Criticizing Church Spending
There is much criticism for the way that the modern church spends its money, both from our side and from the other side. Much of it is well deserved, I can assure you.
For example, Pastor Rick Godwin of Eagle’s Nest Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, TX came under fire for this in 2007. According to church records, the pastor, staff and families took charter flights for travel and the bill came to $143,000 for the first seven months of the year. Church funds were used for gifts to elders, including a $2,600 for an Armani suit and $2,518 for a Cartier watch. Independent auditors expressed concerned over how the church handles its finances, and advised that they not speak to the IRS without a lawyer present.
Christian Valley Christian Church in Jonesboro, AK, is spending $925,000 to double the size of its existing building.
Ed Young has gotten it from Chris Roseburgh on our side, and Daniel Florien from the other side. Full story here. Young allegedly owns his own private jet, a Falcon 50 valued at $8.4 million. Young’s estate is valued at $1.5 million. He is paid an annual parsonage of $240,000 on top of a $1 million salary. Young answered the charges, but not the satisfaction of most.
Tony Morgan announced on his blog that the folks at Clark ProMedia are going to begin marketing holographic technology to churches. It will enable churches that have multiple campuses to view a 3D image of their pastor delivering the sermon. It will be as if he is right there in the building. I can only wonder how much it will cost to implement, and where the money could be better spent–like missions to Haiti or Chile, maybe?
Churches, especially the mega-church set, do not always spend their money well. That cannot be argued. Other examples abound, like this one (also from Unreasonable Faith). Though warranted, the criticism works in both directions.
While church monies could be better spent on things like missions rather than holographic technology or private jets, I think it’s just as valid to consider how the critics are spending their money. Atheist organizations have some really interesting pet projects on which they spend their money.
The Atheist bus ad campaign initially cost $213,914. But the activity has gone viral and is now spread all over the world, which probably has multiplied the cost at least tenfold–and I’m being extremely conservative here. Mariano from Atheism is Dead critiques the campaign in these essays. Could this money have been better spent? Perhaps on the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders?
What about Michael Newdow, who has spent years in federal court attempting to get “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” removed from the currency. He also sued unsuccessfully to stop references to religion and God from being part of President Bush’s second inauguration as well as President Obama’s inauguration. What if his time was devoted instead to helping people in Haiti or Chile?
Of course atheists will side with me that it is ridiculous for Godwin and Young to spend church money the way that they did (and probably still do). But I know for a fact that they will not agree with me that the bus campaign or Newdow’s lawsuits were wastes of both time and money. Consider Vjack mulling over becoming more vocal as an atheist by wearing atheist t-shirts and displaying bumper stickers. It’s not directly related to the bus campaign, but it does have similar overtones.
As for Newdow’s lawsuits, they are a self-evident waste of time and money and little more needs to be said here. But, atheists are supporting Newdow in his efforts. Vjack characterizes this issue as “too important to abandon.” The comment section over at Friendly Atheist is alive and well with many who support Newdow. Obviously, Hemnant supports Newdow as well–saying that the lawsuit has merit and hoping that someone will be successful with it (if not Newdow).
So, I think it’s fair to say that neither side seems to have the big picture in mind. Opponents are quick to criticize church spending, but their own spending habits are highly questionable. Meanwhile, as the atheists are always fond of pointing out, thousands of children will die today of starvation. Holograms and private jets won’t save a single life, but neither will bus ads nor will striking “God” from Pledge and currency. And while mega-church goes look forward to their tithes bringing in a hologram and ignore the pastor’s private jet, atheists will defend Newdow’s activities and the bus ads as important and necessary. Neither side will see the forest through the trees, and that is extremely sad.