In the 1990's my wife and I had three young children and we were in financial trouble; my income as an artist was very inconsistent. We were invited to become Amway distributors by a family member who knew we were the kind of "go-getters" who could really "make things happen."
I was very skeptical at first, but I eventually gave in to the promise of "multiple streams of residual income." In the late 1990's we heard (and fell for) "The Dream Destiny Thingy." This is years before it crept into (and devoured) much of the church. It's a bunch of assumptions that go something like this:
"God brought you here today for a reason; it's not an accident that you're in this meeting today. The reason you're struggling financially is because you don't have a dream-it's not because you don't have money! Once you have a big enough dream, the money will follow. Amway is just the business vehicle; this is really about changing people's lives by getting them to pursue their dreams."
They would pray in the meetings like this:
"Thank you God that you've given each of us the ability to dream. Help us to chase our dreams, discover our destiny and make a real difference in people's lives. In Jesus name, Amen."
We were taught about the power of using the right words to speak things into existence. We had to be positive-all the time-because being negative would attract negative results.
Large Amway conventions are the ultimate gig for motivational speakers and other performers, and most of the really big guns were there, helping to prop up the illusion that Amway was a great opportunity for anyone willing to work hard and stick to it. Zig Ziglar, Robert Kiyosaki, John Maxwell and other big name speakers have all done the Amway gig; people would even write books praising the Amway opportunity because they knew thousands of distributors would buy them; it was a built-in audience of niche consumers. I tried not to notice how none of these people making money by praising Amway actually joined up and became Amway distributors themselves.
But the best speakers in the Amway business weren't the "professional" speakers, they were the "regular folks" who worked hard and had made it to the level of Diamond (or higher). These "regular folks" would convince the socks off of anyone that you could make it happen! "You just need to really buy into the system and do everything your leaders tell you to do-your success is guaranteed!" "If your dream is big enough, the facts don't count!" The most convincing Diamond speakers would come from another organization and speak at your meeting to help you grow your business. "Wow, these people are so nice and giving of their time" you would think. Plus, they would always start by praising your leaders and telling you how lucky you were to have the leadership that you had in your own organization.
Eventually, I learned that all of these diamond (and above) speakers were getting giant speaking fees. They weren't giving their time, they were selling their time. If you were getting $10,000 for an hour and a half speech, do you think you could praise whoever was writing your check? On top of the very convincing speakers, they had amazing videos with powerful music and emotionally charged stories to tear at your heartstrings. The use of multimedia was incredibly effective-especially in a stadium full of like-minded people who all believed.
We were even told that if you went to the next big meeting it "would really build up your belief." A more honest way of saying it would be "if you go to this big meeting you'll be convinced to stick around long enough for us to make money off of you for a little while longer, because you'll be emotionally convinced that this business is great!"
This Isn't a Dream, It's a Nightmare!
In short, we spent 4 years trying to build an Amway business and lost about $40,000 in the process. We did everything we were supposed to do-everything!
I know all about mind control techniques because I experienced them first hand. I know what it's like to be emotionally manipulated because I experienced it first hand. I know about turning the Christian faith into a vehicle that promises to make your dreams come true because I experienced it first hand. On top of all that, we started going to a large "positive confession" charismatic church as a result of this new outlook on our faith. We prayed and prayed and prayed... and prayed: "God please help us build this great business so we can be financially free and help others..."
But God didn't answer. We had to figure out the hard way that we were being scammed.
You see, in most Amway businesses, all of the emphasis is on "the system," which had 3 components (called "tools"): Books, CDs and Functions. We would buy and read the positive self-help type books (a new one every month); we would buy and listen to a motivational CD every week (or more if you were really committed like us), and we would buy a ticket to a different function every single month.
No matter what.
This is how they could build such large and compliant organizations. This is simply a type of thought-control. Some of the teaching was actually decent business/success type material, but overall, the system kept people in the business and in the dark. Sure there were always people quitting, but there were always new people to replace the quitters. And there was tremendous profit to be made on each and every book, CD and ticket; that's where the upline distributors were making most of their money. It was all in secret and a lot of it was cash under the table, so these hucksters weren't even paying tax on all their income. After the internet became popular, Amway's seedy underbelly couldn't hide so easily, and it has never gotten back to its original multi-billion dollar American heyday (much of Amway's growth has been in foreign countries in the past 15 years).
The Evangelical Industrial Complex has copied many of the very things that have "worked" so well in Amway:
Tell people that Christianity is all about getting your Dreams and realizing your Destiny. Check.
Tell people that having lots of money is a good thing that God wants for you (so you can help others, of course). Check.
Tell people to only listen to positive messages about success and prosperity. Check.
Tell people that they can speak things into existence because words have power. Check.
People continually quitting and leaving, but they get replaced by new and different people just as fast. Check.
Get people to "experience life change" by learning self-help and relationship-building techniques. Check.
The guy on the stage is making money off the people in the seats. Check.
The guy on the stage is promising you things you'll never actually get (in the name of God). Check.
After you don't get what you were promised you're told to have more faith and try harder (and buy the latest book). Check.
The visiting speaker (pastor) praises the local leader (pastor) and gets a fat speaking fee (plus sells his books in the lobby). Check. (handy tip: It's not a speaker fee if it comes from a "free-will offering")
Use music, lights and multimedia/video to emotionally manipulate like-minded people who desperately want to believe. Check.
Wait a minute, is this Amway or a Mega-Church we're talking about??
It's the SAME DAMNED (literally) THING!
FYI, Here is an excellent website with details about the Amway tool scam:
Also, just to be clear, I have no ill feelings towards those in my upline who were taken in by this "business" -and who probably lost more money than I did. God help us all. -Steven Kozar