There is a lot of talk about the ways in which the Government does Christians wrong. Taking prayer out of schools, legalizing abortion and physician-assisted suicide, supporting same-sex marriage, to name a few of the more contested issues.
How come nobody talks about the ways in which the Church does the Government wrong?
Ed Young Jr. is CEO of Fellowship Baptist Church of Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth. An estimated 24,000 people attend one of the five Fellowship Church locations each week. That 10,000 square-foot parsonage he lives in is no humble abode. It is valued at $1.5 million.
Ed’s father is CEO of Second Baptist of Houston, reportedly the second-largest church in the nation. (Joel Osteen’s church is first). As CEO, Ed Sr. overseas an annual budget of $53 million.
Last year Ed Junior went before Fellowship’s congregation and told them outright that they needed to have their tithes automatically withdrawn. Cards were handed out and people were told to provide the routing numbers for their bank accounts. The way to be a spiritual leader, Young yelled, is to “bring the tithe.”
Church in America has become big business. Billions of dollars worth of tax-free enterprise. The local church, big and small, is the lone place where fiscal accountability is totally self-governed. There is very little outside oversight. For far too many of these celebrity pastors, that’s like putting a kilo of cocaine in front of Charlie Sheen and telling him to behave himself.
Here’s how the IRS sums up its approach to churches: Congress has enacted special tax laws applicable to churches, religious organizations, and ministers in recognition of their unique status in American society and of their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under the tax law.
Once a minister establishes himself at the Rock Star of multi-million corporation, who is that brave soul who stands before that minister and says, “Nope. You can’t do that.”
Who among them pulls young Ed aside and says, “What the hell where you thinking, Bonehead?”
Once an organization has been declared exempt, the Wicked and Saved have free reign to rape and pillage their own churches, er, villages. Bernie Madoff , AIG, and the mortgage companies were held to a higher standard of fiscal accountability than America’s churches. That’s how low the bar is for the spiritual and pseudo-spiritual among us.
When one considers what taxes are used for — educating the masses, feeding the elderly, serving the handicapped, binding the wounds of soldiers, housing the homeless, providing clean water and paved roads, to name a few — it would seem that paying taxes is something any church would do voluntarily.
If a church really wanted to set an example, if they really wanted to serve their community, wouldn’t they insist upon paying their fair share instead of claiming Sanctuary exemption?
We are facing hard economic times. A lot of much-needed revenue could be generated by taxing the Church.
If we are really interested in living out a life of faith, instead of just preaching about it, isn’t it about time the Church picked up its cross and carried it instead of pushing the tax burden off on everyone else?