Strange Revelations: The Philly Hate Preacher Who Wants to Save Your Soul
How a currency-trading fraudster named Aden Rusfeldt became the leader of a secretive religious sect.
You wouldn’t exactly expect a fight to break out when you take your kids to Chestnut Hill’s immensely popular Harry Potter Festival. But when street preacher Pastor Aden Rusfeldt shows up, as he did at the most recent installment in August, all bets are off.
At the event, Pastor Aden, a 40-year-old recent Philly transplant, first leads his flock in tormenting crowd members over their celebration of a fictional boy deeply immersed in witchcraft. Then, inevitably for him, his righteous fury turns toward gays, as seen in a video recorded by one of his ever-present cameras.
“Homos have a higher suicide rate than normal people,” he declares, pointing at a pony-tailed man standing nearby in a purple cloak. “This guy here admitted to being a homo. Pony-tail boy right here.”
A moment later, another man tells Pastor Aden, “You’re going to have to leave.” Then, immediately, the man grabs Pastor Aden and a struggle ensues. “I will fucking kill you,” he tells Pastor Aden as he attempts to physically remove him from the corner, seconds before the video cuts off.
Yes, just another day in the life of Pastor Aden Rusfeldt.
A few years ago, we probably wouldn’t have paid him much mind, the same way we’ve ignored the publicity-seeking antics of Westboro Baptist Church members. But almost overnight, America has changed. The last presidential campaign brought the worst of the worst out of our country — apparently in both human and bot form — and as a result, we’ve recognized just how dangerous such rhetoric can be.
In Pastor Aden’s world, gays are “homos” and “fudge-packers.” Young women walking by are called “whores” because of how they look in their yoga pants. Others are told they belong home, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Muslims worship a “wicked sandbox pedophile.” The list goes on and on. People who drink. People who masturbate. Lesbians. All wicked. All destined for hell. All targets for Pastor Aden.
“There are millions of ‘Christians’ in America,” Pastor Aden tells me. “But we’re the only ones who actually come out and say this vocally: God doesn’t accept drunkards or Mormons or homos or Muslims. And so I’m here to save your soul.”
And Pastor Aden knows what it’s like have your soul saved. He, too, used to be a seemingly hopeless sinner. Pastor Aden had sex before marriage. He used to drink heavily. He polluted his body with marijuana.
That’s the stuff that Pastor Aden tells you about when he gives you his “testimony,” as Christians call it — the story of their salvation.
But he leaves some stuff off of that list.
Pastor Aden has been fined millions of dollars by the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission over investment schemes he ran as far back as 2005 and as recently as 2015. According to the government, he was known as “Big A” to many of the people whose money he took. The CFTC found that he “defrauded customers.”
And a few weeks ago, the Internal Revenue Service filed an $800,000-plus federal income tax lien against Pastor Aden and his wife in Bucks County, where they may or may not live.
“I was a sinner on the way to Hell,” says Pastor Aden when I ask him about the investment fraud case. “Real men admit it when they are wrong.”
“You Can’t Spell Santa Without Satan”
Chances are you’ve seen Pastor Aden and his small group of sign-carrying, megaphone-holding followers on the streets of Philadelphia over the last year or so.
Pastor Aden says that God called him here to plant a church and points out that the Church of Philadelphia (but not this Philadelphia) figures prominently into the Book of Revelation, which is, of course all about the End Times. The Key of David — the name of his fledgling ministry — is also important in that last book of the Bible.
But Pastor Aden is quick to point out that he’s not one of those preachers, who say that they know when the world will end. He calls them “false prophets.”
“I don’t set dates,” he says. “But God is going to let America get judged.”
On Sundays, he and the members of the church meet at an undisclosed location. They used to be in South Philadelphia on, yes, Christian Street, but had to flee for the suburbs once the locals caught on to what Pastor Aden was all about. It got too “hot,” as Pastor Aden puts it.
So now they rent space somewhere just north of city limits, he says. It’s the only church in the area that I’m aware of that doesn’t advertise its address, and Pastor Aden will only give you the exact location after you’ve undergone a thorough vetting.
But that’s just Sundays.
The other days are when Pastor Aden and his crew take to the streets, usually opting for the most high-profile locations and events he can find.
