Editorial: Megachurches ignore key religious tenets

Editorial Board

Charity over greed, sacrifice over selfishness, humility over vanity, spiritualism over materialism – these are some of the virtues professed by many religions around the world, and they are virtuous indeed.

The very idea that there is a loving God above, that we are merely one soul in a sea of other similar and equal souls, begs that we consider the needs of others over our own desires.

Despite the overwhelming goodness preached by all major religions, there is one holy group that seems to defy this conventional wisdom: megachurches.

Now to be fair, “megachurch” is a term commonly used to describe places of worship, often of the Protestant faith, with a weekly attendance in excess of 2,000 people. There is nothing inherently perverse or sinful in having a certain number of worshipers, but across the nation, larger and larger churches seem to have gaudier institutions. Additionally, these same churches seem to contain increasingly wealthier preachers.

Far be it from anyone else to tell any private organization how they should conduct their business, but the hypocrisy in collecting money from pockets of the devout, merely to spend it on sleek idols, plush decorations, and ornate artwork is glaringly obvious.

It could be argued that these expenditures are actually justified because people prefer such churches. Such is the gist of Ed Young Jr., pastor of Dallas’ Fellowship Church who mused that megachurches may be “taking people from other churches because we have a cooler church.”

Divine ego contests aside, Young’s remark belies an understanding that has been growing in recent years: if people don’t like your religion, change your religion. This logic flies in the face of just what a religion has traditionally stood for – namely, tradition and an absolute adherence to faith. The very nature of religious values is that they transcend popular opinions, and will not bend or reshape themselves to gain acceptance.

Tossing aside the ingrained morals of one’s religion to gain a large audience is a shameful display for any devout person, let alone for a congregation’s leader.

It is almost too obvious to add, but the blatant fact remains that all of the money used to purchase rich decorative pieces, giant TV screens, fancy prayer centers, and stylish furnishings could have been spent in a much more “righteous” way. Whether it was used to feed the hungry, comfort the sick, or clothe the poor does not matter. These worthy causes and many more like them are certainly more important than how “cool” a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple looks.

This line of thinking has been embraced throughout history by many religious factions, and is even gaining support in some groups that have historically been more than willing to accumulate wealth in the name of God. For example, Pope Francis, the recently elected leader of the Catholic world, has embraced a more modest approach to leading the masses.

Pope Francis has opted to live in a guesthouse of the normal Papal residency, and reminded new bishops in Rome that “We pastors must not be men with a princely mindset” this past September.

Again, it is not our job to monitor the actions of private organizations. But the hypocrisy of churches or religious leaders who choose not to “practice what they preach” is unsettling.

While Pope Francis’s words and the Catholic faith are mere examples in the global mosaic of religions, potential reforms there can serve as examples for others.

It would surely be a sermon that megachurches, as bastions of bedazzlement, might want to attend.