, and soon
after that he disappeared from sight. In 2002 I saw an attractive young
lady at a freeway exit near a gas station holding a sign that said "Out
of Gas, Need Help". Two weeks later she was still there, still out of
Close to Home
Not all con men, of course, are strangers. Sometimes they are very close
to home, and may even be living under your very roof. Sometimes your own
kids are guilty of conning you. Adult children who can't seem to hold a
job, for instance, who never get "the break" they need to succeed, and
are constantly hitting you up for "a loan" may be the con men that you
don't recognize. Even more subtle is the adult child who still lives at
home, eating your food, dominating your living room, and paying no rent
(he can't, because he isn't working!) Are you being taken advantage of
by your own flesh and blood? It happens.
The power of the con man is that you don't recognize him for what he is.
If he's really good at what he does, he can operate for a lifetime; if
one person catches on to him, he simply moves on, burning that bridge
behind him. He uses persuasion to get what he wants, and he can be very
convincing. His greatest weapon is his sincerity; he takes you into his
confidence, convinces you that he would never lie to you, and perhaps
that you are his very best friend. He confides in you what he would
never tell anyone else, and if you "help" him he will (1) be eternally
grateful, (2) reward you beyond your wildest dreams, or (3) you will be
doing God's work.
Or so he says.
The best con men are very charismatic. They may be very complimentary.
They make you feel warm and fuzzy. They make you feel special, as if you
are the most important person in their lives. And if they're very good,
they can keep it up for years, even a lifetime...while they bleed you
dry. You may never catch on to them, may never realize you have been (or
are continually being) scammed. Depending on the con man and his
particular personality, you may be taken for a sum of money before he
vanishes from your life, or you may be taken for a great deal of money
over a period of many years. The price of the con may not be money at
all, but support of another kind -- emotional support, business or
political support, enablement of an addiction, or simply to be popular.
No matter what payoff the con man is after, you are always the loser.
Do you know anyone like that? Have you ever been taken in by someone
like that? Are you, even now, the victim of this kind of robbery?
How Do They Do It?
We all know they're out there. We may not recognize them if they are
close to us, but we know they exist. How do they do it? How can someone
take advantage of others that way and still sleep at night?
The answer is as simple as it is frightening -- such people are usually
psychopathic in nature. This doesn't always mean they are dangerous,
simply that they have no emotional connection to those around them. They
have no ability to empathize with others, to place themselves in your
shoes and say, "Man, I wouldn't want someone to treat me that way!" In a
word, they are narcissistic, with no regard for anyone or anything that
doesn't benefit them.
A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in
aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral
behavior without empathy or remorse.
--Houghton Mifflin dictionary
The causes and manifestations of such behavior can be complex, but we
don't need to be psychologists to recognize it in our lives. Any time
you see a pile of horse manure, you can be pretty sure a pony has
recently been in the neighborhood. When your relationship with a
"friend" leaves you feeling frustrated and empty, you can probably
assume you may be the victim of a psychopathic personality. Not always,
but don't rule it out.
Religious Con Men
If you've read this far, you've probably guessed where this was heading.
Not all con men are used car salesmen or drug addicts. As I stated
earlier, con men come in all flavors, and their goals are as varied as
the flowers on a hillside in the spring. The one thing they have in
common is that they want something from you, and they will do or
say anything to get it.
Enter the religious con man. (Yes, even preachers are not always what
they first seem.)
It isn't too difficult (hopefully) for the average person to see through
a Jerry Falwell or a Jimmy Swaggert. Any time you tune in to a religious
broadcast and see someone wearing a suit that cost more than your
monthly mortgage payment, whose hair style reminds you of the
Country-Western singers of the 1960s, you can safely assume he's in it
more for money than to help you get to heaven.
Have you ever looked in on the Trinity Broadcast Network? Talk about a
gallery! I don't know most of those clowns, but Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch
(not to mention his double-wigged wife Jan), and Robert Tilton all look
like characters in a "Diamonds Are Forever" commercial. Anyone who
flouts his carats while "preaching Christ" has a definite credibility
problem, especially considering that Jesus purportedly told his
followers to "sell all that you have and follow me". Yet these jokers
rake in millions every year.
But not all religious con men are so obvious or so ostentatious. Many of
them live less opulently than those mentioned above, yet are no less con
men in that they use charisma or other persuasion to work that tithe
check loose from your bank account. Any preacher who uses fear tactics
to hold onto his congregation is a con man, pure and simple. The
"hellfire and brimstone" preacher has been around for centuries, and his
tactic worked as well in the American colonies of 1800 as it does today.
Simply stated, the tactic threatens the listener with eternal death
unless he "supports the work". In the case of Herbert Armstrong, since
he didn't teach an ever-burning hell fire, the listener was threatened
with the Great Tribulation, which was even more immediate and could be
easily illustrated by photographs of the Holocaust of World War II.
Yes, Herbert Armstrong was a con man. Unlike many TV evangelists today,
he didn't use charisma to get what he wanted, he used advertising skill
and raw threats...but it worked. (His son Garner Ted, on the other hand,
was the charismatic one; together they formed sort of a "good cop/bad
cop" duo. Ted at least made you like him.)
How Can You Tell?
Obviously, not everyone with a winning personality is a con man. Lots of
people are just naturally friendly and charming. So how can you tell if
the person who is your "best friend" is really genuine or taking you for
Well, it might be difficult, especially if you are emotionally attached
to the individual. The person we are talking about might be a relative,
your child, or even your spouse! So how can you know?
The first step, as always, is to recognize that it's even possible you
might be a victim. Even if you don't think you are, you might want to
evaluate your life just to be safe. And if you have a particular
individual in mind, then you really should take the time to sort it out.
Ask yourself this: Do you feel you are on the "losing" side of the
relationship? Is this person always "getting" and never "giving"? Does
he "borrow" money and never pay it back? Repeatedly? Does he make
promises that he never keeps? Is he always in a crisis and only you can
help him out of it? Does he repeat the same "mistakes" over and over,
and you always have to bail him out of them?
Does this individual flatter you and then immediately want something,
only to ignore you until the next time and then repeat the process? Is
he flattering only when you are alone together, but abandons you in the
company of others? Do you see him doing the same things to other people?
When you need something, is he there for you, or is he suddenly "too
busy" to help you out?
All by themselves, any one of these scenarios might not prove anything,
but if you can detect a pattern of such behavior over a period of time,
there is a good chance you are being conned, even if money is not the
capital you're being conned out of.
One More Thing
If you've evaluated the possibilities above and think you might be the
victim of a con, but you still aren't sure, there is one more thing you
can do that may prove conclusive.
Whoever the con man (or woman) is, and whatever it is that he wants...
Just that. The next time he approaches you in need, simply say no.
And see what happens.
Nine times out of ten, the true con man will fly into a rage. How
dare you say no! Who do you think you are! After all he's done for
you! You've been friends for years, and he always thought you were
different! Now you're turning your back on him in his hour of
greatest need! What kind of friend are you! Who needs you! He never
wants to speak to you again!
Or some variation of the above. It may not be done in a shouting voice,
but the underlying reaction will be the same. YOU have let HIM down! YOU
are the ogre, the perpetrator, the bad guy! YOU should be ashamed of
If you get this reaction, or anything close to it...then you know. No
What you do after that is up to you. Make sure, before you take this
step, that you are willing to let the relationship end, because it
might. But the odds are that he'll be back again, next time he wants
Now...try it with your preacher.
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site,
or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
Back to Painful Truth menu
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2006 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.