Since its inception, Christianity has been all about the Benjamins. Despite being considered one of the seven deadly sins, greed has plagued the clergy of various Christian sects throughout its 2000 year history.
This is rather ironic, considering that in his lifetime, Jesus spoke out against greed. Each year at Passover, many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, would flock to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple. It was tradition for pilgrims to make an offering when worshiping at the Temple. However, this offering could not be made in foreign currency, so a group of moneychangers would sell “Temple coinage” and make an excessive profit in the process. Jesus became irate at this practice. Eventually, he overturned all of the moneychangers’ tables and drove them out of the Temple. Yet in spite of Jesus’ blatant and forceful denouncement of greed, the religion he spawned has succumbed time and again to the allure of riches.
The Crusades were an early example of an atrocity driven by the greed of the Catholic Church. While many may claim that the Crusades were largely driven by a desire to spread the gospel of Jesus throughout the world, in reality it was primarily fueled by the Catholic Church’s desire to expand their land, wealth, and power.
In the Middle Ages, with the approval of the Pope, Catholic bishops went around selling indulgences for a profit. Indulgences granted salvation to Catholics who had sinned so that they could go to heaven after they died. The selling of these indulgences became so widespread that the Catholic Church got mired in scandal, and the practice prompted Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, which lauched the Protestant Reformation.
Catholicism is not the only culprit when it comes to Christian greed. In the 1980’s, American televangelists got into the act as well. Leading the charge were Jimmy Swaggert and Jim and Tammy Bakker, who would repeatedly hold extravagant fundraisers to pay for their airtime. However, there were frequent reports that these televangelists misused this money. In fact, a feud broke out between Swaggert and Bakker, where each exposed the other’s extramarital affairs to the American public. This sad chapter in American history ended with Swaggert breaking down in front of his hordes of viewers, making a tear-filled apology on TV.
The 21st Century has now made its own entry into the litany of greed and financial abuse perpetrated by Christian clergy. A New York City pastor has recently been accused of stealing $84,537 from his church parish over the past three years. He used this money to fund his plastic surgery, BOTOX® injections, and prescription drugs.
When Reverend William Blasingame’s parishioners at St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church donated money over the past few years, they were led to believe that it was being used for church maintenance and to help needy parishioners. No one suspected that this money was actually being used to smooth out their pastor’s frown lines and to give him lips reminiscent of Mick Jagger.
I’m sure Reverend Blasingame thought he was being smart by using this money on Botox. Had he spent it on a brand new Mercedes, people would start asking how he could afford such a fancy car. However, if his cosmetic surgeon was subtle enough, his parishioners would most likely not even notice his youthful new face.
But alas, our greedy pastor got caught. Now he faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
I suppose the moral of the story is this: if your pastor is looking more vibrant, virile, and youthful than you remember him, be wary. He may be taking your hard-earned money and using it on Botox. Or maybe your pastor doesn’t like needles. Perhaps it might be funding his facelift or liposuction. Just be sure to check the church financial records before blindly offering up your cash into the donation cup.