Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Tithe of Hope

As American churches of all flavors have enjoyed decades of tax exempt status, they may soon find this fact changing into a memory. Whether a church receives millions in donations or a simple few thousand, up until now, there has been great flexibility in how they chose to disperse of their funds.
The US federal government might do well to change the status of churches for two reasons. 

Fact number one: The majority of mainstream churches build million or multiple million dollar buildings that stand empty most days of the week. Or if they have a few random prayer meetings, they are dead closed on Saturday (the actual. God appointed Sabbath day of rest) and open on Sunday for about three out of every twenty-four hours. In general, these buildings are used less than 25% of the time yet they represent billions of dollars donated by the faithful across many Christian sects. Although many churches run missions, they often require missionaries to do their own fundraising to pay for their own expenses. And the churches that run day care centers out of their facilities charge premium prices for parents to leave their children there and doubly so for those who run an entire school operation. If churches were taxed, it would force the tithe eaters to start to really prioritize where they put their money.

Fact number two: Ministers are paid anywhere from 50,000-500,000 and beyond if they happen to be a "personal ministry" such as we see with the super preachers on television. What fruit comes from having a paid minister? The first consideration is the problem that comes from having a sole male leader ruling over a church. In the case of the Roman Catholic churches, we all have heard the jokes about the homosexual priests molesting little boys. What of the Protestant preachers who have been caught in acts of adultery or with a prostitute? When we put a man on a pedestal for any reason, we create icons that simple minded folk start to look toward for "permission", "advice", and "leadership". We are called as believers to look to Jesus Christ as the captain of our salvation. He is the sole mediator between human and Father God. Yet every church has a system in place that replaces that direct relationship with God with a pyramid male dominated structure that undermines the personal relationship God intended to have with man upon the reconciliation that took place with the ripping of the partition that separated the inner and outer areas in the temple.

In the temple, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the holy day of Atonement (at-one-ment) to seek communion with the Almighty. The symbolism of the literal ripping of this separation veil at the moment of Christ's death immediately opened up an eternal door in which each believer could go directly to Him in prayer and communication. No human should ever come between the believer and the Father. When a minister is either placed in this position or tries to become the link between believer and God, they are in fact treading on the sacrifice of Christ. The death of Christ forever removed this separation of the created to the Creator. Ministers have the function of teaching and serving, not lording over or trying to control the flock in any capacity. If ministers were volunteers or appointed part time and were expected to do community service or hold full time jobs the rest of the time, a lot of the man worship would automatically be corrected as they would no longer be in a king like position. And for the individual preacher, having a job would keep him or her connected to reality and they would be better able relate to the common person who works in contemporary society for their livelihood.

The fact that most tithes and donation money go directly to support buildings and the ministers shows that this money could easily be taxed. Why should it be taxed? America is virtually bankrupt. Companies and businesses can't be taxed increasingly and churches remain untouched. The only exception to a church being taxed is one that can prove that 75% of their received donations go directly back out to community betterment in social services in the forms of homeless and youth shelters, drug rehab programs, child prostitution rescue, job/vocational function and other useful pursuits. It doesn't take millions of dollars to preach the gospel. Ministers don't need to fly all over the world in private jets. YouTube videos are free and several software programs allow for the free creation of pod casts and all kinds of social media platforms to get out both digital, video, audio, and written forms of the message of salvation. If churches are going to be run like businesses with highly paid employees and other functions much the same, they should be taxed the same as well.

The final reason I really believe churches should NOT be tax exempt is the religious frauds that exist. Church leaders have committed so much fraud people's heads would spin if they were to be told the truth of the matter and would believe it. I have experienced the power ministers and world famous evangelists have over people. People turn a blind eye to known sins. In some cases, they refuse to even acknowledge the facts when they see it all with their own eyes. My own former church affiliation was literally taken over by a few mob like gangsters who bled it dry, setting up shell companies around the world, and liquidated its holdings as well as its campuses upon the death of its former sole commander. It was unbelievable to see billions of tithe dollars given by the faithful through a mandatory three tithe system (some were so poor they ate one meal a day in order to meet their tithe quotas and give extra-large donations during holy day offerings). It was scandalous. While the work of the founders was done in good intent, extravagant lifestyles set a standard all subsequent generation of ministers came to believe was owed to them for their "position". Now, there stands a splintering of believers all over the world with a handful of the "corporates" who mimic the original church structure. Each suffer the same afflictions as did the mother church:
tax exempt status-huge donation intakes-paid salaries of male ministers-extravagant spending-minister worship by lay members-and the final result often being the lording over by one of these men over a local congregation where lay members are viewed as cash cows to keep faithful and loyal to their particular church to keep those tithe dollars flowing. Anyone who opposes these teachings or system are publicly marked or blackballed in elaborate attempts to keep the whole control. Can you imagine ministers whose main concern is keeping tithe dollars coming in so they can keep paying themselves? No wonder former Christians are leaving organizations for atheism or paganism. Such evils should never exist in the body of Christ.

Why aren't more people concerned about developing the faithful and believers to their greatest spiritual and physical development?

In a Sabbath church I visited not long ago, the majority of members suffered horrible financial maladies. My first response was to pose the challenge to get all of them involved in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (www.daveramsey.com) and teach them how to live within their budget, generate their own income, and to get out of the cycle of debt. Such an idea would never be accepted because they genuinely believe money is evil and all profit should be given to the church. I call this concept the "doctrine of poverty". It is a twisted theology in which the wealthy are considered evil and the poverty stricken true Disciples of Christ. Part of this theology error was generated by ministries who promote heavy tithing and donations. Isn't it interesting how churches that teach this only have LAY MEMBERS practice it but the leaders live like movies stars?

Another aspect to the financial problem and tithes is the mainstream protestant churches who outright reject the Ten Commandments and other scriptural laws as mandatory for the "new covenant" time period in which we live, yet they demand tithes to be given by their members. Upon a recent visit to a Sunday church located in Chapel Hill, NC called Grace Church, I found their overall quality and diversity of programs to be inspiring and noteworthy of example for other mainstream and Sabbath churches. However, doctrine wise, they stressed the focus on Grace alone and not works, but almost every church meeting had a call out for offerings of the faithful. They had a whole video session set up in order to lure new believers to make tithing their first act of faith. This really cracked me up considering how such churches argue against the validity of the necessity to teach REPENTANCE FROM SIN AND AVOIDANCE OF FUTURE SIN, as they teach grace covers all so there is no sin anymore. Even though Christ supposedly nailed the laws of God to the cross at his death, did somehow TITHING escape this execution? The seeking of money by churches has corrupted its spiritual core.

While each church can choose whatever they want to teach doctrinally and they can handle their financial matters any way they see fit,(as we live a free society) these organizations are BUSINESSES and should be taxed accordingly. One of my former students jokingly said church was good business. How right he was!

I named this blog a tithe of hope. I hope if people choose to tithe, they make sure that money is actually going to programs that promote the spreading of the message of Christ as Messiah, and of the coming Kingdom of God to rule all nations, and of the Bible as the sole source of spiritual truth. I hope tithe money is spent on the disabled elderly and the orphaned child. I hope programs are created to teach believers the whole concept of individual responsibility both physically, financially, and spiritually. Imagine if every church goer got off of federal assistance and went on to teach someone else to do the same, all at the same time, leading the others to Christ and scripture alone, not to their particular preacher or denomination of choice. What a changed society we would live in!