Long long ago when I was a freshman at the University of Kansas, I took a class in Medieval History. There I learned that in those times the Catholic Church owned assets that rivaled all of the wealth of the contemporaneous kings and other feudal lords. Today, of course, religious wealth is not concentrated in one institution, but the overall wealth of religious institutions is staggering and largely enjoys exemption from most governmental taxes. Churches, synagogues and an increasing number of mosques and places of religions that are less traditional in the United States, now occupy vast numbers of properties everywhere. Remarkably, many of these spaces go unused throughout most of every week.
The subject of this post, however, is not about organized religions, but is about the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a very few, very wealthy evangelical preachers. Here, I am talking about people like Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Bennie Henne and others. These are people who operate as individuals or who operate within organizations that exist solely as their personal fiefdoms. These are people who receive money in the name of God, but who then keep a substantial amount for themselves, living lives far in excess of what one would expect of a follower of Jesus.
In the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, we find their Jesus saying essentially that "[i]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (see Mark 10:25, Matthew 19:24 or Luke 18:25). All of these evangelicals have gotten rich and they have gotten rich by extolling the teachings of Jesus. But, they are, in reality, thieves who are stealing money from gullible people by claiming to be using it for "God's work" when, in reality, they are using much of it to enrich themselves. So, they are truly "the camels of Christendom" and, even if heaven or the kingdom of God exists, there is no way they are going to get there, it seems to me.
The Jesus of the Bible, of course, extolled the giving of wealth to the poor, not the accumulation of wealth. For instance, in Mark 10:21 he beseeched a man wanting to know how to inherit eternal life by instructing him to sell whatever he had and to give it to the poor for he would then have treasure in heaven. Of course, I do not believe a divine Jesus existed or that heaven exists, but if one is going to believe in them and preach to others a mythology about them as fact, then one should, at least, live the life that you ask others to live.
Reality is that, worldwide, approximately 20,000 little children die every day of some sort of avoidable cause. Many of those causes can be alleviated with money being spent in the right way and for these evangelicals to hoard money for themselves while little children die is a gross injustice - perhaps even criminal. Quite clearly they are frauds of Elmer Gantry proportions - or worse! Elmer Gantry is a 1927 book by Sinclair Lewis about an evangelical preacher who is quite clearly swindling people out of their money. Elmer Gantry is fictional, but, unfortunately, based on real life events.
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