Experience has taught me that most people who elevate themselves above the common good, or above their initial intentions and goals, often have ulterior motives.
You see it over and over again with politicians who taste power and then use it for personal greed. You see it with athletes or movie stars who think fame affords them the right to do what they want
But where it really pains me the most to see, and what inevitably leads to several of my rants, is when it happens in regard to religion.
There are so many places in life where quick-rich schemes exist. If you are sophisticated enough, it probably isn’t that difficult to bilk elderly people out of money, create a pyramid scheme, or set up a charitable organization that ends up giving you piles of cash coming in.
Thankfully, the majority of people recognize that those acts are unlawful and that jail is a place they’d rather not inhabit. Enterprising preachers have realized that they can usually make a lot of money and hide behind not-for-profit status, claim people give of their own free will to fill coffers, or understand that prosecution for religious fraud is difficult to pursue.
I’ve often maintained that it shouldn’t ever have to come down to that.
Frankly, following a religion should be pretty cost effective. It costs nothing to research. It costs nothing to pray. It costs nothing to ask somebody for forgiveness. It costs time to volunteer, but it can often be done for free.
If you want to build a structure to worship in or pay the person leading the worship, that does cost money. In the churches I’ve belonged to, those costs are spelled out and funding goals are explained to the congregation. Transparency is present.
From past columns, I’ve gotten flack for criticizing Jim Bakker for amassing millions of dollars for his personal use. I’ve gotten nastygrams for asking why Rick Joyner and Morningstar can’t show where their money is coming from to fund the alleged renovation of the tower.
I wonder how, or more importantly why, certain religious leaders think it is appropriate to build mountains of personal wealth from their followers. Doesn’t that go against the core principles they are preaching?
We are seeing it happen again: Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church, one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches, has come under scrutiny for building a $1.8 million home and for having his salary decided by an outside group of pastors from other mega-churches. What is most disappointing is that Elevation has done a lot of good for the community. It has done a lot of good in making people feel spiritually fulfilled.
I guess the question becomes, does that give them the right to make the leader wealthy? It is probably an ethical question, but in my opinion there are rarely any good answers in this area.
You can reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org to give me a raise.