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Insane Coin Offerings: Cryptography Meets Christ

This article is the first in a series about the most absurd Initial Coin Offerings and is written for a general audience. YMB does not suggest that every ICO is fraudulent, but in the words of Matt Levine, “…like 90-plus percent of ICOs are bad.” Please watch Giacomo Zucco explain why ICOs are all but categorically fraudulent financial instruments. Ditto for this announcement from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Enjoy!

From Johann Tetzel to Joel Osteen, history shows that mixing money and religion rarely ends well. Cryptocurrency, the newest generation of money, promises an escape from this storied past (along with political and corporate influences) by decentralizing the production of and disintermediating the exchange of money. But cryptographic money is still pervious to the wiles of religious figures attracted to the newfangled alchemy of “magic internet money” via Initial Coin Offerings.

Case in point: Christ Coin.

On October 2, a team of “Christian entrepreneurs” launched a “groundbreaking” cryptocurrency to “connect people to Christianity and the mission of God on a global scale.” In a white paper ostensibly written by a seventh grader, Life Change – the organization behind the coin – explains how the ERC20-compliant Christ Coin is “different than any existing platform” and allows everyone to “partake in Jesus’ mandate,” presumably referring to the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew.

Life Change produced a unique explanatory video hoping to persuade any Doubting Thomases. And Co-founder Luke Fortsmann summarizes, “The overarching benefits of the Life Change Platform truly go beyond what people would typically think when talking about finance and economics.” Exactly where these overarching benefits truly go is unclear.

But no one needs to spend a single millibit to get Christ Coins because Life Change “offers financial rewards to the faithful.” Think of it as a reverse indulgence. Instead of paying for salvation, participants are paid for salvatory (or just churchy) behavior. Organizing Bible studies, attending church, streaming Christian music, interacting with Christian social media content, and creating wallets for Christ Coin tithes are all rewarded with Christ Coins. (Does God have an altcoin wallet?)

The Christ Coin project, unable to imitate its namesake, is quite the opposite of flawless. The most amusing error is a claim found in the white paper (and subsequently promulgated by a variety of obscure Christian news outlets) to be “the world’s first Christian cryptocurrency.”

It isn’t.

On September 12, an unknown group of friends launched Jesus Coin, preceding Christ Coin by three weeks (an eternity in cryptocurrency time). Jesus Coin claims to “decentralize Jesus on the blockchain” while “working to speed up entry to Heaven, decentralize the church and improve P2P (pilgrim-to-pilgrim) transaction time.” Their white paper – an entertaining piece of sacrilegious satire – boasts, “Jesus Coin has the unique advantage of providing global access to Jesus as it makes getting closer to Jesus safer and faster due to the use of blockchain technology, somehow.”

But it gets better.

The Jesus Coin white paper suggests that “Jesus would be pumped about having his own coin” but fails to mention if Jesus can even use it. In response to the FAQ “Is this whole thing a joke?” Jesus Coin responds, “Christianity has survived 2000 years so if it’s a joke, it’s a good one.” And after referring to Bitcoin as “Satancoin,” the white paper warns, “If you don’t use Jesus Coin as your primary digital currency, you’re barely even Christian.”

Regardless of which coin is the inaugural Christian cryptocurrency, the Christ Coin ICO is a disaster compared to its snarky counterpart. At the time of writing, Christ Coin ICO contributions total 4 ETH. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed reports that Jesus Coin is a multibillion-dollar project after receiving over 203 ETH. (Say your prayers because the SEC will come knocking.) Writing about Jesus Coin, Forbes contributor Shannara Johnson says “it’s impossible not to think that it’s a hoax.” But that was precisely my reaction to Christ Coin, not Jesus Coin.

Critically, Jesus Coin is as self-aware as it is irreverent. (Just watch their explanatory video.) Jesus Coin’s trustee is Judas Iscariot, for example, and customer service is managed by Jesus’ Donkey, according to their website. Facetious and a bit on the nose? Certainly. Anything more than a “dumb joke“? Absolutely not.

But Christ Coin is completely, honest-to-God sincere. And this is when things get sad. (Note: Jesus is known to have had precious little patience for sleazy money-grubbers.) In a recent blog post titled “Support a Child in Africa Without Spending Your Hard-Earned Money,” Life Change tells readers to buy or earn Christ Coins to “help people suffering from extreme poverty […] without having to make personal resource commitments.” The very next line asserts: “If it sounds too good to be true, it is not!”

No, it is. In the words of a former-presidential candidate: “Delete your account.”

Anyone interested in truly giving up all their earthly wealth should certainly buy Christ Coin (cue needles and camel eyes). But questions and concerns (e.g. Why does a religion need a proprietary currency?) will outnumber contributions to Christ Coin for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the unrelenting Christ Coin ICO has been extended through December because, “such a grand vision […] has not hitherto been attempted with this type of model,” according to Life Change.

I guess God’s work needs more than 4 ETH.

Disclosure: The author doesn’t own any Jesus Coin or Christ Coin. But he derived an inappropriate amount of pleasure from reading the Jesus Coin white paper.

Follow @zackvoell on Twitter.

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