Crys-extThe drama surrounding the slow demise of the palatial “Crystal Cathedral” in Garden Grove, California continues to play out. The local Roman Catholic diocese purchased the “Cathedral” in a bankruptcy sale only a few months, ago, and I’d have thought things might have been resolved with creditors being paid off … but alas, it was not to be. The Los Angeles Times reports that founding pastor and televangelist Robert H. Schuller resigned from its rump board over money he thinks he’s owed (WebCite cached article):

Robert H. Schuller and his wife cited the “negative” environment at the church he founded when announcing their resignation from the Crystal Cathedral board.

“We cannot continue to serve on the board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere especially since it now seems that it will not be ending any time soon,” Arvella Schuller said in a statement Saturday. …

The resignations are a result of a breakdown in negotiations over financial claims against the church that the Schullers filed in Bankruptcy Court.

Schuller; his wife, Arvella; their daughter Carol Schuller Milner; and her husband, Timothy Milner, allege that the church owes them money for copyright infringement, intellectual property violations and unpaid contracts.

Sorting through competing financial claims has delayed $12.5 million in payments to some church creditors and could threaten the church’s ability to continue its ministries, including the “Hour of Power” broadcasts.

That’s right folks. With tens of millions of dollars of debt owed to a large number of creditors — some of whom are small businesses who’ve gone unpaid for years already — the Schuller family is hovering over their church’s sad remains, fending them off and demanding to be paid first. That there isn’t any money left — and that the Schullers themselves caused their church’s pathetic financial condition in the first place — appears not to matter to them. They just want their money, and are willing to get in the way of everyone else’s interests, and storm out of the room, in order to get it.

What a wonderful brood, eh?

I still can’t figure what this kind of greed has to do with the man who founded Christianity and taught the virtue of humility and poverty … but hey, what could a cold-hearted, skeptical, godless agnostic heathen like myself possibly know about such things? If there are any Christians out there who can explain this to me, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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  • To think of the millions and millions of dollars that went down that rabbit hole over the years; it could have fed, clothed, and educated many needy children. It could have been used to advance science and/or medical care. It could have been used to provide housing for the poor. It could have been used by libraries to maintain their books and acquire new ones. What a waste.

    I guess I missed the peak times of the evangelical career options. I just missed my calling. I could have taken a few "Southern Speaking" classes, bought a decent suit, and started my own church thirty years ago. If I had done it right, I'd be sitting pretty about now instead of being unemployed and sucking wind.

    Ah well, can't fret over missed opportunities. Maybe I'll run for elected office. I'm older and wiser now. I hear politics is nearly as profitable as religion. After all, it's still fleecing the flock. You just use a different kind of trimmer.

    Hallelujah! Vote for me!

    • You're right, Eric, that money could have been far better-spent elsewhere. There was a time — long, long ago it seems — that Christians were known for compassion, for charity, and for giving without asking anything in return. Centuries ago, it was the collection of massive wealth by the Church, in the form of people paying for indulgences, that triggered Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses and cause an ecclesiastical and theological revolution.

      But nowadays, evangelical preachers amassing multi-million dollar fortunes, is considered "normal," yawn-inspiringly so. I certainly am not seeing anything like the outrage that launched the Reformation. No one, it seems, gives a shit. At least, I don't hear any Christians complaining about it; it's mostly godless heathens like you and I who seem to notice.

      • I don't think people give a shit about anything these days; at least not anything that is beyond their little sphere of self-indulgent interest. If it's not something to do with their Twitter account or the rates they'rer paying for additional texting service on the iGadget, it just seems to drop off their radar screens very quickly.

        This world is a much different place than it was when I was a child; and my world was much different than that of my Depression Era parents. That's just the way it is… our little worlds move on and leave us old and dumbfounded. It's Alvin Toffler's Future Shock every 10-15 years nowadays.

        It's not just technology that I'm talking about. It's our entire culture as human beings. It changes so rapidly in developed and developing countries these days that a sane person cannot keep up with it all. I love technology and scientific advancement, but sometimes it does make one yearn for those seemingly simpler days of yore.

        Getting back on topic, though… maybe it's the twilight of those MEGA churches of previous times. The Catholic church can't find new priests or nuns. The Baptists are losing congregation members to old age and apathy. I am noticing that I'm running across more atheists and agnostics these days, though.

        Is it an awakening? Are people finally starting to get tired of being lied to and cheated? Or are they just too wrapped up in their little lives to pay much attention to religion or politics these days? Hell, bring on the atheist anarchy Utopia. How much worse can it be than this current shit? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        /ramble

        • I'm not sure the problem is that people don't care. The problem is that they identify themselves too intensely with whatever group they belong to … whether that group is an ethnicity, or a religion, or an ideology, or whatever. Being part of the group is important to them, so important that they're willing to look the other way at the excesses of others in the same group. They fear that the group's "enemies," whoever they are, might use that criticism against their own group.

