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God DESERVES the Best of Everything!

free-money-for-pastor-walt

Sarcasm ahead! Easily offended Evangelicals should not read this post.

The Christian God is quite demanding, according to Evangelical preachers. God demands and expects the best of everything from his followers. Never mind the fact that God allegedly owns and controls everything right down the hairs on our heads. He still demands that Christians bow in fealty to him and bestow upon him everything they own and have worked for. According to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) eschatology, Christians will be judged by their works on Judgment Day and rewarded with crowns for their good works. A lifetime of slaving for Jesus, and all Christians get are tinplate crowns made in China? And even then, God expects believers to remove their crowns from their heads, joyfully, reverently casting them at his feet. What’s God’s going to go with all these crowns, anyway? Sell them on eBay?

For those raised in Evangelical churches, how many times did you hear sermons about giving God your best? Jesus died on the cross for our sins! If Jesus gave his ALL for us, shouldn’t we give our ALL to him? Our thoughts, words, and deeds, all belong to Jesus! This life is just preparation for the life to come. Giving everything to God now means he will reward us after death! Or so preachers say, anyway. No evidence for this claim is forthcoming. You are just going to have to take them at their word. But let’s, for a moment, take the non-inspired, errant, fallible Bible at face value. What awaits Christians after the resurrection of the just and unjust? Sure, no more pain, sickness, or death. But that aside, I am not sure Heaven (the eternal kingdom of God) will be such a great place to live for millions and millions of years. What will Christians spend their endless days doing? Worshiping, praising, and glorifying the universe’s ultimate narcissist, God. God demanded everything from his followers in this life, and he does the same in the life to come. Come on, Jesus, when is enough enough? Can’t believers have a toke of marijuana out back of the throne room with Peter or share a few off-color jokes with John? Must believers forgo the joys of human existence all because he who has EVERYTHING wants more? I am starting to think Hell is a far better destination. Satan didn’t ask anything of me in this life, and I heard from a reliable source, Christopher Hitchens, that Hell is quite the party. Sure, Hell is a bit warm in July, but hanging out with Hitch and other atheists at Beelzebub’s Bar and Grill seems preferable to neverending worship of Jehovah.

This notion of God deserving the best of everything has real-world implications. Instead of Christians focusing on life and enjoying the fruits of their labor, they are expected to hand their pay and the title of their property to God. How does this transfer of wealth take place? On Sundays, at Evangelical churches everywhere. Congregants are expected to tithe, give offerings, and give money to whatever project the pastor cooks up. Church members are reminded that all they have belongs to God, that he is just loaning it to them, subject to call at any moment. Christians are conned into believing that nothing they own belongs to them. Cue the song, All to Jesus I Surrender, All to Him I Freely Give.

Churches are, at their base level, membership clubs. I don’t have a problem with churches expecting members to pay their dues. However, it is not uncommon for Christians to give 10-25 percent of their gross income to their churches. In the IFB churches, we had numerous income streams: tithes (10% of gross income), building fund offerings, and faith promise missionary offerings, along with special offerings collected for guest speakers, evangelists, and singing groups. And then there were special projects that needed funding, often requiring thousands of dollars. Pastors think the church needs this or that, so they go to their congregations and ask them to cough up the money. “God is leading us to do __________! preachers say. Over the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry, I raised money for everything from pews to building refurbishments to copiers to buses. While some of these projects were certainly worthwhile, at what point do preachers stop bleeding church members for more money? If the early church could meet in homes or outside, can’t modern churches do the same? Surely, you jest, Bruce. God needs the best of everything! And that includes lighting and AV equipment. One local megachurch took up residence at the Defiance Mall. God “led” the pastor and other church leaders to install $100,000 of state-of-the-art AV equipment. Nice set-up, to say the least, but where did this money come from? Church members.

