First Baptist Church of Dallas has raised $115 million in just seven months for a project that will transform downtown Dallas. The church is building a state-of-the-art campus that will replace most existing buildings with an acre of new buildings and even a sky bridge.
"The finest facility in this area should be one that glorifies almighty God,” said the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas.
First Baptist Dallas is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose churches, according to one report, own $42 billion worth of property and buildings. The value of property and buildings owned by the Roman Catholic Church in the USA probably rivals that of the SBC. If one were to add the value of the property owned by other Christian denominations and sects in the US (including the Mormon church), the ultimate figure would be mind-boggling. Then think of the non-Christian groups, such as Jewish synagogues, Islamic mosques, the Church of Scientology, Hindu temples, and so on. Recently, 10 miles from where I currently live (in the middle of the Bible belt), a $20 million Hindu temple was constructed. Made of Turkish limestone, Italian marble and Indian pink sandstone, the temple rises 72 feet into the sky and looks a bit like the Taj Mahal, with its soft white spires and 13 domes (source).
I took a tour of the temple and it is a very impressive structure. I wanted to ask the tour guide how many hungry people in India $20 million would feed, but I "bit my tongue."
So, why am I writing this post? Because I believe that the money invested in these religious structures could be used in a much better way to benefit humanity. Many of these buildings are used only a couple of times a week. What if this money were used to feed the hungry? What if it were used to fund research into a cure for cancer or other diseases? At the very least, the US could tax this property and use it to reduce the deficit.
In 2006, SBC churches took in $10.4 billion in offerings. The great majority of this money went to pay for buildings, property and employee salaries. $5 million went to the World Hunger Relief fund. This sounds impressive until you realize that it averages about 30 cents per member for the year (16.3 million members).
It is my opinion, that the world could be much better off, if the huge amount of money devoted to the propagation of religion were used differently.