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BONUS: This Goes All the Way to the Top

BONUS: This Goes All the Way to the Top

People as diverse as Kamala Harris and Donald Trump support multi-level marketing

Multi-level marketing companies have very powerful friends. Here is a list of some of the well-connected people tied to MLMs:

  • Vice President Kamala Harris
  • Former President Donald Trump
  • Mitt Romney
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • The former head of the Chamber of Commerce
  • and many more

How is it that a business model where over 99% of the people involved will lose money is still legal? The answer is in the list.

My guest today is Robert FitzPatrick from Pyramidschemealert.org. His excellent book is Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing.

Helpful links:

  • A New York Times article about Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff’s involvement with Herbalife
  • A second NYT article about Harris and Emhoff
  • A Washington Post article about President Trump’s “Trump Network” MLM
  • A fascinating piece by Time about Herbalife
  • The Washinton Post about Mitt Romney’s involvement with NuSkin
  • Interesting Last Week Tonight episode about MLMs (contains strong language)
S4:E10 The Hidden History of Multi-Level Marketing

S4:E10 The Hidden History of Multi-Level Marketing

The story of how pyramid schemes came to effect 1 in 6 American households

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a relatively new invention. It was created when a failed vitamin salesman named Carl Rehnborg was out of options. So his wife suggested that he attend a rally by Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Once there, he formed a bond that created one of the most profitable predatory financial traps in modern history: multi-level marketing. One that found its legs… in the world of cemetery plots.

Our guest in this episode is Robert FitzPatrick. He’s the founder of PyramidSchemeAlert.org, a non-profit that tells the truth about pyramid schemes. He’s also the author of the excellent book Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you know someone who sells for an MLM?
  • Have you ever sold for an MLM?
  • Do you think they should be legal?
  • What is market saturation and how does it impact salespeople?
  • Have you ever bought an item that you didn’t need just because the salesperson was so good?
  • What can you do to show MLMs for what they are?
  • Has anyone at your church ever tried to sell you on an MLM?
  • How can tying a bad business practice impact how people see Jesus?

Helpful Links:

S4:E9 How Do Pyramid Schemes Work?

S4:E9 How Do Pyramid Schemes Work?

How do pyramid schemes work and what is multi-level marketing?

What is multi-level marketing? It is a very popular business model that targets Christians and other people of faith. But… it is almost guaranteed to fail. Because MLM’s and direct sales companies are not designed to sell a product but to sell the business itself. Joining us for this episode is Robert Fitzpatrick. He’s the president of Pyramid Scheme Alert and the author of the new book “Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing“.

Also mentioned in the episode is the podcast The Dream. Season one talks in great detail about pyramid schemes. Please be aware that some of the episodes use strong language.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • What is multi-level marketing?
  • What is a pyramid scheme?
  • What is a Ponzi scheme?
  • Who are Ponzi schemes named after?
  • Who was Charles Ponzi?
  • Is multi-level marketing the same thing as a pyramid scheme?
  • What is the difference between a pyramid scheme and multi-level marketing and a Ponzi scheme?
  • What is a good book about pyramid schemes?
  • Will I lose money with multi-level marketing?
  • Is Amway considered multi-level marketing?
  • Is Herbalife multi-level marketing?
  • Do pyramid schemes target Christians?
  • Should I join an MLM?
  • Which MLM should I join?

Looking for the Amway stats we mentioned? You can find them here: https://pyramidschemealert.org/half-of-amways-products-are-retailed-really-plus-other-wacky-numbers-3/

S4:E8 Can I Still Love the Church?

S4:E8 Can I Still Love the Church?

Can Christians love the Church in an era of deconstruction, politics, COVID, and BLM?

So many Christians are angry at the Church. Not just the Church but their local churches as well. Can Christians love the Church in an era of deconstruction, politics, COVID, and BLM? Producer Chris Staron decided to take a look inside one small congregation to see how Black Lives Matter, COVID, the 2020 Presidential Election, and more have impacted one community. How are people in Jackson, Wyoming responding in a time of dissension and deconstruction in the body of Christ?

Special thanks to Ray McDaniel and Karl Klemmer for talking with Chris for this interview.

Helpful Links:

Discussion Questions:

  • How have the last few years changed your ideas about the global Church?
  • How have they changed your ideas of your local church?
  • How would you respond if you were the pastor of a local church today and your congregation wanted you to pick a political side?
  • Should pastors speak about politics from the pulpit?
  • Why do we put so much emphasis on messages from the pulpit and discount the ability for congregants to have meaningful conversations on their own?
  • Are you deconstructing your faith? What does that term mean to you?
  • If you are deconstructing your faith, have you removed the local church? The Bible? If so, how has that impacted your faith?
  • Are you open to people who have different opinions? How do you interact with those people? Is it in person?
  • Do you have friends with different opinions than you? How can you get some if you don’t?
  • Do you see the Church as a “we” and “us” or as a “them”? Why?
S4:E7 100th Episode!

S4:E7 100th Episode!

Melvin Benson of the Cinematic Doctrine podcast asks Chris Staron about the Truce Podcast

Truce usually uses research, music, sound effects, and expert interviews to tell complicated stories about the Christian Church. We’ve made something like 100 episodes! Our listeners recommended that we celebrate by asking Chris questions submitted by audience members.

Special thanks to Melvin Benson of the Cinematic Doctrine podcast for asking the questions!

S4:E6 Is It A Sin to Be Wealthy?

S4:E6 Is It A Sin to Be Wealthy?

What the richest town in the United States can teach us about the rich young ruler and the potential evils of wealth

Jackson, Wyoming is a small tourist town in the middle of nowhere. It is just a few miles south of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Millions of people pass through each year as tourists. It’s a vacation hotspot. But for those who choose to stay in this region, Teton County is anything but a vacation. Rising income inequality and housing costs have created a hostile environment for working people. The median home price in Jackson went up 47% in 2020 alone, rising to $2.2 million while wages remain stagnant.

We’ve been talking for the last few episodes about myths of the American West, how cowboy myths about a lone rugged individual have shaped the US. Now it’s time to understand how cowboy myths have impacted American Christianity.

Our guest today is Justin Farrell. He’s a sociologist and professor at Yale. His book is Billionaire Wilderness. In it, Farrell recounts his studies of the ultra-wealthy. What makes them tick? What are they afraid of? Why do they dress the way they do? And what draws them to the far western border of Wyoming?

Discussion Questions:

  • Read the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27). What do you think of Jesus’ warning about wealthy people entering the kingdom of God?
  • Many of the tax avoidance practices discussed in this series are legal (except pretending to live in one place while living in another). Do you think that legality and morality are tied together?
  • Are these practices moral?
  • What types of friction do you experience in your own life?
  • How would more money change the level of friction you encounter?
  • How would less money change the level of friction you encounter?
  • Do you think that friction is a valuable thing to pay attention to in our lives?
  • What is the role of empathy in a Christian’s life?
  • How do you use money to benefit yourself as opposed to others?

Helpful Links: