Just How Damned is the North American Church?

kinnon —  December 28, 2008 — 7 Comments

According to the New York Times story on Church foreclosures,

…borrowing by churches became more common in the 1990s, reaching $28 billion* nationwide in 2006, including mortgages, construction loans and church bonds… via Jordon Cooper’s links post

Estimate of cost to save African children from hunger and easily preventable diseases (who die at the unfathomable rate of 25,000/day) – $25 Billion.

Note: The $28 Billion figure does not represent all the monies that have been raised and spent in an attempt to sate the appetites of church leaders’ edifice complexes.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

7 responses to Just How Damned is the North American Church?

  1. Not that I want to try and justify our edifice complex but it’s a bit unfair to imply that if we sent all of that money to Africa it would save children. Africa (and the developing world) has issues that no amount of money will solve.

    If I wrote a $25B cheque to feed the children despots and bandits would end up with most of it before it ever reached the hungry. There are people who benefit from keeping aid out of the hands of the needy.

    Should we then stop contributing money? Absolutely not! But throwing ungoverned money at Africa will only fuel fire of greed. It is going to take wisdom, political will, and multi-national cooperation (led by Africans!) to overcome this issue.

    It’s a bit unfair to insinuate that the Africa is hungry because North Americans are too into buildings. Yes, we’re too into buildings but that’s not why Africa is hungry.

  2. I was going to say exactly what Brad said.

    Only I was also going to say this.

    Our greed for more and bigger church buildings is not what is starving the children in Africa. That’s a false argument … a straw man, if you will. No, wait, that’s wrong too. Anyway, …

    Our greed for more and bigger is starving our own children right here at home. The despots in Africa have a perfect right to say, “Why should we listen to them … we’ll take their money and build kingdoms of our own just like they do.” Until we change and set a better example here … nothing is going to change anywhere. And no amount of money will change that.

  3. Brad, I think you are unfairly jumping to some conclusions here. Bill is not ignorant of the complexities of economics, politics, etc. in respect to the African context. If you read his post again you will see that he did not recommend simply shifting the funds over “ungoverned” to Africa. Rather, he placed to hard financial realities next to each other to reveal something about ourselves and the world around us.

    He was not suggestion a naively simple solution, but exposing an embarrassingly simple truth.


  4. P.S. “to hard financial realities” should be “two hard financial realities”

  5. I appreciate the conversation amongst three of my favourite bloggers.

    As Jamie says, I’m not suggesting we just pull up in one of our Alberta Tar Sands-sized loaders and dump 25 Billion dollars on Africa. (Using Africa as a monolith is a problem, period, in this kind of discussion – as it is a huge continent with much divergence and 55+ nations.)

    I’ve spent a total of a year on the African continent since 1996 – in Southern and Eastern Africa. I’ve worked as a documentary filmmaker with medical missions teams, reconciliation teams and taught film making/storytelling at an East African university. I’ve fought with corrupt African bureaucrats while bringing equipment into the country for the benefit of said University. (And the bribe demanded, which began @ $3000USD – ending up – after two hours of wrangling – costing $200 in “duty” – $50 of which “went for lunch”.)

    I’ve seen small, efficient Christian NGO’s with the support of the US Embassy, get the aid directly to the needy. (I think of 100 sewing machines in use in one African truck stop town – that corrupt officials in a port city attempted to take half of before they were released – the Embassy shamed them into allowing all of them to go to assist AIDs infected women who had been supporting their families via prostitution.)

    The issue is not sending 25Billion to Africa. It is the church spending 28Billion on itself while ignoring its responsibilities to the rest of the world. Whether Blood Water Mission or Worldvision – there are credible NGO’s that would use that money to change the face of disease and poverty in the developing world – through both direct assistance and education.

    Come with me to the highlands outside of Nakura in Kenya where the Dorobo people suffer from significant disease and illness because they drink water from stagnant pools. Simple meds can cure the disease and simple teaching to boil the water can further prevent the problem. About 30K in teaching, meds and simple boiling equipment and the problem is gone. But 30K is about 30% of the cost of the audio board alone in many of these now cash-strapped megachurches.

    Jesus words in Matthew 25: 31-46 damn the churches that spend more on themselves than anything else. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” And it matters not whether the least of these are in your inner city, the crumbling suburbs or across the planet from you.

  6. “About 30K in teaching, meds and simple boiling equipment and the problem is gone. But 30K is about 30% of the cost of the audio board alone in many of these now cash-strapped megachurches.”

    That’s a revolting mental picture … and part of the problem is because we have a theology(?) which teaches that our body is separate from our soul and that our soul is more important than our body. So what happens to our body while on earth is unimportant, as long as we have salvation. (I know there’s a good word for this, but it’s escaping me right now)

    So the expensive equipment, etc. is justified because it can be used to win souls. Not that it actually IS mind you. But maybe it will. No one thinks about saving lives, eyesight, etc. and the effect that would have on life eternal for the millions on other continents. And maybe that’s why Jesus talked about doing for “the least of these” … hmmmmmm

  7. Sonja, I think I might have the right words you were looking for…

    “I have been talking, of course, about a dualism that manifests itself in several ways; it is a cleavage, a radical discontinuity, between Creator and creature, spirit and matter, religion and nature, religion and economy, worship and work, etc. This dualism, I think is the most destructive disease that afflicts us. In its best known, its most dangerous, and perhaps its fundamental version, it is the dualism of body and soul.”

    –Wendell Berry, Christianity and the Survival of Creation

    Or, as Dallas Willard is famous for saying, you may be describing the influence of Vampire Christians: those who want Jesus for his blood and little else! 🙂


What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.