Sunday, January 15, 2006

I simply cannot fathom this type of Christian...

I don't mean those who out of desperation, are drawn to the likes of a Creflo Dollar. I mean Dollar:

It is time to pass the offering buckets at World Changers Church New York, and Troy and Cheryal Anderson are eager to give the Lord his due. They wave their blue offering envelope overhead, as all around them worshipers whoop and holler their praises to God.

Inside the envelope is 10 percent of the weekly pay Mr. Anderson takes home as an electrician's apprentice - he earns about $30,000 a year - and a little more for the church's building fund.

The Andersons, who live in the Bronx, are struggling financially. A few weeks ago, the couple, who have two young children, had no money to buy groceries. But they believe what their pastor, the Rev. Creflo A. Dollar Jr., said on this recent Saturday night about the offering time: "It's opportunity for prosperity."

"Remember," said Mr. Dollar, a familiar figure across the country because of his "Changing Your World" television show and best-selling books, "if you sow a seed on a good ground, you can expect a harvest."

Mr. Dollar, whose Rolls-Royces, private jets, million-dollar Atlanta home and $2.5 million Manhattan apartment, furnish proof to his followers of the validity of his teachings, is a leading apostle of what is known as the "prosperity gospel."

It is a theology that is excoriated in many Christian circles but is becoming increasingly visible in this country, according to religious scholars. Now, it is beginning to establish a foothold in New York City, where capitalism has long been religion...

It is the connecting of religious faithfulness, especially in giving, to material riches that causes many Christians, including other evangelicals, to accuse prosperity teachers of verging on heresy.

"Verging?" You don't take from the poor, dammit, you help them get fed. At least that's my viewpoint as a Buddhist.

But don't worry about the Dollars:

Wall Watchers, an evangelical organization that monitors the finances of Christian ministries, gave Mr. Dollar's organization an "F" grade for financial transparency in its yearly report and urged donors not to give to it and similar groups. World Changers officials say members can inspect audited financial statements on the church's finances if they desire, but they declined to release them to The New York Times.

According to church officials, the New York church collects an average of $345,000 a month, which works out to more than $4 million annually; the Atlanta church's operating budget is $80 million a year. The offering collected in New York stays entirely in New York, Mr. Dollar said.

About $800,000 of it goes toward renting the theater in Madison Square Garden; an additional $84,000 pays for the church's rented office space nearby; only about $120,000 is spent on the salaries of three people who are on staff. The bulk of the rest, according to church officials, is designated for the church's building fund. The church hopes to raise $200 million for a complex in the city.

Mr. Dollar's salary is set by a compensation board at the Georgia church, but he declined to reveal it. He also declined to say how much of his salary and fees he donates back to the church, except to say that he is one of the church's biggest givers.

He and his wife live in a million-dollar mansion in Atlanta that is owned by the church. He has said that his two Rolls-Royces were gifts from congregants. But shortly after he started the New York church, he and his wife, Taffi, purchased a $2.5 million apartment in the new Time Warner Center on their own.

The shorter version of the rest of the article is: As for the Andersons, they'll get pie in the sky when they die.

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