The Detroit News reports:
“The leaders of my church said, ‘You can’t get no Saturn. You have to get something bigger,’ “ Glass recalled. So he bought a Cadillac Catera, which came with the cachet of the Cadillac brand.
“I came to appreciate the fact that what I wear and what I drive represents a group of people who want to be (seen) as successful, prosperous,” Glass said. “A lot of folks look up to me as a symbol of hope, that if I can dress or drive a certain way, they can, too. It’s not sound theology -- because the way God blesses one does not mean he’s going to bless the other the same way.”
I’m glad to see that Pastor Lawrence C. Glass, Jr., of El Bethel Church in Redford recognizes that this is not sound theology. After all, it’s not as though Jesus said “blessed are the poor, for they will be able to buy Caddies in my Father’s Kingdom.” On the other hand, isn’t it Glass’ responsibility to teach good theology to his congregation? Isn’t this an admission that he — or at least his denomination and fellow pastors — have failed in their task to point people to values beyond the material?
“I’ve heard a number of people state that the car their pastor drives is indicative of the wealth of their church or the status of him as spiritual leader,” [Scott Thumma, a sociologist of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Conn.] said. “I heard (mega-church icon) Rick Warren make a point of stating that he’s driving a 5-year-old car because he doesn’t want to be seen as one of those mega-church pastors who’s exploiting the fact that he has an enormous amount of wealth because of all the copies of his book that are selling.”
Why are American Christians so obsessed with the status of their congregations and pastors? I can understand why African-Americans might find status to be very important, given how much they have been repressed in America, but why are they transferring this obsession to their religious congregations? Is it because their churches are their primary social organization? Does no one notice the conflict between their concern over material status and the Christian emphasis on neglecting material concerns in favor of spiritual matters?