Left: Interior of Houston's Lakewood Church
(Toledo, OH) I admit to a certain stubborn asceticism when it comes to religion; while I do not expect my religious leaders to be wandering mendicant friars, neither do I cherish priests or pastors who flaunt material wealth. The oft-cited example of Joel Osteen is but the most egregious case of a minister profitting mightily from the Word.
The number of megachurches - defined in one study as Protestant congregations with regular weekly attendance of more than 2,000 - has doubled over the past five years. With larger congregations, of course, rises the ability of a church and its principals to accumulate substantial wealth, all in the name of preaching a bizarre sort of prosperity Gospel.
The phenomenon is not unique to Christianity, though. There has been a rise in what has been described as Templezilla in the Hindu traditon; the Tirumala Venkateswara in Tirupati is the most visited temple in the world, with more than 50,000 people visit the temple every day.
What Would Jesus Drive?
Or, better yet, would He take the TARTA bus? Somehow I suspect He would not approve of church leaders tooling about town in a Mercedes, but I admit to getting hung up on the whole Christ and the money changers account as it relates to commercialization and Christianity.
Or should I just ignore those who might profit from the Gospel, stay home, close my wood blinds, and hope it all works out well for everyone in the end?
Note: an earlier verion of this post incorrectly identified the owner of an expensive sports car with the license plate CEDAR CREEK as being affiliated with Cedar Creek Church. This is not the case, and I apologize for the mistake on my part (see comments section for further details).