By Curtis F
Earlier this month, it was announced that the ministry of Atlanta-based pastor Creflo Dollar would continue its fundraising to purchase a $65 million private jet, which they said was “necessary in order to fulfill the mission of [their] ministry,” after initially ceasing their campaign due to public outcry. While some may view it as sickening for a “man of God” to participate in such wasteful spending, the truth of what churches could really be accomplishing is downright offensive.
COULD CHURCHES END HOMELESSNESS?
Creflo Dollar isn’t the bulk of the problem when it comes to money in religion, but he’s thankfully brought it to the public’s attention. Steve Siebold over at The Huffington Post said it best when he spoke of Dollar’s (no, we’re not making up the name) attempt to raise money for a luxury jet:
“That’s a lot of money. Do you think Jesus would have wanted his earthly representatives travelling [sic] the globe in luxurious accommodations? Or do you think Jesus would have wanted to see that $65 million used to feed the poor, help the homeless, improve education, or just make some kind of huge impact to help humanity?”
What really made people mad was that Dollar asked his congregants to donate $300 each so he could purchase the jet — and this is no ordinary jet. Millionaires spend years on waiting lists just for the opportunity to own the Gulfstream G650. Then again, televangelist Joel Osteen is worth $40 million and lives in a $10.5 million mansion, so maybe this is just par for the course?
Could Dollar and Osteen cure homelessness with the money they’ve spent, or will spend, on these luxurious endeavors? Definitely not, but when you look at American religion in general, the disheartening truth comes to light.
ENDING HOMELESSNESS AND WORLD HUNGER
Creflo Dollar claims that he needs this luxurious private jet to spread the word of God throughout the world. Want to know what would undoubtedly spread the word of God? Curing homelessness and world hunger. And sadly, it appears that American religious institutions have the power to do this, but they’d rather purchase luxury mansions and jets.
Mark Johnston, a leader at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), stated that increasing the department’s budget ten-fold, equating to roughly $20 billion, would allow America to end its homeless problem by the year 2020. This may sound daunting, but just wait until you hear about curing world hunger.
The United Nations stated that solving world hunger could cost upwards of $30 billion per year. So if we do the math, it would cost $50 billion to effectively end homelessness in the United States and starvation around the world. Even if Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar donated all of their belongings to this initiative, though, we wouldn’t have nearly enough money to pull off $50 billion.
And that, my friends, is where taxes come in.
CHURCH TAXES COULD END HOMELESSNESS AND WORLD HUNGER
$50 billion. Don’t forget that number…ever. Where in the world could we possibly get that much money? As this graph from ThinkProgress shows, a variety of places:
That’s right. The money we spend on Christmas each year — you know, the holiday where religion is literally “the reason for the season” — could take out American homelessness on its own. But we mustn’t be afraid to dream bigger, my dear.
As it turns out, taxpayers subsidize religious institutions to the sum of $71 billion every single year. This is due to their not having to pay federal income taxes, state income taxes, property taxes or really any tax you could possibly imagine. When you add in the fact that 32 percent of the “charitable deductions” every year are given to religious groups, this equates to $83.5 billion in revenue being lost to religious institutions in America.
Do you recall that number we told you to remember? $50 billion to cure U.S. homelessness and world hunger? How does that compare to the $83.5 billion that we’re losing out on every year thanks to those whose stated purpose is to care for those in need and to spread the word of God?
If you really want the world to see the love that God has for people, make sure that no one in America has to sleep on the streets. Make sure that not a single child across the globe dies of starvation. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” Would he purchase a $65 million jet to “spread the word,” or would he walk the walk of the word by paying taxes and curing two of the world’s largest ills?
We’ll close with the actual Word of God. When asked whether or not they should pay taxes, Jesus told his followers in Mark 12:17,
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Who would have thought that you could do both just by paying your freaking taxes?