"Prosperity Gospel" Chickens May Be Coming Home To Roost


#1

From the Wall Street Journal:

The ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee is looking into six television evangelists, including Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and other “prosperity theology” adherents who preach that wealth is a sign of God’s favor.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa wants to know whether the ministers have avoided taxes on for-profit activities or used their ministries for personal benefit. Religious organizations are generally exempt from federal taxes, but they must pay taxes if they engage in for-profit businesses. Employees can’t use church property primarily for personal gain.

Mr. Grassley said his investigation was prompted by complaints from watchdog groups and others that the ministers live in multimillion-dollar homes, travel on private jets and engage in profit-making ventures from their ministries. He said the complaints raised suspicions, “but I would not make a final judgment until I get the story from the ministries.”

In letters to the six evangelists, the senator’s committee asks that they disclose their assets, spending practices, compensation plans and business arrangements. The letters aren’t formal subpoenas, and the six aren’t required to reply.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said he has been kept abreast of Mr. Grassley’s inquiry. Committee investigations can be started by either the chairman or the ranking minority member.

Mass-media evangelists have received little scrutiny from the federal government since 1980s scandals involving the Rev. Jim Bakker and others. But on a local level, tax assessors have challenged some big churches and other nonprofits. In 2005, the Joyce Meyer Ministries began paying more than $2 million in back property taxes on its headquarters after the Jefferson County, Mo., assessor’s office alleged it wasn’t exclusively used for religious purposes. The ministry is one of those sent a letter by Mr. Grassley’s committee.

The others who were sent letters are Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Newark, Texas; Mr. Dollar and his wife, Taffi, of College Park, Ga.; Mr. Hinn, of Grapevine, Texas; Randy and Paula White, of Tampa, Fla.; and Eddie Long of Lithonia, Ga. Most of the ministers appear on television and lead large churches that attract several thousand people each weekend.

Ministers who espouse prosperity theology promote themselves as conduits for God’s blessings, saying that believers will reap benefits as long as they give generously to the ministries. Most evangelical ministers urge believers to donate, but don’t link donations to earthly wealth.

I’ve got to say that I hope these folks get penalized to the full extent of the law for any violations. It is hard to square this perversion of the Gospel with true Christianity, or with the essential loathing of corruption and greed most of us associate with historical Protestantism.

It is disturbing that so many who love Christ get fleeced by men living in such luxury. I know a number of folks who used to belong to PTL; they were deeply wounded by what Jim and Tammy Faye Baker did in the 80s.

Moreover, it is not enough to simply build a Ponzi scheme and bilk people out of money to support your own lavish lifestyle; to pervert the word of the Lord in the process is surely the height of blasphemy.

For those unaware, “prosperity gospel” essentially revolves around the notion that God wants us to be wealthy and returns faithfulness to these communities with material rewards. In some, like the Word of Faith movement, there is a vaguely shamanistic view of miracles; they hold that we can “speak blessings into existence” for example.

This is a particularly revolting development for Catholics, as Catholicism so emphasizes concern for the poor and charitable works. There are no greater opposites in my opinion than Kenneth Copeland and Blessed Mother Theresa.


#2

It’s the American Way: $, $, and more $. Capitalism at its finest.


#3

Well, I guess this is one time I am actually proud to be in Iowa. Way to go Chuck! :thumbsup:


#4

That last sentence is very bad - this:

Ministers who espouse prosperity theology promote themselves as conduits for God’s blessings, saying that believers will reap benefits as long as they give generously to the ministries.

is downright simony. :frowning: Using God to enrich oneself is horrible. It is not a religious attitude at all.


#5

Well, while part of me is glad that someone is taking action against what is in my opinion a heresy of massive and hateful proportions (and growing rapidly). I’m worried that it is the Senate that is policing this and I’m wondering what the consequences to The Church will be for this? The Devil doesn’t inspire these heresies randomly. These groups are not only embarrassments to Christ’s Church but they turn Christ in a stumbling block and God into an enemy those observe these things or become victims of these “ministries”.


