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Stealing should not be protected sin

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By Gayle Deaton

It could almost be time for some truth in spending.

On Nov. 6 a Republican senator sent TV Evangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland a set of written questions about how they spend their money.

As church leaders, they pay no taxes but are supposed to put some of the money they receive back into serving the public welfare.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, head of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, decided the Copelands' flights to Hawaii and Fiji just might not really qualify as legitimate business trips.

Grassley has also asked the couple for spending information such as credit card receipts, offshore bank account information. He is also asking TV Evangelist Joyce Meyer about spending $23,000 on a commode, which all in all, is small potatoes given her estimated $124 million annual income from her TV viewers and followers.

It seems to me if she were listening to God, she would do a lot better things with that money than buy fancy toilets. These types of TV evangelists have always reminded me of pyramid scam artists who try to use God as their product instead of Amway.

It turns out, their brand of religion has a special name: According to Time Magazine, Meyer and the Copelands are considered a subculture of Christianity called "Prosperity Gospel."

I don't recall hearing about this in Sunday School.

But their theory in a nutshell is that if you send them money, and "believe the right thoughts," you will receive "divine repayment in this life."

They even go as far as to imply to their marks, or uhhm, their followers, that they could receive as much as a $100 return from God on each dollar given to them.

Right.

The more likely story is the money just got flushed down Meyer's very expensive toilet or shipped to the Copelands' offshore bank account.

I guess they figure God helps those who help themselves.

Unfortunately, they're not the only ones.

I have attended a couple of churches (that I will be kind enough not to name here) so focused on raising money they gave me a similar, creepy feeling. Especially when I saw signs of the money they raised being spent in a similar, wasteful manner.

I mean, does God really mandate a copper roof or a $25,000 piece of art rather than a contribution to the local homeless shelter or food pantry?

Did they not see the Indiana Jones movie where he saved his skin by figuring Jesus would have drank from the ordinary carpenter's cup rather than a bejeweled cup fit for a king?

I guess maybe it did not have the Disney seal of approval, and they missed it.

I think I heard somewhere in church that helping people should come before accumulating money when it comes to religion.

I do not recall hearing anywhere that Jesus spent his time shopping for a Rolex or worrying about his wardrobe.

Therefore, I'm taking the hard-line stance: If I made the rules, all non-profit groups including churches would be transparent and have to let the people who donate see exactly where their money goes.

Anything else in this day and age smacks of corruption.

But then, that is just me, and the scoundrels can relax because I do not make the rules.

However, Sen. Chuck Grassley apparently shares some similar thoughts on the subject, and he does have some influence on the rules. I also recall hearing presidential candidate John McCain, another Republican senator, took a great deal of heat from the religious right for saying non-profits should open their books.

Maybe someday enough people will say they want what is right and fair rather than stay quiet just to protect the status quo.

After all, what would Jesus do?