I am not a “tentmaker,” go away

Lately, I’ve been getting a flood of spam about “tentmaking”. It’s not what it sounds like — it’s an evangelical Christian term.

Today Tentmaking has taken on a much broader definition than just referring to the skill of making tents. A Tentmaker is a dedicated, spiritually mature Christian man or woman who views work in light of the Great Commission and as an opportunity to serve the Kingdom of God. Therefore, work is a vital aspect of Christian witness because it provides substantial means of developing relationships, credibility, and contexts for ministry.

That’s not me, to put it mildly. However, I’m seeing a bizarre angle in all the email I’m deleting, and here’s just one example.

I’ve got a bunch of these in the trash right now — the curious thing is that none of them talk about god or Jesus, although they do use words like “side-hustle” and making thousands of dollars per week in your spare time. I think Jesus is the side-hustle here.

I’ve snipped out the contact information, but if you’re really excited about the possibilities, contact me and I’ll let you know. By the way, the workshop will only cost you $497, although they drop hints about additional upgrades.

This is what Christianity has become — a grifter’s refuge.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    The chronicles state that prince Amelth -the template for the fictional Hamlet- killed his enemies by tangling them in a net and setting the house on fire.

    Substitute “tent” for “net” and you are in business.
    I would help you, but the cops don’t want me to leave the town.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says


    blockquote>This is what Christianity has become — a grifter’s refuge.



    Always has been.

  3. andywuk says

    I did some digging down this particular rabbit hole (curious and bored) and found that by the look of it their key to selling FB ads is to sell them to other churches and religious organisations with kick-backs.

    Or to put it another way, to me it looks very much like a pyramid scheme for fleecing even more of the faithful.

    I did not find this shocking.

  4. robro says

    This is what Christianity has become — a grifter’s refuge.

    As are some of the other “big” religions, including Christianity’s source cult (Judaism) and it’s sibling cult (Islam).

    By the way, wasn’t Mohammed supposedly a tentmaker? Are they spreading the gospel according to the Qur’an?

  5. Larry says

    The explanation of a tentmaker makes no sense to me. Why tentmaker? Why not a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker?

  6. Ed Seedhouse says

    PZ: “This is what Christianity has become — a grifter’s refuge”

    So, no change since about 300 C.E. then.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    @2 I forgot, my path of association was “tent”=”fibrous mass”=”net”.
    And this is the one practical application I could think of, as a means to remove grifters from society.
    Sometimes I am in such a hurry that I leave out a stage of thinking.
    Robro @ 7
    Muhammed the tent-maker (originally named Qutham) married an elderly widow as his main step upwards, after which he traded (including trading with slaves).
    Finally, as he graduated to warlord, caravan robber and religious scammer he switched to a more grandiose name to impress the rubes.
    Andywuk @ 5
    If they are into religious pyramids, why not go for the real thing? Declare yourself the son of the sun.

  8. mordred says

    OT: It seems archbishop Woelki of Cologne had his “tent” searched by the police. They were looking for documents that could prove he lied in court when he claimed not to have known about a certain child raping priest…

  9. mordred says

    The 1970s church my family used to go to was supposedly shaped to look like a tent because… some reason I seem to have forgotten.

    My grandfather claimed the massive concrete walls looked more like a U-Boot bunker.
    I just found it weird and ugly and unpleasantly cold and clammy in winter.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Larry @ # 8: Why tentmaker?

    Saul of Tarsus, later/better known as “Saint” Paul, started out as a tentmaker, per the New Testament.

    A search for “Mohammed tentmaker”, as suggested by Robro @ # 7 & birgerjohansson @ # 12, found nothing relevant.

  11. Allison says

    A search for “Mohammed tentmaker”,…

    Mohammad was a merchant, and did even better after marrying a successful businesswoman. (Wikipedia)

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Pierce Butler @ 15
    I am covered in shame! I have perpetuated a faulty meme, like a goddamn Republican. Any time now, I might claim water drains out of Australian bathtubs in the opposite direction from northern bathtubs.

    ” $ 497 ”
    Amateurs. Real grifters go up to one million.

  13. jsrtheta says

    Remember when “hustling” was a BAD thing?

    A “hustler” was a crook, a scammer, someone who took your money and disappeared, leaving you with phony dope or swampland in Florida.

    It’s apt here, but not too subtle. Scamming for Jesus!

  14. says

    Tentmakers, what a weird term. They push that to mean ‘spiritually mature Christian man or woman. . to serve the Kingdom of God’. Poorly thought out imagery. Tents are the most ephemeral of structures and provide very little substantial shelter. There is also a contemporary sexual reference to ‘making a tent’ that I won’t even elucidate. And, the reference to a ‘free 5-day workshop’ that costs $497 is just another clear sign of how dishonest these xtian terrorists are. I prefer Monty Python’s ‘spam’ to all this schmutz that PZ has to weed through.