#6

There are no greater opposites in my opinion than Kenneth Copeland and Blessed Mother Theresa.
Benny Hinn supports Blessed Mother Theresa.
Mother Theresa also allegedly accepted money from Haiti.
God is Fullness (Col.1:15-17). He Is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev.1:8). He Is the Friend of David and Solomon.
Do the poor not have the right to become rich? Do the sick not have a right to health?
Are the rich willing to renounce their wealth? Are the healthy willing to guarantee that they will never fall sick?
Many Catholic parishes are wealthy. Is this wrong?
While the law should be allowed to take its course, it is important that we decide on the prosperity gospel.”Come, now, let us reason together…” (Isaiah1.18).denis


#7

How? What evidence is there of this? My Pentecostal pastor caused a furor when he pulled congregation money out of a charity once he found out the Catholic Church also supported it; the head of that charity released to the press the amount of money the Pentecostal congregation had put into it—$80 over three years. I knew right then why they wouldn’t publish their financial accounting and my wife and I left soon thereafter. Let’s see what this support consists of.

Mother Theresa also allegedly accepted money from Haiti.

This is a problem if true because…? Who made the allegation if so?

God is Fullness (Col.1:15-17). He Is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev.1:8). He Is the Friend of David and Solomon.
Do the poor not have the right to become rich? Do the sick not have a right to health?

There are far better verses denouncing greed to be had which these six might avail themselves; they use them no doubt in separating the faithful from their wallets to finance their lifestyles.

We should care for the poor and the sick. How precisely do we do that flying around in private jets and living in church-purchased mansions? Blessed Mother Theresa lived in the gutters.

Are the rich willing to renounce their wealth? Are the healthy willing to guarantee that they will never fall sick?

These six surely don’t seem to be willing to renounce their wealth, nor even provide a detailed accounting of their finances, as Catholic parishes do.

Many Catholic parishes are wealthy. Is this wrong?

Wealthy how? I go to a cathedral parish in Charlotte. It’s the biggest one in our diocese; it rests on land donated by Irish families in the 1930s. Our priests and bishops earn far less than the median U.S. income, something that surely cannot be said for these six. Feel free to pop into a Catholic Church in your area and see how rich it is. You’ll find a pale comparison to the crystal palaces of the televangelists. Moreover, you’ll be able to get a copy of parish finances, something the fleecers won’t provide.

While the law should be allowed to take its course, it is important that we decide on the prosperity gospel.”Come, now, let us reason together…” (Isaiah1.18).denis

There is no prosperity gospel. It is a perversion of Christ’s teaching, which eschews material things. Surely that makes reasoning easier, no?

But don’t take my word for it—Matthew 19, in context:

16: And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17: And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18: He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19: Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20: The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21: Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22: But when the young man heard that saying, **he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. **
23: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, **Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24: And again I say unto you, It 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. **
25: When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26: But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27: Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28: And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29: And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
30: But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

So what precisely have these six forsaken in this world for the sake of Christ? Matthew 19:29 is quite often taken out of context and tortured by these people and others who seek to shear the faithful. Here we can see what Christ is calling us to do, and it bears no resemblance to “name it and claim it”, my friends.


#8

You’ve got a disproportionate view of what constitutes wealth and health. We have a right to earn a living, but only to take care of our families. The desire to be rich shows selfishness and a blatant disregard for the gifts that God has given us. Anything extra is more than we need and shouldn’t be hoarded for our own personal pleasures.

My priest recently disclosed to me that he only earns $1500 a month. I would not say that is rich. My father, who serves on our parish’s finance committee, says that our expenses always exceeds our income - and this is supposively from one of the largest (“richest”) parishes in our diocese. (And yes, I’ve seen the parish’s financial statements).

We are called by God to be stewards of the gifts here on Earth. We should never keep what really isn’t ours to begin with - we are charged only with the care of these things and do our best to discern use of these for the benefit of the people.


#9

How many priests do you know that are living in million dollar mansions? I know of a local televangelist who lives in the richest part of SA. Million dollar homes abound in that area. Our parish is pretty well off but our priest drives a beat up volkswagan - the original beetle not the new kind. Mother Teresa and her sisters didn’t have any heaters to get hot water. They boiled the water to wash their clothes. They didnt and dont sleep in fancy plush filled beds. They dont own personal airplanes and limos., etc. What they received in $$ they give away. They do not hold fund raisers of any kind nor do they allow for people to raise money in their name. They tell people to raise money for themselves then give them whatever they want.


#10

What’s also interesting is that the Episcopal Church is likely the richest church in the United States, not in terms of cash flow, but in terms of property bequeathed over generations. This is to some extent the real behind-the-scenes battle in the current burgeoning schism there—who gets the property?

Presbyterians have a similar issue to a lesser extent.

Arguments against the alleged wealth of the Catholic Church should be weighed in this light as well, and in recognition that the Catholic Church is fully half of Christendom.


