Wasteful Spending
by Jerry Gilio
January 27, 2007

I was watching the new HBO documentary, "Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi", when a question occurred to me about how some people spend their religious energy.

In general, the documentary seems very even handed. I don't believe, as I've seen suggested, that she implies that all evangelical Christians are the same. She simply shows some specific groups that she encountered during her "road trip". Some of her subjects, like Rev. Ted Haggard, who was caught up in a sex scandal shortly after the documentary was completed, come across as very reasonable people in the film. But there was one man who left my forehead furrowed in puzzlement.

After showing several huge roadside crosses at different locations around the country, Pelosi talked to the man who was raising money to have them erected. These crosses cost $25,000 each. He said he'd like to have five placed in each state.

Some quick arithmetic reveals that this would cost $6,250,000. The question that leapt immediately to my mind was, "Couldn't you find a better way to spend that money?"

Let's take a look at what else $6.25 million could buy:

  • 5,952,380 cans of Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup, 10.75 oz
    ($1.05 each)

  • 3,453,038 6-oz cans of Starkist Low-Sodium Chunk White Albacore Tuna in Water
    ($1.81 each)

  • 3,140,070 24-oz loaves of Brownberry Dutch Country 100% Whole Wheat Bread
    ($1.99 each)

  • 2,422,480 18-oz bottles of Light Miracle Whip in an Easy Squeeze Bottle
    ($2.58 each)

  • 161,791 Pampers Cruisers (diapers), Size 3, Economy Plus Pack, 160 Cruisers
    ($38.63 each)

  • 148,844 pairs of Chuck Taylor® All Star® Hi Top gym shoes
    ($41.99 each)

  • 89,323 Columbia Sportswear Men's Snow Patrol Parkas
    ($69.97 each)

I didn't make any particular effort to find low prices here. Many of these prices were found on Amazon.com, (who knew they sold tuna and Miracle Whip?). But the results are obvious. If this man had decided that he wanted to help people in need, he could have clothed thousands. If he'd decided to go the "loaves and fishes" route, he could have literally fed millions. What's more holy than that?

I can't imagine that when this man meets his maker at the Pearly Gates the question of his priorities won't come up. If your children were hungry, what would you rather have, a beautiful oil painting of yourself or food for your family? The roadside crosses seem like unnecessary publicity for one of the best know figures in history.

I understand that this is an extreme example. I know that many faith-based organizations do great work to help those in need. So do many secular organizations. I admire them all for their work.

My point is that people need to keep their eyes on the ball. When I attended Catholic catechism, we were taught that the purpose of religion was to make us better people and for us to help our fellow men. Neglecting the poor was a very serious sin. Feeding one hungry person would do more to show your love of Christ than erecting 1,000 roadside crosses or 1,000,000 cries of "Praise Jesus!"

One of my favorite charities is The Greater Chicago Food Depository. If you're not from Chicago, I'm sure there's a similar organization near you. Keep them in mind the next time you want to show God you love him.

Copyright © 2007