Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This post is sponsored by the Secular Humanist Conspiracy Project of the Church of the Orange Sky.

Last year a Congressional committee in the U.S. began investigating various mega-churches for financial misdoings, hinting that ministers like the aptly-named Creflo Dollar were engaged in too much profiteerng and political activism to qualify for the tax-exempt status traditionally given to churches. At the time, I believe I suggested we drop the tax exemption altogether, since churches shouldn't need it and it would force us to think about alternative ways to build religious community and engage in charity projects than simply moving money through church bank accounts. It seems, however, that the publicity of the megachurches' corruption may be having an effect anyways, though, even without withdrawing their tax exemptions.

A couple of years ago, I went, with one of my friends back in Prince George, to a "non-denominational" charismatic church called the Overcoming Faith Christian Centre. This struck me, and always has, as a really dumb name for a church. Actually it sounds more like a recovery group for former Christians turned atheist. But that's not the point today. The "Christian centers" are spread out through cities in Canada and the U.S., ostensibly without denomination but in practice all sharing the name "Christian centre" and a focus on charismatic evangelicalism.

One of their counterparts in Minnesota is the Living Word Christian Center, which has a very nicely professional Website here. I tried to find out how big the church is and could only find out that ten years ago it had 7000 members. Presumably it has more now. This certainly qualifies it as a megachurch. The senior pastor is Mac Hammond, who last year claimed he'd "welcome" an IRS audit in order to clear the church's good name. This article on Hammond, from last year, explains the basic issues, including millions of dollars in "personal loans" given him by the church. It also contains some fabulous quotes from Hammond himself, like this one: "It takes wealth, folks, to establish God's covenant on Earth... It takes money to be influential. If you have no money, you can't even love, because love is about giving and not being a burden."

Bravo, Mr. Hammond. I don't think you could have subverted the message of Jesus any more effectively than you did with that statement there. Incidentally, he also explains later that God has given him a "Holy Ghost siphon" which funnels money from his congregation to his own pockets.

Unfortunately, Hammond has fallen on hard times. Church spokesman Rev. Brian Sullivan says this is because of all the bad publicity about the Prosperity Gospel over the past year, sparked by the government investigations. The church is so short of money that - God forbid! - they're going to have to sell their private jet.

Which leads to my next question: why do pastors need private jets in the first place?