Religious frauds lead many of us away from faith
I’m a rather irreligious man. In many respects, I’m an agnostic.
While I have developed, over time, some basic questions about the Christian beliefs I was raised with, however, I wouldn’t say I’ve strayed from the church over a lack of faith.
Instead, I term it a lack IN faith.
The materialism of organized religion, the duplicity of so-called religious “leaders” and the outright fraud so many of them have perpetuated on the populace are what soured me — and I would assume a lot of others — on God’s church.
That’s not meant as condemnation of every congregation, by any means. There are many, many good church organizations out there which do deserve (and receive) my respect.
Unfortunately, they are overshadowed in today’s world by the sordid reputations developed by the Jimmy Swaggarts and Garner Ted Armstrongs and Oral Robertses and Jim Bakkers and Pat Robertsons, by cults like the Jim Joneses, the Moonies, the Branch Davidians and the New Life Church of North Texas.
The sad fact is that these modern frauds are no different than the frauds of the past — they just have access to modern telecommunications and have adapted to modern lifestyles. They’re still the con artists they’ve always been.
Most of us are kind-hearted. We cherish self-reliance but realize that every now and then, people stumble. We have become a society that forgives too easily — but isn’t that what Jesus charged us to do?
He set the example, living simply and in modest fashion during His time on earth, turning what little wealth He obtained over to help ease the plight of those around Him.
The televangelists and the cultists take advantage of that, separating us from our money under the guise of “helping the poor,” “helping the sick” and other well-intentioned phrases.
I have no doubt that some of the aforementioned televangelists did, in fact, turn some small fraction of the millions of dollars they’ve received from viewers over to worthy charities. Most of that money, however, went to build massive buildings to glorify their own status — and to hookers and mistresses and helicopters and mansions.
Readers in our region have become familiar with The Cannon’s investigation into the activities and shady past of the New Life Church of North Texas. I’ll admit that I lost my objectivity after finding out this group is directly descended from an organization which has been convicted multiple times of using the poor and homeless — the very people it claims to be trying to “save” — to perpetrate fraud.
While most of the members of the so-called “church” live in run-down hovels in 38 cities across the U.S., the man who founded the organization — it’s organized as a corporation, not as a church — lives contentedly in a walled mansion in Tampa, Fla. with his own private jet and a fleet of expensive luxury automobiles.
Church members are forbidden to hold other jobs: their sole purpose in life is to stand on street corners raising even more money for Melvin Jefferson’s extravagant lifestyle.
This “religious” organization’s members have been quoted by Gonzales residents as using racial epithets when their hammering on car windows is ignored. One solicitor, when asked by a motorist why a “church” from Dallas is standing on street corners in south-central Texas, allegedly responded, “...because this is where all the rich white people live.”
In the only documented instance where church members attempted to create at least the semblance of a charitable organization, a day-care center for homeless children, Children’s Protective Services raided the facility in San Antonio and took custody of the children.
The sad fact is that organizations like the fraudulent New Life Church of North Texas exist because they, like politicians, know that most of us are too self-absorbed to pay attention. We give them coins to assuage our own guilt at not actually doing anything to help those less fortunate.
Sadly, we’d rather drop a few coins into a bucket at a street corner than to volunteer precious time one afternoon helping out one of our local charitable organizations — or even taking the time to write out and mail them a check.
Think of what wonderful things organizations like Gonzales Christian Assistance Ministries, Norma’s House, the Gonzales Youth Center and all of our churches could have done with all the thousands of dollars cast into those white buckets over the last month?