          A secondary problem is "that could have been me" thinking. They imagine that, somehow, they could have been the wealthy televangelist. And if they were, they wouldn't want one of their colleagues criticizing them for it. As it turns out, this secondary problem accounts for why the legions of the Right are stocked with poor folks who're agitating for the wealthy not to be taxed any more; they think that, somehow, they might become wealthy and might want to keep their money.

          All of this is very irrational and incredibly illogical, of course, but who said people were rational or logical? Rationality and logic are actually alien to humanity. (Hence the title R.T. Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary chose to give his follow-up book & blog, Unnatural Acts. Being skeptical is very "unnatural," and people resist it as long as they can.

          • Indeed, the ingrained clan-ish behavior of the human animal, which results in that "us and them" mentality, is the root of many evils in this world. Can't blame that one on religion, though. I think that's just a natural evolutionary survival tactic for groups of animals, generally speaking.

            I can relate to what you say about poor folks agitating for wealthy to NOT be taxed because they themselves hope to one day be a part of that wealthy group. I was even guilty of this thinking in my own young adulthood. Yes, I was a conservative Republican at one time ( https://noctslackv2.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/i-wa… ). What the hell was I smoking? Those days are gone. I guess wisdom does come with age. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            I realize that taxation is a necessary evil in a society such as ours. However, my peeve about taxation is that it's inherently unfair. Our current tax code results in a bell shaped curve, where the middle income people are at the apex of the curve and the extremes of poor and rich are at the lower edges. The middle income people pay the highest amount of taxes (relative to their gross income) and those at the extremes pay little or nothing. There's something wrong with that system. I'm all for a nationwide sales tax and NO income taxes. Everyone who consumes in this country would then be sharing the burden of the expense of maintaining it.

            That'll never happen, though. Those in power will never let that happen. They like the status quo.

            Off I go…

          • The problem with sales taxes is that they always affect the poor far more heavily than the wealthy. It takes a certain amount of "consumption" simply to live, and that amount … which is what gets taxed … is a FAR larger proportion of the income of poor folks than it is of rich folks.

            You may have heard of the so-called "Fair Tax," which is a nationwide sales tax along the lines of what you're talking about. Unfortunately for it, the only thing about it which is "fair" is the word "fair" in its name. No aspect of it, in reality, is the least bit "fair."

            You're right that the middle class bears the burden of taxation; that's because they have the majority of the money which can be taxed. But that's not a good reason to shift taxation further downward to the poor. Doing so will not help the middle class, ultimately; it will only hurt the poor more than they're already hurt; and it will be a windfall for the wealthy, who — let's be honest — don't need it.

            If it sounds as though I'm a "tax the wealthy" guy, then I guess I am, mostly because there is no viable alternative. The idea that we can get along with no taxes (aka what the Ron Paulites want) is laughable and should be dismissed out of hand. No government operates on no taxation. It can and will never happen. Both the poor and middle class are taxed as much as they can handle already. The only place to go, is to the wealthy. Let them suck it up and pay up. Their crybaby stamping and whining is wearing a little thin, and personally I'm tired of hearing how "oppressed" they are. No one who makes six figures in this country is "oppressed," by any rational definition of the word. It's time we all just admitted it and moved on already.

          • Well… I can't quite agree with you that a consumption tax would burden the poor more than it would the rich. It's all relative. Let's say we're going to have a 15% sales tax on everything (services and products) with the exceptions of non-prepared food items, prescription medications, and medical treatments by properly licensed doctors/hospitals. Oh, and NO exemptions for religions/churches, etc. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Poor Bob's family makes $20,000/yr income. Assuming he manages to save 2000 a year in the bank and he has 6000/yr food and medical expenses (mostly covered by his government mandated health insurance). That means Poor Bob and his family are going to spend the remainder and be subject to the sales tax. So, they'd have $14K gross to spend (tax included), for a tax burden of around $2100/yr., leaving them about $1000/month to live on (not counting food/med, which has already been deducted out above).

            OK, so now we have Rich Bill's family. Their income is $2M/yr., which is 100 times that of Poor Bob's family. The corresponding outgo and taxation would be 100 times that of the poor family. Rich Bill's family tax burden is going to $210,000/yr. Will Rich Bill's family actually spend 100 times what Poor Bob's family does to live? Yeah… probably. People tend to live up to (and beyond) their means. It's the American Way.