Last week, Pastor Aden was seen preaching at the Villanova basketball parade in Center City. And because Villanova is a Catholic university, Pastor Aden’s message was that the Pope supports pedophilia. Well, and that Catholics are going to Hell.
The church turned out for the Eagles Super Bowl parade, and they had a special banner made up proclaiming that Tom Brady was destined for eternal damnation. They were at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. They’ve protested — or preached, as Pastor Aden refers to it — at big, outdoor LGBT events. They’ve stood outside bars to preach against drunkenness.
I first saw Pastor Aden do his thing outside of City Hall just before Christmas. The target that day: Santa Claus. Or, more accurately, people who believe in Santa Claus.
Pastor Aden and his church members passed the megaphone around and spewed their best anti-Santa rhetoric. As families with young children walked by on their way to the ice rink at City Hall and the light show at Macy’s, group members declared that Santa is a lie. “You can”t spell ‘Santa’ without ‘Satan,’” said one.
And then the “sermon” skewed off-message. Homos. Muslims. Whores. Kids from the church got on the megaphone to say things to passersby that you’d be positively horrified to hear come out of your own child’s mouth. And other grownup members speak, too.
“They preach harder than Pastor Aden,” he told a group of onlookers last year. “I preach like PG-13. They preach rated R. Oh yeah.”
Body Cameras Required
I’ve seen some street preachers in my days, but Pastor Aden is the only one I’ve seen wearing a body camera. There’s also usually an HD videocamera on a tripod nearby, capturing his sermons and the reactions to them, some of which turn violent, like the one in Chestnut Hill.
Death threats aren’t uncommon.
At another Philly preaching event last year outside Spruce Street Harbor Park, also captured on video, a young man went after Pastor Aden. He hands his glasses to a friend and then rushes Pastor Aden, pushing him hard in the chest. After falling backward, Pastor Aden tells him he forgives him. The man says he doesn’t forgive Pastor Aden, then spits on him and adds that Pastor Aden will go to Hell once he kills him. Security breaks the whole thing up.
More recently, things got a little heated at the Villanova basketball parade, the one where Pastor Aden was telling everybody that the Pope supports pedophilia.
“They were not too happy to see us,” Pastor Aden says of the parade attendees. “Bike cops had to surround us on that one.”
Pastor Aden says he always alerts the Philly police when he’s heading into town. After all, he has a First Amendment right to stand out on the streets and say terrible things to people, and the police are duty-bound to make sure nothing bad happens to him. That’s just America.
At the anti-Santa preach at City Hall last December, several members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Civil Affairs division stood nearby during the entire event. One man got in Pastor Aden’s face. Another blew smoke in it. Lots of people cursed at him. One guy threatened to follow him home. But, at the end of the day, no one wound up in handcuffs.
But Pastor Aden has been subject to charges stemming from his preaching.
In 2016, he pleaded guilty to violating the noise disturbance ordinance in West Chester. In May 2017, Pastor Aden was charged with ethnic intimidation, harassment, and other offenses in Montgomery County. According to a Pennsylvania State Police report, Pastor Aden was allegedly outside of a Buddhist Temple in Salford Township in his Ford Expedition, using his megaphone to verbally attack worshippers and a Buddhist nun over their religion and perceived national original.
“Go back to China,” he’s accused of telling them. “Go back to China. I am warning you. Buddha does not love you. Jesus loves you.”
According to the criminal complaint in the case, members of the temple told Pastor Aden to leave and that he was trespassing. “I am not trespassing,” he allegedly responded. “I am just driving through my country. You are trespassing on God.”
Pastor Aden insists he didn’t break any laws in Montgomery County. “I believe the case will get thrown out,” he predicts.
There was also a case in Northampton County. He pleaded guilty to a noise violation — that damned megaphone — while he was found not guilty of disorderly conduct and harassment. And there’s an ongoing trespass case in Allegheny County. Pastor Aden says he’ll come out the victor there.
“Paul got arrested lots of times,” Pastor Aden tells me. “Peter got arrested. You learn and you grow.”
The Lord Gives Him Comebacks
Pastor Aden’s background is a little murky.