#11

Getting back to the original topic, what bothers me (apart from the “health and wealth gospel” and the dispicable way some of these ministers spend their church’s money) is that the US Senate is pushing its nose into religious affairs. Since when does the US Senate bother about such mundane things? Where are the local officials who ought to be prosecuting, if any crimes have been committed?

And why am I fretting over this? Because who will be the next religious group to get the once-over from the US Senate for, oh let’s say, preaching about something that some senator thinks is “hate speech.” I don’t want the US Senate finding reasons to stifle religious freedoms, no matter who they might target or for whatever reasons. That is not their area of law enforcement and smacks of big brother telling us what we can and cannot teach in our churches. And no, I don’t think I’m being paranoid.


#12

.My priest recently disclosed to me that he only earns $1500 a month. I would not say that is rich. My father, who serves on our parish’s finance committee, says that our expenses always exceeds our income - and this is supposively from one of the largest (“richest”) parishes in our diocese. (And yes, I’ve seen the parish’s financial statements).

Viewed from a politico religious angle, the politicians have no right to exceed their brief for petty vendetta. There should be a level playing field for all citizens, including the President and ruling party.
Mother Theresa accepted donations without knowing the source. She was focused on her outreach. It is the extant laws that should monitor the flow.
The Diocese should ensure that the parish and pastor earn a per capita equal to and above the median.
The wealthy should pray the prayer for discernment, like Solomon. (1 Kings.3:5-15).
Right to Information, Transparency, and Accountability are a must. Accounts should be available for scrutiny at any time.denis


#13

I think you’re given too much credit to flimflam artists like these six. Once religion becomes a commodity, regulation becomes an inevitability.

Ensuring compliance with tax code seems a reasonable exercise of oversight. If this lot want to use the pulpit for enrichment, let them pay taxes like every other entrepreneur on the proceeds.

It’s not as if they don’t have high-powered attorneys and accountants on the payroll already, you know.


#14

I agree, but I don’t think it is the duty of the US Senate to be looking into such things. As I stated, that is the province of those who are supposed to be guarding against misuse of tax laws, such as the IRS or federal prosecutors. It just smacks too much of government interference in religious belief.

I certainly don’t hold to the “health and wealth gospel” but those who do have the right to believe it. And according to the US Constitution the government cannot make laws which impede their beliefs, no matter how unbiblical or whatever they might be.

And there is a real possibility that the US Senate mucking about with such things could lead to them telling our ministers what they can and cannot preach from their pulpits.

Or am I the only one who sees where this could all lead?


#15

I’m not afraid of Senate inquiry into Church finances for tax compliance. We publish our books.

There are limits to separation of church and state—I don’t think that everyone who claims something is religious in nature ought be exempt on their say-so. Ponzi schemes and con artistry ought to be against the law, and those who do so in the name of religion ought to be more culpable, not less.


#16

And I completely agree. It’s just the US Senate poking their nose into it that troubles me. By all means let the guilty get their justice, but let’s not let it become a witch hunt against religious belief, either. That’s my fear, and I don’t think I’m being silly for having that fear, either. I hope and pray my fears are unfounded–nothing would make me happier! :slight_smile:


#17

I think this one need careful watching.

Their are plenty of folks out there who would like nothing better than an excuse to yank the tax-exempt status out from under all churches.

It is the “man of God” taking home a 7 figure income while claiming tax exempt status for his organization that’ll be just the guy to help them along.

As soon as our elected leaders start trying to decide what’s reasonable in defining whether a church is or isn’t qualified for tax-exempt status things could get ugly quick.

I mean I’ve watched C-SPAN. I wouldn’t trust some of these bozos to wash my car, much less decide if the Catholic Church is “too rich” to have tax exempt status.

We may find ourselves having to side with the crooks in the courts just to keep congresses hands out of the pockets of the rest of the churches.

Chuck


#18

I don’t think you’re being silly at all—quite often, government encroachment into the religious sphere leads to disturbing consequences. Pay the danegeld, never lose the Dane.


#19

Congress makes the tax laws. The IRS enforces the tax laws.

If there is already in existence a law that covers this, then the IRS would enforce the law.

If there isn’t already in existence a law that covers this, then Congress might be inclined to make a law. Perhaps that is why the Senate is looking into this, not the IRS.

I’m always amused when people complain about the IRS making taxes too high. It doesn’t. If you want to complain about taxes being too high, complain to Congress.


#20

Capitalism is an economic system, like Socialism, or Communism. Stealing is a crime.


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