            So, yes… it's going to be more difficult for Poor Bob's family to get by on $20,000/yr than Rich Bill's family at $2M/yr, but that's always the case in any culture/government/tax code. The difference between this theoretical tax plan and our current reality, is that, thanks to loop holes and other exemptions, corporations, rich people, churches, rich tourists, etc. all pay close to zero in taxes. The government receives very little support from these entities in our current plan.

            In the theoretical plan, they ALL support the government. Every dollar spent in the U.S. would provide .15 cents to the U.S. Gov. That would be a lot of money; much more, I believe, than what is currently collected via our bloated, out-dated tax system. Oh, and think of the money saved at the I.R.S. It could be run by three employees with a decent computer. There would be no tax filing. Taxes are deducted at point-of-sale.

            I know. I know. The idea as I explain it is VERY simplified. It would work, though. The main reason we'll never see something like this implemented is because those in power would never allow it. There's no way they would voluntarily go from miniscule tax burdens to mega tax burdens based on their spending. Never gonna' happen. The super rich do NOT intend to give up any of their money for silly things like running a government or providing for the poor and needy. That's for the common man to worry about. Those in the upper strata have more pressing worries… like what tonight's dinner will be at the club or whether or not the Bentley got washed and waxed as per instructions.

            Ah well…

          • Re: "So, yes… it's going to be more difficult for Poor Bob's family to get by on $20,000/yr than Rich Bill's family at $2M/yr, but that's always the case in any culture/government/tax code."

            Yes, but that doesn't mean we need to contribute to that problem by purposely structuring the tax system to make it even worse.

            Re: "The difference between this theoretical tax plan and our current reality, is that, thanks to loop holes and other exemptions, corporations, rich people, churches, rich tourists, etc. all pay close to zero in taxes."

            True, which is why they need to stop whining and crying and bellyaching that it's horrible for them to have to pay taxes. If the money has to come from somewhere, it should come from the people who have it, not the people who don't.

  • Yeeesh! Have we gone off on a tangent. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Yes we have. Sorry about that. I am just tired of hearing the moans and groans from people who are wealthy that they're being destroyed by a tax code that's designed to demolish them and give their wealth to the poor. You and I both know that nothing of the sort is happening. The wealthy in this country are doing just fine, and people on government assistance are not living in mansions and driving fleets of Escalades on the public dole.

      On your own blog you addressed the matter of being on assistance. You know people who use government programs like food stamps are not rolling in dough, which is what the tea partiers would have people believe. They're outraged over the idea that someone, somewhere, sometime, might have gotten an undeserved windfall … and they find it so disturbing, that they'd prefer to end all assistance programs of all sorts, everywhere, in order to avoid that possibility.

      It's irrational, and it's childish too.

  • Well, it's your site. You can fly off on a tear that results in a stimulating conversation if you want to. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And yes! Yes! Most definitely YES! I have learned from personal experience that one must be absolutely destitute and one step away from the cardboard box under the Interstate overpass if one wants to qualify for any government assistance in this country. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    The system is geared toward assisting families or single women with children. That's as it should be, I believe. Formerly middle class working stiffs like myself should not be treated with as much urgency as a young mother of three who just lost her job. I don't have a problem with that at all. The majority of folks receiving government assistance are just like myself, I believe; honest, hard-working Americans who for whatever reasons find themselves unable to provide their daily bread at the moment.

    I also know that there are some who "play" the system. That's just the way it is. There will always be those who find ways to abuse/misuse something. The rich play the tax system. The lawyers play the legal system. The politicians play the political system. Scooter companies and medical supply companies play the Medicare system. It has ever been thus. It's a shame, but it seems to be a common human failing to cheat whenever possible.

    This is sure bumping up my intense debate stats. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Re: "There will always be those who find ways to abuse/misuse something. The rich play the tax system. The lawyers play the legal system. The politicians play the political system. Scooter companies and medical supply companies play the Medicare system. It has ever been thus. It's a shame, but it seems to be a common human failing to cheat whenever possible."

    You're right about this, definitely. People cheat. Businesses (which are run by people) cheat. Organizations (again, made up of people) cheat. To cheat is to be human. To assume there can be a world in which no person or group cheats, is Pollyannic and foolish. Which is why the Rightist terror over the possibility of someone being unjustly enriched, is so foolish. Of course people are going to be unjustly enriched. What matters is if there's a system to detect and prosecute it, if it happens. And whether or not they want to admit it, we have that.

    Example: Some state employees here in CT took advantage of storm benefits in the wake of T.S. Irene, and are finding out the hard way that their fraud can be detected and prosecuted. But if you listen to local Right-wing talk radio, you get the sense it was all a setup by the government and the governor himself; they purposely cooked up a way to enrich state employees unjustly, and intended never to go after any of them for it.