Bruce, shouldn’t Christians be free to give as much money as they want to their clubs? Sure. We live in a free society. We are free to spend our money as we wish. My objection is to what drives giving in Evangelical churches: the idea that God deserves the best of everything. How do Evangelical preachers know what God wants? How do they know that God only shops at Saks Fifth Avenue? You see, when I read the Bible, I see a God (Jesus) who is more of a Walmart shopper. If Christians are to follow Jesus’ example, how does that comport with the notion that God deserves the best of everything; that church buildings should be temples of capitalistic splendor? And this is not just an Evangelical problem. One need only look at mainline and Catholic church buildings to see glaring testimonies to the belief that God deserves the very best. If Jesus is the example, it seems evident, at least to me, that most Christians are not paying attention.

Further, I have a big problem with preachers who manipulate church members with claims that God spoke to them, telling them that to receive his blessing God wants new $30 a square yard carpeting for the sanctuary. Churches should be focused on meeting congregant needs and ministering to the sick, poor, and marginalized, and not building an opulent palace for a deity who supposedly already owns everything.

People who wholeheartedly love Jesus are bled dry by such thinking. People give even when they don’t have the means to do so. Their pastors encourage them to have faith or sow mustard seeds for God. Matthew 17:20 says:

. . . verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU, shouts the pastor. On his last show on 700-WLW, Gary Burbank — my all-time favorite comedian — said this:

The Little Radio Church of the White Winged Gospel Truth is in the air. Flock, as it sayeth in the Book of Hominominies, not your old testament, not your new testament, but your present testament, writ by me, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, ‘cause the Lord likes to mess with us. Can I get an “Amalulah!”? Now the Lord is taking Gary Burbank – not calling him home, just getting’ him off the radio. I’m going to need some love offerings soon before my radio pulpit goes away. So reach into them jeans and pull out some greens. Fly them rockets from thy pockets up around my altar. Don’t make me holler, don’t make me shout. Turn them pockets inside out.

The only difference between when Burbank acted out this script and the present is that Evangelical preachers now have MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal for extracting money from congregants. Imagine a cash strapped congregant at First Church of the Born Again hearing his pastor’s plea for money to fund new equipment for the praise and worship band. This devout Christian, feeling the “leading” of the Lord — also known as psychological manipulation — goes online and maxes out his credit card for the Lord. His pastor praises him for heeding God’s voice. And then the first credit card bill comes. For the next five years, this God-led Christian will be paying off his donation monthly with 24.99% interest. Ain’t God awesome?

Did your pastors pressure you or your parents to give money to the church? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I remember at age 9 or 10 that we kids put on the skit of Ananias and Sapphira to kick off a fundraising campaign for the church. In every church I have attended there’s pressure to give money for this or that. It gets old.

  2. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    God . . . all-powerful, all-knowing, and always in need of money.

    There is a simple truth. No matter how a religion gets started, whether it thrives is determined by how well that religion serves to get the masses to serve the interests of the elites, both religious and secular.

    Why did Christianity support slavery? Who knows? But if it did not, then it would never have become either “a” state religion of Rome (early 300’s CE) or “the” state religion of Rome (late 300’s CE), a major slave state. If Christianity had not become the state religion of Rome, thrive due to that state support, and therefore was present to fill the power vacuum in Europe when Rome declined, what would it be today? Probably an obscure Jewish sect.

    Most Christians think that their ideas caused a rapid spread of Christianity alone. We have evidence that major Roman officials ca 120 CE were quite unaware of Christians and what they represented, so contrary to “Church history” Christianity was hanging on by a thread until it was “saved” by two things: the writing and circulation of the gospels and Roman state power.

    Christians were pleading for “tolerance” from the Romans, all the way up to the Emperor, until they got Roman State power. Then they took to eliminating their competition and “heresy” which was any form of Christianity that didn’t agree their theirs (there were dozens of these). We’ll never know the whole story because so many documents were destroyed by the orthodox church as being “heretical.”

    This is what they did and will continue to do when given power, which today translates as “money.”

