March 27, 2007

Camel. Needle's Eye. Some Assembly Required.

One of the reasons I don't attend the church of which I am nominally still a member is that less than 12 hours after I formally re-registered (after kind of lurking around the edges for a while), I received a fundraising call asking me how much money I was going to pledge towards the construction of their new $9,000,000 church. No, my '0' key didn't get stuck - the new building was going to cost NINE MILLION DOLLARS. And they weren't looking for chump change, either. I remember the exact words the fundraiser used: "How many thousand can you pledge over the next two years?" Now, to be clear, they definitely had outgrown the existing building, and I wasn't expecting them to build a big pole barn to replace it, but I'd bet they could have built a nice looking, perfectly suitable building for half that much.

So I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised by this in-your-face example of Prosperity Theology:

A Redford Township church that believes wealth is God's reward is raising eyebrows for buying its pastor a $3.65 million mansion and taking it off the tax rolls.

This month, township officials grudgingly conceded they had no choice but to remove the 11,000-square-foot home overlooking Maybury State Park from its assessment rolls, losing $40,000 annually in taxes.

They concluded the plush pad is a parsonage, but that hasn't quelled debate among township officials and neighbors about whether Christian charity extends to the Detroit World Outreach Church's purchase in September of the home for Pastor Ben Gibert and his wife and co-pastor, Charisse Gibert.

. . .

The 4,000-member church is part of a growing movement that preaches prosperity. Also known as "health and wealth" theology, the ideology preaches that God wants followers to do well, be healthy and have rewards -- such as the $50,000 Cadillac Escalade the church bought the Giberts, who have four children.

Ben Gibert said God surrounds the faithful with beautiful things.

I guess I can kind of understand his point, because I agree with Ben Franklin, who said "God loves us and wants us to be happy." OK, OK, Franklin really said "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," so I'm kind of biased on the subject. But beer is one thing; an Escalade and a $3.65M mansion are something else.

One of the leaders of his church agrees. "God's empowerment is to make you have an abundant life," said Elder Marvin Wilder, a lawyer and general counsel for the church.

"In this country we value rock stars, movie stars and athletes. They can have a lavish lifestyle, and a pastor who restores lives that were broken shouldn't?
Rock stars, movie stars, athletes, megachurch pastors. Yep, all entertainers. I stand corrected.


Posted by Chris at March 27, 2007 12:56 PM

Category: Unclear On The Concept

I'm not sure if these are the same "people", but I recently answered a job posting on a major job site advertising for-
"Christian based company looking for Managers...unlimited earning potential e.t.c.,"
The phone rep sent me to a couple of websites, which I went to fully embracing the "If it's too good to be true.." axiom. It was an air purifier machine, marketed 'ala Amway, and with a constant "ministry" running the whole time extolling the dogma you described almost ver batim, complete with testimonials and photos of beautiful people in lavish weddings, standing in front of expensive houses and cars, smiling like the Osmond Family tweeked out on meth. Once James Cameron finishes his digging, we'll have God's phone number and can ring his cell, and we can straighten all this out once and for all.

Posted by: Patrick at March 29, 2007 10:34 AM

I don't think it's the same people but it's definitely the same theology. Funny you should mention Amway - they've always had a huge 'God wants you to be rich and praise Jesus' undercurrent. Next time you're in Holland, head out on Macatawa Drive and see if you can find Dick DeVos's house (hint - it's the biggest one on the street, the one with the helicopter pad).

Prosperity Theology be berry berry good to Dick DeVos.

Posted by: Chris of Dangerous Logic at March 29, 2007 10:52 AM

Been by it several times. Whould've thought laundry soap could be so lucrative. The place made LeBron James' architect go "DAMN!"

Posted by: Patrick at March 30, 2007 09:02 AM

Yeah, I got the street wrong anyway. It's South Shore Drive, *along* Lake Macatawa. Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't have the close-in resolution there that you need to spot his house.

Posted by: Chris of Dangerous Logic at March 30, 2007 02:34 PM