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Austin Cline

Pastors' Cars Reflect Parish Beliefs

By December 18, 2005

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Most people might assume that pastors and ministers should try to live at least somewhat modestly - like, for example, by driving average, modest cars. Many Christian congregations reject this, however, and insist that their spiritual leaders live in a manner which exalts materialism, consumerism, and acquisitiveness. How very Christian of them.

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?


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July 31, 2006 at 8:36 pm
(1) Lynn Canova says:

I think a pastor should wear/drive what he/she wants. Any other professional person is allowed to select his/her car of choice…the pastor receives a salary and should be able to purchase whatever he/she wants with it like anyone else. As long as the money belongs to the pastor (not the church and/or the congrgation) what difference does it make? I want my pastor to dress well and drive what he wants. That is what I want for me…options. A pastor who is always late because he/she is stuck on the side of the road with a broken down car has issues. God isin the blessing business. He gives the desires of the heart (the Bible says). If the pastor wants to drive a Cadillac it is fine with me. I tithe and give offerings. I recognize that my church is not about material things and my pastor doesn’t teach that it is. But, when the day is done and he goes to his car, he deserves the comforts he has in his car. And as Billy Holiday sang, “Ain’t nobody’s business…”

July 31, 2006 at 8:59 pm
(2) atheism says:

I want my pastor to dress well and drive what he wants.

Like a proper representative of Jesus, eh?

July 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm
(3) Uno says:

I agree, a pastor should not be restricted to a life that most of us wouldn’t select either. Who wants to drive around in a car that isn’t becoming of them. It is an occupation just as any other. If the pastor has the business mentality to support that lifestyle and the money used is not God’s (belonging to the church) then why can’t he have a luxury car? Yes people do want their pastor to have the finer things in life just as they want it for their ownselves, families and friends. It shouldn’t be anyones decision but the pastor to choose his representation. As far as the impression of the church goes, it does not make or break the churches image because a pastor may not want a luxury car. If he drives a regular car like most of society, that is his decision. The pastor has the right to seclection and as long as they are not using what God blessed them with superficially, then no harm is done. People need to stop being so judgemental, the car or dress is minor compared to the message. What do you care atheism, you don’t believe any way so what difference does it make the atheist world? Find something else to contribute to that you do believe in. You have no room to be facetious, your non belief is humorous enough. Go read the science book if you’re bored.

July 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm
(4) Todd says:

Two can play:

What do you care Uno, you believe any way so what difference does it make in the theist world and Austin questions this?

July 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm
(5) Marc says:

Jesus always rode in the finest chariot! I mean only the finest chariot would be “becoming” the “son of god”, would it not?

Seriously, though, you can actually talk about the minister having the “finer things in life” in the same paragraph as “as long as they are not using what God blessed them with superficially”? Of course by “blessed them with” you mean the monies bilked from his congregation, right? GMAB!

July 25, 2009 at 2:19 am
(6) PManitok says:

Omgoodniss the pastor should be driving a second hand vehicle at most, using the money people put in the collection plate to buy a luxury car, even for a pastor should be made illegal just like it should be illegal for “the vatican” to purchase “graven images” of jebus or god.

Every christian church I’ve been to breaks the 2nd commandment by displaying jebus dying on a cross,,,”Thou shall not make for yourself an idol”,,,,

The idol of every christian church is jesus on a cross with his head looking down, slowly dying, such a horrible image.

July 25, 2009 at 2:57 am
(7) Zayla says:

If I see the local pastor/priest/voodoo/etc. wearing, driving or living in anything other than modest ways, I want the IRS involved if that religious organization is tax exempt.

I resent having to support any of them, but they should all be held to to at least some decent levels of standards, which it seems that most do, with the exception, of course of the RCC.

July 26, 2009 at 7:05 am
(8) Pete W says:

I agree with Zayla. The IRS needs to pay closer attention to these religious institutions. If there were open book policies, full disclosure, and they paid taxes on their monies, I wouldn’t care what they drive.

July 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm
(9) Marc says:

I agree Pete W., infact the more I think about it, the more I hope they live lavishly! First, it’s only fittingly deserved by those who gave them the $, secondly the more blaringly hypocritical they become maybe some of the sheep will awake. I also agree, however, that they should all be audited yearly!

January 30, 2010 at 2:38 pm
(10) Hypocrite says:

Yes! I think the state should be totally involved in the church! So the church can be totally involved in the state. In fact, all non-profit groups should be investigated. This is a brilliant idea; damn the 1st Amendment and the Separation of Church and State Letter. Let’s have an investigation of the Hemlock Society, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, NAMBLA, Nation of Islam, ADL, NARAL, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, ALL the synagogues, and ALL the mosques.


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