Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From the Archives: Look Ma, I'm a Televangelist!

(2007, probably)

Listening to: Boston – More than a Feeling
Mood: Incredulous

I was reading Time Magazine last night and came across an article that just blew my mind. Now I’ve always had quite a bit of healthy skepticism about television preachers. Since I became an atheist later in my life, my skepticism has extended to preachers in general – but that’s a whole different blog. This article was focusing on a network of televangelists and a Senator who was investigating their use of money. All of these individuals are part of a nonprofit organization and thus should sink almost all of the money received in donations back into the ministry, or at least social services for the community.  A major benefit of being a nonprofit is some major tax savings.  The senator did not launch a major investigation into this, he simply sent them a questionnaire and a request for some information.  Wait, what? Because we can’t really be sure the donations were abused?  Let’s play the PC game? All the featured preachers were uber rich to begin with? All right. Let’s stop the lemming and sheeple parade. Almost all of the featured televangelists had either private planes or multiple very, very expensive cars and lived in what can only be described as mansions. One of the women featured had a 23,000 dollar toilet in her office.  Um, hello? Reality calling? Last time I checked, a toilet costs no more than $100 at Menards or Lowes. And, uh, it isn’t obvious that this money had to come from somewhere, and it probably wasn’t from a trust fund? It’s ok. I’m sure they’ll answer the questionnaires in a totally honest, open manner. After all, they’re God’s folk. Sorry for all the overt sarcasm, but this really bothers me for a few reasons. Let me elaborate.

1.         Preachers are supposed to, but virtue of their calling and the nature of religion, to be servants of the people/their congregation. Somehow, because of the 18 years of religious teaching (or brainwashing – take your pick) it just seems extremely unsavory to me to think that the “servants of the lord” are looking to serve themselves. How can people possibly follow a leader who has such flagrant disrespect for the use of donated money? Churches do a lot of good in the world. They help the poor. There are so many good uses in the world for money. How can a preacher possibly justify a private plane to his or her congregation? I’m not saying you should live in poverty, but for cryin out loud, have some shame.
2.       The people who are funding this idiocy and greed are those who really have hope that their money will be used to further the cause of the church. They don’t have much to send and they truly have faith that their money will make a difference. Otherwise they wouldn’t send it, right? This really sticks under my nails. It’s like a double whammy. These aren’t rich people to which a $50 or $100 dollar donation counts as pennies in an ocean, these are honest, hard working folks who most likely don’t have much to begin with. How can you possibly sleep at night in your mansion knowing this? The sheer guilt would drive me insane – and trust me – I don’t feel guilty about much, but this would do it.
3.       Senator, I admire you for bringing this issue into the light – I really do. Even as an atheist, I care about the human condition and people abusing others in the name of greed. Even if it’s in the name of religion. I’m glad I read this article so that I can spread the word. However. A questionnaire? You have got to be kidding me. Where are your balls at Senator? Asking some benign questions is not going to solve this problem.  Asking preliminary questions leads to offshore accounts popping up all over the place. People may be broken hearted that their money was abused, but if you go after the abusers, perhaps a little bit of faith can be restored. Who cares if you piss off the religious right?  It’s so much more important to do the right thing and stop these people from using power to abuse others.

People, it’s important to know where your money is going. If you choose to donate to any organization (and I highly encourage supporting your legitimate church/charity of your choice), make doubly sure you know who is receiving that money and how it is being used. I’m pretty sure that none of the people who donated to these corrupt televangelists meant to finance their mansions, vacations, or Mercedes. There are plenty of organizations that exist to better the human condition worldwide. It’s very much worth investigating first. Faith is well and good as long as it’s backed up by facts.  Donations aren’t like taxes. You really, honestly, freely give to someone else. You have not only the say in where that money goes, but the responsibility to investigate the receiver as well.

Good night, and good luck.

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