RE: “Have churches become temples of greed?” (The New Times, April 1).
Every time I read about stories of “religious” entrepreneurs fleecing their customers—er, flock — I remember this American quote of uncertain origin often, but wrongly, attributed to the legendary showman P.T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute!”
If mature, adult people, who are supposedly compos mentis cannot see they are being sold a bill of goods (false hopes) by these conmen-cum-men of God, there is very little one can do about it.
Lest anyone think this is only a problem of evangelical or of any of the new-wave Christian sects, it is as old as the Church itself from the moment it becomes the co-power in the land with the Edict of Thessalonica in 380, when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the empire’s sole authorized religion.
Lord Acton’s dictum about power and corruption — and especially absolute power and absolute corruption – immediately became a fact of the Church. From being the target of oppression, the Church became an unforgiving oppressor, with the ebb and flow of the oppression it meted out in direct proportion to that of its political power and influence over the political arena.
Corruption took many guises, with many popes holding both temporal and political powers over kings, queens and other political leaders. With some popes also being sovereigns with their own states, and having official concubines, mistresses and children many of whom were raised to the nobility of different states. Corruption also took mere commercial traits, such as the lucrative sale of indulgencies (“indulgencies”), which was a factor in the emergence of the Reformation Movement that eventually resulted into yet another schism in the Church that led to Protestantism.
The most recent manifestation of the corruption bug in religion is the so-called “Prosperity Theology” which essentially attempts to provide some religious clothing to the Greed-is-Good ethos ushered in by the ascendancy of the Thatcher-Reagan dystopian view of how society should be organized for and around the exclusive needs of the owners of capital.
The prosperity gospel of churches today seems to take the Greed-is-Good ethos to a whole new level altogether.
Nothing is sacred but only that which allows the church entrepreneurs to make a fast buck. It is a real wonder that so many of their faithful cannot seem to realize that they are nothing but mere marks to be parted from their hard-earned money.
All this so that, like the Pharisees, they can pump up their chests and pray to themselves thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector next to me. I go to church at least twice a week, and pay tithes of all I get.”
There’s absolutely no reason to wonder whether they are “becoming” temples of greed.
Churches have a long history that dates back to pre-Jesus times of exploiting people’s faith for their own benefit. The Catholic Church and its leaders have lived like kings for centuries.
At the end of the day, for the faithful, it is important to be able to believe independently of your church and its pastors because, ultimately, they are all human and humans are inherently flawed.