A church is broke, the temple is rich and people are still poor

July 17, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

Last week, money seemed to occupy the headlines — and it wasn't all just about debt and politics. Two interesting articles caught my eye.

The first one came out of Southern California, where it was announced that Robert Schuller's mega church has filed for bankruptcy.

The "Hour of Power" has become, well, not so powerful anymore, when it comes to balancing the books and paying its bills. Records indicate that the church is some $50 million to $100 million or so in debt and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The church's income, according to a church resource, has apparently been reduced by some 40 percent since 2008 because of hard economic times. But one also has to wonder about the spending habits of those directing the church. Some of the current debt can be attributed directly to the construction of two new buildings and some other unwise expenditures.  

An estimated 10,000 people attend this church in Garden Grove.

Sometimes, I think the spending habits of  churches resemble that of our government. The person needing some real assistance often doesn't receive it because dollars are continually wasted for meaningless programs.

In churches, not enough money is spent on people, and more seems to be spent on the brick and mortar of buildings.

I remember reading one of the letters from the apostle Paul and the great line, "For the love of money is the root of all evil."

Mark Twain offered his own version: "I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position."

I think, most recently, about Bernie Madoff's fortune and misfortune.

I also thought that one's contributions or donations to a church might better be disbursed directly from the giver to the one in need. Not all church apostles tend to represent their God in the same manner as Paul. And, for sure, there are certainly many people in our neighborhoods who might benefit from some direct assistance.

I found the article particularly interesting because of the rhetoric that has came out of this church over the years. I was disappointed that those folks who contributed so faithfully to this church must now confront the embarrassment that those fiscal contributions have been so mismanaged by those in leadership.

Another story, even more intriguing, comes from another continent — in a Hindu temple in southern India.

In the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, recently was discovered a treasure of gold, diamonds, statues and other relics likely to be worth $20 billion or more. It is thought that this huge treasure has been amassed over hundreds of years because of donations from devotees.

Part of the Hindu belief includes acts of charity. Many worshippers are quite generous, especially in giving for the construction and maintenance of temples.

I find this, too, a little more than odd, since there probably are some 150 million people living in poverty in India. I wonder how much more good Mother Teresa might have done in Calcutta — or the world — with $20 billion.

Now, there is a great debate brewing within the state government and the royal family, which has control of the fortune, as how best to spend this money. Everyone seems to have an opinion. I'm betting that if politics enters the discussion, the loot will be wasted away.

Spending the fortune on those living in poverty would be my vote.

Kings and queens who live in royalty and forget about those poor they represent do not deserve the cloak of royalty they wear.

Mahatma Gandhi once reminded the world that "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."

Perhaps the love of money is, in fact, the root of all evil.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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