A recent NPR report decried televangelistic and parachurch ministries that frame their organizations as “churches,” escaping certain financial reporting requirements.
My first reaction to this exposé was nascent indignation. NPR is not exactly an authority on what church is or isn’t. I mean, just because NPR questions a label for something doesn’t have anything to do with whether that label is or isn’t appropriate, according to the Scriptures or to God.
Within a few seconds, though, I realized that the issue here is not a scriptural one. Rather, the problem is financial responsibility and the potential for tax evasion and corruption. These newspeople had identified financially irresponsible, or at least suspicious, Christian organizations — and seemed intent on bringing them down. While I suspect NPR’s rationale isn’t exactly pure-hearted — meaning I doubt they would have gone after liberal non-profits with the same gusto — they did seem to have gotten into something worth getting into.
Indeed, we should be glad that NPR is working at this¹ seriously. The eventual riddance of many of the richest, most widely broadcast televangelists would be good for Christianity: non- Christians would have less reason to distrust bona fide Christian ministers, programs, and projects.
¹ On the other hand, when NPR meddles, it ought to be radio-man enough to admit that it is biased. To engage Bart Ehrman on questions of Jesus’ divinity claims (see here if interested), without a more conservative counterpoint, is sheer prejudice. I’ve gathered that Ehrman is not the most liberal theologian out there, but NPR ought to acknowledge its atheistic and anti-Christian agendas verbally.