The ads, offering a free Christian inspirational book entitled “Power for Living,” feature endorsements by such well known personalities as Olympic figure skating champion Janet Lynn, Nippon Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman and pianist Saki Kubota.
And they seem to be popping up everywhere these days.
“We suppose the total outlays for the campaign exceed 1 billion yen,” an advertising agency source tells Nikkan Gendai (Jan 30).
But that figure, the tabloid reports, is probably just a drop in the bucket as the assets of the organization offering the book, the West Palm Beach, Florida-based Arthur S DeMoss Foundation (founded in 1955) are said to exceed $400 million.
Is the foundation some sort of religious cult? Apparently not.
“The organization supports conservative Christian groups that oppose abortion and homosexuality and reject evolution,” says a U.S.-based journalist. “They also donate lots of money to affiliated organizations and attorneys, and it usually ranks among the top charitable donors in the U.S. The foundation itself has no particular dogma and doesn’t proselytize, so it definitely can’t be termed a cult. But it won’t accept any media interviews, so it comes across as being enveloped in a veil of secrecy.”
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The original book “Power for Living” appears to have been written by a Protestant minister as a “primer.” The Japanese-language edition also conveys to readers the Christian message that “God loves you.” Its contents also feature numerous testimonials by famous people.
“In the U.S., the foundation spent the equivalent of 3.3 billion yen in a six-month period, which was more than that spent on the presidential campaign at the time,” an unnamed source tells Nikkan Gendai. “Distribution in Germany began from 2001, but commercials for it were banned due to restrictions on propagation of philosophical and religious material. Some complaints did arise in Germany that the book offer constituted proselytizing by a new religion.
“In Japan, the TBS and Fuji networks declined to air the commercials,” the source adds. “Apparently skepticism remains about the foundation’s motives.”
When it’s all said and done, who ever heard of a religion that didn’t try to squeeze its believers for money — especially in Japan? No wonder Nikkan Gendai appears uncomfortable: the whole operation is just a bit too inscrutable for its tastes.