Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Religion is Big Business

pastor Joel Olsteen, at his $10.5 million home.
I recently wrote an article about a sad, sad fact:  
Religious organizations are big business.

How big? Well, in the US religious NGOs are worth $71 Billion in taxes.They received over $100 Billion in charitable giving in 2009. And we all know stories of millionaire pastors, even though the average pastor, priest, or imam makes about $30,000/year.
So it should be no surprise that many religious organizations treat their members like loyal customers, producing literature on how to grow a church by asking members to leave. That's more like American Apparel, not like a spiritual community.

Rent has always been low in the sewer
Let's be perfectly clear: A spiritual community is the people, not the building. On my wall hangs a photograph of a mass for migrant workers, in which all that can be seen by the dim light of a camp lantern is people, a picnic table, and a cheap tablecloth.

Think of the grass dance. It is the first step in a pow wow for Native American tribes. To kick-off a time of spiritual community, dancers prepare the space by literally pressing down the high grass. Take a look below.

If you ever feel like a Consumer at Church, if you feel like a monetary figure, then they're doing it wrong. Sure, organizations need money, political causes are expensive and sometimes church buildings need a new roof, but there is no cost to spirituality.

Since leaving a church in which I was active for a year, the only contact I've had with them is via pledge emails and letters. This week I received a hand-written card on nice stationary. Opening it, I found just another, more sincere call for donations. Not a question, not a pleasant conversation or an invitation to coffee, or even a call to participate or give time. Only an addressed, stamped envelope and a request for funds.

Moving forward, it's too late for many of us to feel like more than a commodity in a religious wal-mart. When we do find friends, communities of people who share ideas, we must be vigilant against the reduction of people to numbers. Remember that it costs nothing to stomp the grass.

No comments:

Post a Comment