  15. StevoR says

    Meh, he’s just canvassing his options.. with maybe a side of (tent) peggin’..

    Yeah, I’ll see myself out..

  16. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Wikipedia – Sisera, Biblical account

    Jael brought him into her tent with apparent hospitality and gave him milk. Jael promised to hide Sisera and covered him with a rug; but after he fell asleep, she drove a tent peg through his temple with a mallet, her blow being so forceful that the peg pinned his head to the ground.

  17. evodevo says

    #15 has the right answer…Saul (later Paul) came from a family of tentmakers…ALSO all that stuff in the Old Testament about Tabernacles influences talibangelical/fundie theology…

  18. raven says

    In his childhood and youth, Paul learned how to “work with [his] own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). His trade, tent making, which he continued to practice after his conversion to Christianity, helps to explain important aspects of his apostleship. He could travel with a few leather-working tools and set up shop anywhere.Apr 25, 2023

    Saint Paul the Apostle | Biography & Facts | Britannica

    Yeah, the tentmaking reference is about Paul, one of the main founders of xianity.

    Paul mentions in several places that he is a tentmaker.
    A tentmaker is a portable job that you can do any where.
    The point is that Paul supported himself in his travels by working and sets an example.
    The early xians were supposed to keep working rather than sit around and wait for jesus to come back any day now and create paradise on earth.

    Which, strangely enough considering it is the bible, turned out to be good advice. It’s now 2,000 years later and jesus still hasn’t shown up.

  19. Tethys says

    Tent Revivals are pretty common among olde tymey religious groups.

    Tent revivals, also known as tent meetings, are a gathering of Christian worshipers in a tent erected specifically for revival meetings, evangelism, and healing crusades. Tent revivals have had both local and national ministries.


  20. drsteve says

    Screw Saul of Tarsus and the donkey Jesus road in on. I’m proud to say as a recovering Catholic that now I’ve achieved such spiritual immaturity that I can’t hear the phrase tent-making without immediately thinking of boners [imagine end credits of Superbad playing on endless loop].

  21. strangerinastrangeland says

    “… the curious thing is that none of them talk about god or Jesus,”

    But they do, they talk about their god: Money.

  22. jrvannorman says

    Ummm, at 65 I thought my best tent-making occurred in the early morning and was best shuffled of so I could pee.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Robro @:19
    There is some islamic scholar in Egypt (A true believer, no less) who found it in the written sources but I do not recall his name.

    Qutham means approximately “orphan”, as he grew up wirhout his parents, that part seems legit. And it would not have made sense to call an orphan “the blessed” (muhammed) until he did a lot of social climbing.

    While I find the theology (And the person of muhammed) distasteful, I would not deliberately spread disinformation, I read even some muslims in Internet referring to the name issue. But this does not guarantee it is correct. So much from the earliest years is buried under lies and speculation.

  24. Oggie: Mathom says

    My mind immediately went to ‘building a bigger tent means being more inclusive.’ Of course, with the Christian aspect, now I am thinking along the lines of thinking along the lines of building a tent so we know who is in with us, and who are the evil ones outside the tent. Never thought of it as a grift, though.

  25. says

    …Therefore, work is a vital aspect of Christian witness because it provides substantial means of developing relationships, credibility, and contexts for ministry.

    In other words, they’re admitting that they do decent or productive work ONLY to make themselves look a little more credible when they start blithering about their imaginary bestie and how much he hates queers.

    Do not delete this email, PZ, this could well be the most honest spam email you ever get (even if unintentionally so)!

  26. Oggie: Mathom says

    Raging Bee:

    Well, all but the first. No way is Christianity all about being more inclusive (except for a few liberal sects (UU for instance), but I don’t think the SBs even consider Unitarians to be Christians.

  27. Pierce R. Butler says

    Oggie… @ # 41: … all but the first.

    Most christians do want to be inclusive – via the processes of conversion (and imperialism, though few cop to that any more).

    … I don’t think the SBs even consider Unitarians to be Christians.

    Most Unitarians (of my acquaintance, anyway) don’t consider themselves that, either.

    Speaking of Unitarians, the local congregation here needs a new pastor. They were pretty happy with the one they had – whom they just lost because the national Unitarian Universalist office recently told all its transgender clergy to leave Florida forthwith.

  28. brightmoon says

    Genesis – Jesus He Knows Me . , great song . Every time I bump into one of these “storefront preachers/con artists, I get that earworm