Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Prosperity Gospel

According to the so-called "green" or prosperity gospel, God wants you to be rich. If you're poor, it's because you're not virtuous enough or pious enough or perhaps God just does not like you. Many critics have noted that this ostensibly Christian theology is diametrically opposed to the actual teachings of Jesus Christ, but the apparent contradiction seems not to bother the evangelists pushing it to their parishioners. And why should it? Green gospel pastors have airplanes, fancy cars, extravagant houses, and even private islands - you know, the personal tropical paradise that God needs them to have as a reward for spreading the good news. On the other hand, if this story out of Indiana represents the work of the almighty, he apparently doesn't care so much about trifling matters such as mortgage payments. The story concerns Steve Munsey, a green gospel pastor who looted so much money from his ministry that his church is now being foreclosed upon - even though Munsey himself is millionaire many times over.

As it turns out, the story is about Munsey’s church, Family Christian Center, which claims to have a weekly attendance of 15,000, making it one of the largest churches in the country. According to an investigation by the, a paper covering northwestern Indiana, the judge presiding over the foreclosure proceedings told attorneys in court, “When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded.” NWITimes reports that even as the church owed close to $100,000 a month in mortgage payments (not to mention mortgage payments on condos the church claimed to use for visiting clergy, and other unspecified bills in excess of half a million dollars), Munsey and his wife Melodye raked in “$2.9 million in total compensation from 2008 through 2011 from organizations connected to Family Christian Center, IRS records show.” In all, “The church annually spent $3.5 million in leadership compensation and had a $900,000 budget for travel and meals, a $500,000 housing allowance and $500,000 for jet fuel and other expenditures, according to the transcript. In 2010, the church paid $1 million for property in Illinois, the transcript states.” There’s more: an IRS investigation and tax liens, for starters.

What I find the most surprising about this story is that too many people apparently still haven't caught on that these "prosperity preachers" are almost universally corrupt. They spend all their time preaching about money because that's all they think about, and at the end of the day accumulating it is all that they want. Concern for the poor, one of the cornerstones of Jesus' teachings, falls by the wayside. After all, it gets in the way of the excessive salaries that let the leaders of these groups live like rock stars at the expense of not only everyone else but sometimes the very organizations that they rode to prominence in the first place. As I've mentioned many times before, a proper religion should be a system for producing spiritual experiences rather than a scheme to line some pastor's pocket.

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