    The problem, of course, is that the state IS, in fact, going after them (as you can see in the link or in any number of other news stories). The Right, then, is railing about something that demonstrably did not happen the way they say it did. Nevertheless, they persist in claiming this was all a "wink wink nudge nudge" thing and that none of the employees involved will ever be affected by what they did. Losing their jobs, though, is certainly an "effect," and criminal investigations are ongoing … they're hardly in the clear there.

    Anyway, I'm happy to help you fuel your I.D. ratings … ! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • When the Right (or Left) begins to whine and cry about anything, it's ALWAYS politically driven/motivated. In your example above, they're probably trying to place blame for these alleged cheats on Democratic (Left) government. I'm not sure, though, because I'm not familiar with CT's current governing majority. When a Republican (Right) government is in charge, the Left is the one screaming and gnashing their teeth. It's all a bunch of do-do. ๐Ÿ™

    And talk radio… I used to love it years ago. I cannot stand it anymore. I'd rather listen to Art Bell and George Noury for entertainment purposes than listen to Rush or Beck and have my blood pressure rise to unhealthful levels. When I turn the radio on out in my shop these days, it's usually tuned to sports talk channel; I'm not even a sport fan, with the sole exception of baseball.

    Speaking of baseball… It's about time for your yearly State of the BoSox address here on your site. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Re: "In your example above, they're probably trying to place blame for these alleged cheats on Democratic (Left) government."

      I don't know about that. I find it difficult to believe that a sitting Democratic governor would have told state employees to go ahead and defraud the food stamp program. Call me crazy — and many do — but I find that claim to exceed the bounds of credibility. Malloy may have done a lot of things, but I can't imagine that was one of them.

      Re: "Speaking of baseball… It's about time for your yearly State of the BoSox address here on your site. ;)"

      Not going there. They quit on us last year. I remain a big fan of Jacoby Ellsbury, but the rest of them can go jump in a lake. I'm not interested in any of their namby-pamby semi-apologies for the catastrophic collapse … and I don't for one moment buy the idea that a couple of the guys drinking beer & eating chicken on their off days can explain the pervasive ennui that consumed nearly the entire team.

      When they come out with a real apology, and a reasonable and believable explanation for why almost the whole team quit last September, maybe I'll discuss them. But not until then. I'm done.

  • Oh, I wasn't saying that CT's Governor or Legislature actually did anything wrong. I was just saying that when Right bitches, it's usually to paint Left in a bad way… and vice versa.

    Well then… Re: baseball: in the meantime, you can help me cheer on the Rays in their run for the World Series again this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You may not have been saying it, but the right-wingers on talk radio here in CT have all but stated explicitly that Malloy was behind the whole scheme. You and I agree it's ridiculous, but they don't, and there are lots of listeners who buy into it.

      • What? No comment about helping me cheer on the Rays? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Speaking of that, it's about time for my Spring Baseball article at my Nocturnal Slacker v2.0 blog. I'll have to put some thought into that this weekend, I think.

        • Sorry Eric, as sickened as I am by the Red Sox' antics, I can't bring myself to root for another team. Not in the American League anyway. Over the years I've sort of followed the Mets, so if I do root for another team, it'll probably be them. Not that they're a whole lot better than the Bosox … but then, no one expects them to be very good.

          I'll be sure to check on your baseball blog entry, though! ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • My fav Nat'l League teams are the Reds, the Pirates, and sometimes the Giants. ๐Ÿ™‚ The Reds because I grew up watching them play just three blocks from my house here in Tampa (spring training and Florida Grapefruit League). The Pirates because my brother played for them for a year or so (A ball in Bradenton, FL and Monroe, NC) back in the early 70s. And the Giants because I love watching The Freak, Tim Lincecum pitch. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Up here in CT we don't have any Spring Training so I don't have that advantage! Here, we hear mostly about 3 baseball teams: the Yankees (hiss, boo, hiss), the Red Sox, and the Mets. We get their scores and game highlights in nightly sports segments on the news, usually in that order. So I can hardly avoid hearing about the Mets. Plus, on my cable system we get all 3 of the regional channels that carry them (YES, NESN, and SNY). So it's just as easy for me to watch the Mets as it is to watch the Red Sox. I can't follow any other teams, not without signing up for MLB on the 'Net for hundreds of dollars a season.I can't recall having seen Lincecum pitch, although I've heard people say it's an odd experience. Is he anything like Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd or Bill “Spaceman” Lee?

          • OK. This is officially the most trashed comment thread in Miscellanea Agnostica history. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Anywho… Lincecum just has a great wind-up and delivery, as far as I'm concerned. Check out these slow-mo vids:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2PBLcp9tWM&f
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnPFSDTU_ng&f