When I ask him for his bio, he says that he grew up in Sacramento, was “radically saved” at the age of 21, moved to Houston when he was 24, met his wife, Mary, at a bible college, wound up in Arizona, and at some point was a semi-professional snowboarder.
In fact, he sent me a snowboarding video:
Pastor Aden has four step-children with Mary, who also preaches at the events along with some of the kids, and they have two younger daughters together who don’t preach. At least not yet.
Pastor Aden says little else about his past — he used to be a sinner, his soul was saved, he at some point backslid, and, well, here we are today.
I ask him for a list of family members or friends who aren’t involved in the church, so that I can talk to them. I never get a list. And I try to connect with members of his church, but none ever grant me an interview.
There’s a large portion of his life that he doesn’t like delving into: His time in the investment business.
According to a settlement agreement that Pastor Aden reached with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2008, he — through his companies Rusfeldt Investments LLP and Currency Trading Made Easy and a now-defunct website, easytrading.biz — sold online courses on currency trading and also managed customers’ money in the currency trading market. (The CFTC regulates currency trading as well as commodities trading.)
“Once learned, it is like a money tree planted in your yard that produces hundred dollar bills every day,” one of his ads for Currency Trading Made Easy declared. But you had to act fast! More from the ad: “[This] information is so powerful and accurate that I don’t want to have to support too many people with it. That is why I am limiting this part of the offer to the next 60 clients.”
On the investment side, he promised his hundreds of customers big returns. Many lost a lot of money instead. As part of that settlement agreement in 2008, Pastor Aden, who was living in Texas at the time, agreed to pay $1.9 million in restitution to his customers and $300,000 in fines, plus interest. And he was barred from ever participating in any way in the commodities market again.
But Pastor Aden didn’t stay out of the market. Far from it.
In 2016, the CFTC again reached a settlement with him. This time, he was known as “Big A” and living in Arizona selling commodities market services and educational products through his new company, ETF Trend Trading. The CFTC found that he “fraudulently” failed to tell his more than 500 customers that he wasn’t allowed to be anywhere near the commodities market, and they ordered him to pay $2.2 million in restitution and $980,000 in penalties.
On top of all that, there’s the $800,000 IRS lien against him and his wife, filed in Bucks County in March.
Pastor Aden says that the second CFTC investigation was a “witch hunt” but admits to violating the original settlement agreement.
“I did break the order,” he says. “But I should have never agreed to those stipulations. I had a bad attorney.”
He says that he’s been trying to pay off the CFTC fines and restitution amounts — “it might take me five years or ten years” — and that he’s in negotiations with the IRS.
“I’m a businessman, and I did things like Donald Trump did them,” he explains. (By the way, Pastor Aden says that Trump is going to Hell but that he did vote for him.) “The IRS hates Donald Trump. But he did it in a structured way, and then he turned things around. I’m not the only business owner on the planet who has paid his taxes late.”
Speaking of Trump, Pastor Aden recently sent me a photo of himself with Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons. “When I used to give motivation speeches and teach stock trading, I once shared the stage with this guy,” he wrote.
It was around the time of the 2016 CFTC order that Pastor Aden and family wound up in the Philadelphia area. Their most recent address, according to court records, was in Quakertown — on an estate with more than 15 acres. But he says that he just moved to another property. He won’t say where.
He also won’t say how he earns a living but claims to be a partner in a tech company “with a good valuation.” He notes that there is no offering plate passed around at his church. A background check reveals connections to a variety of business entities, including a company that sold testosterone, another that has marketed face creams, tanning salons, and an LLC called Matthew 24 Mentor. Matthew 24 is another name that has been associated with Pastor Aden’s ministries.
One person acquainted with someone who has been involved with the Key of David church told me that they were concerned, that a lot of what Pastor Aden does “seems like a cult.” The crazy preaching events. The talk about Revelation. That person also said that they heard that Pastor Aden was building a compound in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
When I mentioned all of this to him, Pastor Aden called the notion of him building a cult compound “silly.” And he said that the person I spoke with clearly had never visited his church.
Later, I got a text message from him:
“Oh, and cults invite people to church and we don’t :) lol,” Pastor Aden wrote. “I just thought of that. The Lord gives me comebacks.”