Crystal Cathedral Bankrupt: $55 Million Is All God Needs

Sasha Brown-Worsham

It may look like a skyscraper, but don't let that fool you: the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California was built in 1980 for a mere $18 million by televangelist Robert H. Schuller, known for his weekly Hour of Power sermons.

The Protestant Christian church, which is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors and has filed for bankruptcy. They are $55 million in the hole and have let go of 140 staff members.

Schuller's daughter, the Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, said in a statement that she was optimistic the church would come out of these trying times.

And though they blamed it on the economy and dwindling conributions, one has to wonder, did God really need all that fancy glass and money? Was that megachurch for true spirituality or for greed and fame?

The church has 10,000 rectangular panes of glass and has become a tourist attraction in the Orange County area. It was designed by famous architect Philip Johnson and took three years to construct.

Johnson is most famous for the Seagram Building in New York and the Minneapolis IDS Tower, and the Crystal Cathedral became another masterpiece. It seats 2,700 people and cost $18 million (in 1980 dollars) to build.

Of course, in 1955, the Garden Grove Community Church, where founder Robert H. Schuller had his start, utilized a building that used to be a drive-in theater to inspire his congregation. He didn't need a multimillion-dollar mega church back then.

Think of all the money it takes to run such a mega church, so much, in fact, that they managed to build a $55 million debt. How many people in the world could eat on $55 million?

Religion is many things for many people, but as far as a relationship to God goes, why does it take so much money to have one? Why is so much show needed to worship and feel close to God?

This kind of show makes a mockery of real religion and the people who practice it. The Trinity Broadcasting Network, which hosts the Hour of Power, brings in $190 million each year. There is a lot of money in enticing people to donate their college savings or rent money for the privilege to worship.

It's true Schuller and his whole family recently cut his salary 50 percent (as did the daughter who lives in Hawaii -- mighty big of her), but the downfalls and hypocrisy of so many of the televangelists -- Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker -- makes the whole thing just seem sour.

Maybe they do intend to pay back their debts as they promise.

But how much money does it really take to pray and to believe?


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