Saturday, February 09, 2013

Money corrupts pastors

I read a lot of stories about pastor flying around the country in private jets and living in mansions. I know these people to be frauds by their works. There is no connection between the lifestyle they live, and message of Christ that my christian friends try to sell me when we talk of religion. My friends use the old canard, "Well pastor X is not a real christian, and his church is not an authentic church." They urge me to pay no attention to the high-flying mega church pastors and the moral corruption of their collective message. Worship the dollar… pay no attention to the family struggling to put food on the table. Wealth is our God…

Corruption takes many forms. If you read my blog, you know that clergy sexual abuse is an area that I explore. I cannot understand why anyone abuses a child. When you wrap the abuse in religion, it becomes all the more confusing. I don't have an answer. I simply point at it and yell, "Wrong!"

When a pastor trips over money, the stories are easier to understand, but no least disturbing. Why would a pastor lie, cheat, and steal? I have a theory, but few religious people listen. Pastors are just men or woman whose job puts them at the head of a church. They are not holy, or filled with the spirit, or different from us in any way. Pastors are people. Thus, they fall just like the rest of us.

Pastor Kevin Sutherland is the latest in a long line of fallen pastors. Although his alleged crimes are still unproven allegations, his case is a perfect example of my point. Sutherland and his wife run the Mosaic Miami Church. If you attend Mosaic, then you get the Sutherland spin on Christianity. I wonder if that spin includes teaching members how to profit from the sale of counterfeit art?

According to prosecutors, Kevin Sutherland, a Florida pastor, tried to do just that in December. Mr. Sutherland contacted Sotheby’s and offered to sell one of Mr. Hirst’s “spin” paintings, which he bought from an unidentified person according to court documents, at an upcoming auction.

By the end of January, Sotheby’s authentication service, Science Ltd., had determined that the work was a forgery, a prosecutor said in court. But before Sotheby’s notified Mr. Sutherland of that, it would seem that they also notified law enforcement authorities.

Rejected by Sotherby's, Sutherland offered the discredited work and other works, to an undercover investigator.

Then, on Jan. 31, Sotheby’s notified Mr. Sutherland that there had been a problem with the authentication. Three hours later, Mr. Sutherland e-mailed the undercover officer, prosecutors said in court papers. Mr. Sutherland went on to tell the undercover officer that he had another spin painting and three of Mr. Hirst’s “dot” paintings. He provided provenance papers and agreed to sell the lot for $185,000.

Now disgraced pastor Kevin Sutherland and his upbeat alternative church are in the spotlight. I am afraid the attention will not be kind. Fraud in one area leads to crimes in another area. Do you really want to tithe 10% of your wealth to a man who tries to sell counterfeit art? What other schemes are afoot? Look at your walk with Christ. is it authentic? How would you know if the words you've been using to interpret the message of Christ came from the lips of a liar?

How would Sutherland know what God wants?

What God wants from us is not religion but a relationship. Jesus didn’t teach His original disciples a religion. Rather, He loved them, trained them, commissioned them, and empowered them, and these disciples went out and changed the world! Jesus is still doing the same today. Now that’s an adventure. 

Sutherland, like every other pastor on the planet, makes it up as he goes along. Some pastors rely on ritual, some on doctrine, and still others build something to fit their personal vision. Yet, we give these people special privileges simply because they call themselves pastor. We treat them as holy or wise when they are just… us.  I'll never understand it.