At the risk of sounding like I’m picking on the church and the religious community yet again, I write this tale of pathetic behaviour out of sheer revulsion over what I experienced this past week. Maybe, I’m just making a big deal out of nothing…
On my last little holiday break down in Durban, I came across a Hindu temple decorated with garish flashing lights, much like a casino. Over the December holidays, while on a second brief trip down to Durban, I discovered a church draped with strings of flashing lights much like the temple, but even more gaudy, and for reasons that will soon become apparent, more casino-like.
While churches have traditionally been the place where one goes to hedge one’s bets about the afterlife, this particular church makes it even more enticing by handing out real money (to place your bet with, if you follow my allegory). Yes, handing out money to the congregants. Not every night mind you, and not a great deal; apparently just on New Years’ Eve. I know this from a member of the family who proudly announced when we met about an hour past midnight, that her pastor had given her and the other congregants ten bucks each.
Ten bucks is not a lot of money. And assuming from the size of the building, that about two to three hundred people attended that New Years’ Eve church service, it must have cost the clergy a few thousand bucks; pocket change compared to what they rake in every year.
However, the intentions behind dishing out money to worshippers, while in normal life is harmless, is surely distasteful in the religious environment. Ten bucks can mean a lot to some people; it could serve the purpose of convincing them that the church is giving back more than the intangible safe passage to heaven. It could impress them so much, their attendance at future church meets, the dreary Sunday sessions, could become guaranteed. The beaming smile and boastful declaration from that member of my family, convinces me of it. People are impressed by the simplest of gestures; and these clergyman know it.
What an indictment on the religious establishment; that they have to entice their dwindling following with cash-backs much in the same way as casinos hand out gambling vouchers. Is this a great marketing strategy, or a last-gasp act of desperation? You decide.