By J. Carleen, Contributor to US Daily Review.
These times are tough for the poor and middle classes, the last few years have been brutal for some families. Some become poorer and some become more middle, but for the Mega Churches of America the last twenty-five to thirty years have been very lucrative years. Starting it all was Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker the pioneers of Televangelism. It’s the same old cliché or human instinct, that when things get tough you turn to God for economic blessings and BAM! You have a mega church waiting in the wings for the economically down trodden. They are beacons of hope in your town or on your T.V. with no cross or stained glass depictions of Jesus caring for the poor. Thousands of less fortunate followers willing to tithe 10% of their income blindly to the tax exempt Corporation of God. A $3 billion unregulated business, this virulent very well thought out message for the masses is called the Prosperity Doctrine.
In essence if I’m suffering meaning broke, the more I give to “God” i.e.; the church, the more God will rain down monetary blessings to me. The mega church is gambling or putting a stake in the fact that before you come back to church next Sunday, you find a twenty dollar bill on the street or you get a small bonus from work, or a family member dies and leaves you an inheritance. You will thank God All Mighty and keep coming back every Sunday for more financial blessings. I’m all for the rich being rich, but when it’s off the backs of the less fortunate and has a tag line of “give till it hurts and God will bless you” is when people should be asking themselves is this really right?
No talk of sinning in these churches, maybe a few references to the Ten Commandments but it’s a feel good message. No controversial subjects like cheating on spouses, lying or cheating others. Actual bible verses are carefully omitted or explained in a way that is meant for “our modern times so that we can all understand what it means.” Has anyone thought of God keeping track of how much you tithe to him? HE’s not the IRS. The message these pastors are sending out are dangerous and it makes the beautiful part of giving to others without expecting anything in return a joke. Making religion about us and not about God is selfish, remember the Christmas hymn Away in the Manger? HE was born next to cows that kept him and his parents warm, his parents had nothing, only stars for light and faith for guidance. The most powerful being on earth, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is born with nothing! If being rich was so important to God why wasn’t his son born in a castle?
Let’s look at the biggest most influential Mega Church in America, Lakewood Church in Houston Texas. Senior Pastor Joel Osteen according to his website, reaches over 200 million homes through his television ministry and over 42,000 people physically attend his church every week. $43 million dollars a year is actually put into the offering plates by the eager souls waiting for God’s purse strings to loosen and rain down on them. Over $30 million a year comes in the mail from the home bound souls. Don’t forget book sales, stadium tours around the country and worldwide since he is broadcast in 100 countries. I did not find monetary figures for stadium tours or speaking engagements, but I hope you get the idea of God’s purse strings opening up for the Osteen’s. Joel, his wife Victoria and two children live in a 10.5 million dollar home in a secluded neighborhood in Houston called River Oaks. According to an article in the Houston Press, public records show this home is a 17,000 sq. ft. stone mansion situated on 1.86 acres. This tells me that his God favors him way more than the rest of his flock of sheep. I will list a few more Prosperity Doctrine Specialist so you can see how big this business really is.
Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Eagle Mountain International Church (EMIC) According to Tarrant County Texas Appraisal District records indicate an 18,280 square foot residence owned by EMIC was built in 1999. The house is situated on a lake on approximately 25 acres and receives tax-exempt status. The property was valued at $6,249,000.
Creflo (Augustus) Dollar, yes his last name is Dollar, is founder and senior pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia. A 30,000 member congregation, Dollar has no theology degree, but bases his message and guidance from his friend Kenneth Copeland his spiritual mentor. Rolls-Royces, private jets, a million-dollar Atlanta home and $2.5 million Manhattan apartment.
Benny Hinn is the founder, chairman, president and CEO of Benny Hinn Ministries (BHM) Hinn’s salary is between half a million and a million dollars per year, not including royalties from book sales. The Hinn family and his entourage lives in a $10 million seaside mansion, owns a private jet and Mercedes SUV and convertibles, each valued at about $80,000.
There are several well known Prosperity Doctrine Specialist (PDS) that I did not list. Please do some research on your own before sending off a check to these mega God corporations. Roll up your sleeves, open your heart and volunteer yourself working with kids or veterans. Go to a hospice and give someone a hug, pay for the person’s toll behind you. (RAK) Random acts of kindness are contagious. Learn something about grace and be humble to those less fortunate than you, which is the real blessing from God.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of J. Carleen
Jenn is a freelance writer with a focus on politics and humorous mayhem. Centered on criminal justice and history, she is a police officer, EMT, wife and mom of four. While born in Maine she is a true Texan. You can find Jenn on Twitter @JennKnightKiser and @ http://contributor.yahoo.com