Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Silent No More.

Rod Parsley is a televangelist. That is to say that he shamelessly exploits weak-minded people and their loose belief in biblical scriptures so that he can acquire their money.

Parsley is not highly respected in religious circles because his knowledge of the bible is limited and his interpretations of scripture are often blasphemous. Parsley consistently twists biblical passages to suit his own agenda of acquiring wealth and power. Recently, Reverend Rod has expanded his efforts to politics. His book Silent No More is a rambling call to arms for Christians to take control of the government and impose theocratic rule over the land. Parsley hopes that he would somehow become the emperor of this bold new empire.

The political slant has brought Parsley under fire, but not from the raging liberal lunatics one might expect. Pastors throughout Ohio have asked the IRS to investigate Parsley's finances and political contributions because they believe that Parsley has crossed a line that would revoke his tax exempt status.

Granted, the move might very well be a little jealous sniping from pastors who would love to claim a piece of Parsley's empire for themselves, but the reality is that Parsley's inflammatory rhetoric has long angered mainstream religious leaders. Parsley doesn't use the pulpit to spread the word of god, but rather to espouse his own narrow views as divine providence.

Churches have enjoyed a tax exempt status for years but it's time to review that status and treat churches as the for profit businesses that they have become. Rod Parsley is a great example of somebody who has pocketed millions of dollars under the guise of spiritual instruction. He lives in a million dollar home, owns several expensive vehicles, travels the world in a private jet and wears thousands of dollars worth of clothing and jewelry.

However, Parsley is not the exception, but rather the rule. While it's easy to take shots at somebody preaching a fringe message, mainstream churches are just as guilty of turning a profit and not paying taxes. One only need to look at one of the most successful international corporations of all time, the Catholic Church.

For centuries the Catholic Church has imposed its will over governments around the world and used everything from tithing to poor boxes to grow a vast financial empire. The CEO of the Catholic Church is the pope and his senior vice presidents are the various cardinals stationed at key locations throughout the world. Make no mistake, they live like executives complete with salaries, expense accounts, company transportation and a set of benefits that would make Bill Gates envious.

Religion is a business. Some churches offer religious services for which people pay a fee. Sometimes that fee is a voluntary donation to the collection plate, but other services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals come with a set price. Other churches offer more than just services. Some sell books, records, tapes and DVD's on the internet or over a toll free number. You can also buy a number of inspirational trinkets to keep for yourself or to give as gifts. No matter how you cook the books, money is changing hands. A portion of that money always goes to people in need, but not before the church officials take their cut.

The irony is that this is not what Jesus Christ had in mind. How can a religion based on the teachings of a man who threw the merchants out of the temple so shamelessly deal in money?

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