  3. Avatar
    John

    Yep. I came out of a word of faith/charismatic flavor of evangelical Christianity. We were told to tithe, or else we were stealing from God. Oh, and if you want to get a really good harvest of money, you had to “sow” money above and beyond the tithe. There was always something at the church that needed to be paid off. I remember a huge building program finally was paid off. We thought we would get at least a small break from having to give extra to something. Nope. Now we needed new ceiling suspended basketball goals at about $20,000. But, silly us, we continued to be “faithful to give”. I was making about $13,000/year at the time. We had one car and lived in an old shitty rental house for $250/month in 1998. All the pastors drove Lexus or Mercedes and lived in 4,000 sq foot homes. We just figured it was the “men of God” being blessed and someday we would be blessed like that, too.
    Ugh! Talk about brain washing! Shockingly enough, we never did experience any kind of money harvest. We didn’t get out of debt the first time until we stopped tithing and giving our money to the church. It’s amazing what you can pay off when you start giving 15-20% of your income to debtors instead of churches and preachers.

  4. Avatar
    mary

    so true! we were struggling newlyweds giving our 10 percent and being told god would send horrible things into our life if we stopped. when we quit, dh was amazed that our financial life only improved and went up from there. nearly 20 years out, we invested that money in real stuff/investment vehicles and doing well. inlaws kept up the excessive giving and bankrupted themselves. nothing left for their kids at all. cannot believe educated folks in the u.s. are still falling for this shit.

  5. Avatar
    BJW

    Our denomination believed in tithing for supporting the basic administrative church structure. And then we were pressured to donate more to support other worthy goals. Just imagine if most of this money actually went directly to help those who truly need it! Conservatives are supposed to be more giving, but it’s largely to religion. Imagine how much good could be done with all the money the Catholic Church gets, while owning priceless art??

  6. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    The Catholic Church keeps the churches on the bottom of the ladder on a very tight budget; they have to support themselves AND send money to Rome for this and that excuse.

    Growing up, my family’s parish church was also the diocese’s cathedral (where special activities like ceremonies for the installation of a new priest would happen). Thus, it was larger than an ordinary church, and actually a lovely, vaulted cathedral. I don’t know what pressure was put on my parents to donate money, but they did weekly. In the mid-1960s, the old building got a major interior remodel. I don’t remember what all was changed, but I do remember that all new artwork (statues and paintings) was installed, and a proper area for a choir and musicians was created. Those people only performed once a week, at a noon service on Sunday, and my mother insisted on meeting her weekly Mass requirement with the shortest, least-well-attended service she could find, so I think I only heard the choir and musicians once.

    I remember my mother being offended by the new art. I found it interesting, but then I was maybe six or seven. I remember both my parents being offended by the cost of the remodel.

    I probably attended a service at that church for the last time in the early 1970s. The building was irreparably damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and the diocese built a new, very modern, structure at a different location.

    Money, money, money.

    The Catholic church in the town where my parents retired has a huge congregation, many weekend services so that all congregants can meet their weekly Mass attendance requirement, and most services are standing room only. But they’re just a parish church, and the average income of church members is below the area average. They bust their rears just paying the power bill. This town is in an area where summer highs routinely hit three digits (Fahrenheit), and I think they finally installed air conditioning in the 1980s, long after I escaped.

    I’d say not my circus, not my monkeys, but all that church income is tax-exempt. As a taxpayer, that irritates the heck out of me, especially when many of those church members don’t have the money to give, and could use better government assistance themselves.

  7. Avatar
    Julie S.

    Oh yes!! Grew up in the IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist, just like Bruce was). Finally got out for good in my mid-thirties (I’m 48 now). Scarred for life!! Of course tithing was rammed down your throat as it is a basic tenet of the IFB. They even taught that one can owe “back-tithe”, and if you do, God will withhold his blessings until you get it all paid back. I mean God keeps track of EVERY penny, you know; he’s gotta have AT LEAST your 10%, although he wants way more than that with offerings & gifts added in!

    My mother was an IFB fanatic (yes, this adds another facet to my fucked up psyche). She made it her business to try to find out if her adult children were tithing so as to secure God’s blessing on our family. That led, as you can imagine, to many arguments with Mother. Fun times!

  8. Avatar
    Michael I

    Why would congregants be expected to tithe on their gross income rather than net income? You never actually own the gross amount as taxes are deducted, so it makes sense to tithe 10% of what you actually have (not that tithing makes sense at all)

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The thinking went like this: God should get the first part, best part of everything. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s. Bottom line? More money for churches. 😂😂

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