Monday, September 27, 2010

What's with these pastors abusing their flocks?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 2:30 PM

We've got preachers threatening to burn books for attention, siphoning cash from the collection plate and priests abusing young boys. And, now, we've Bishop Eddie Long, who is accused of talking young men into diddling themselves and playing homosexual roles all while reading them Bible versus meant to convince them that they're not gay. (P.S. Long is an anti-gay rights campaigner.)

The real amazing part is these folks are funded by their congregations. Week after week people put their hard-earned money in the collection plate and, in many cases — especially at mega churches around the country, watch their pastors drive off in ultra-expensive cars, wearing $5,000 suits with bling-bling on their hands, wrists, necks and ears. Maybe that's why they need bodyguards.

Listen, folks: It's important that we understand who and what we're giving money to, because, as we all know, money equals power in our society. And, I'm not just talking about churches here. Before you sign your check, do a little digging. Are the organizations you're helping fund using your money in ways you deem appropriate? Do you feel good about the organization's mission and, more importantly, their accomplishments?

Of course, Charlotte's not the only city that breeds crooked pastors — though we've got more than our fair share apparently. Remember the Bakkers? You can still visit their crumbling dynasty in Fort Mill if you need to remind yourself that God won't swoop in to save you just because you've managed to snow the most people and collect the most money. We live in a society that operates on laws. If you break them, ideally, you go to jail, irrespective of your job title.

I mean, look at this video (below). Where in the Bible did anyone suggest sparkly clothing and jewelry will get you closer to God? How 'bout giant stages? When did having a television program equal success for a preacher, and why do they need record labels or giant compounds? When did religion become a business? Is this what Jesus would do?

I'm serious. When did religion become a business? This is an important question because churches and pastors enjoy special privileges under the IRS' tax code. It's all part of the whole separation of church and state deal. If churches want to operate as businesses, that's fine with me, but I think they should then adhere to the same rules as other businesses. And, here's another question for you: Are the tax privileges meant to help define the line between church and state attracting crooks?

At some point we have have to look beyond the glitz and the glamor and decide what spirituality is really about for you, as an individual. If spirituality and prosperity are one and the same for you, that's cool. But, at least ask yourself the question. And, look around your sanctuary. Would it make Jesus, a poor carpenter, proud? Are you sure?

Here's the Bakkers trying to sell records:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. Additionally, she's on the steering committee for the Greater Charlotte Society of Professional Journalists. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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