How much is too much? At what point does faith and belief tip over into blind fanaticism? This question has occupied much of my time and mental energy since a trip I made to Denver a while back. I was in Denver on business and my flight requirements dictated that I stay over the weekend to get a lower rate.
I had contacted a friend and his wife who were old friends and neighbors before they moved to Denver. They invited me to stay with them over the weekend. I looked forward to the visit and when the 5:00 p.m. whistle blew on Friday, I made a beeline to their home. This was my first visit since they had moved to Denver. When the voice from the GPS had me pull into their driveway, I was taken aback by the scene in front of me. I sat in the car for a moment taking in the condition of the house and property where they lived.
Back in Albuquerque, they had lived in a nice home that was well-kept and the lawn and grounds around it was tended to regularly enough to be a credit to the attractiveness of the neighborhood. The house in front of me was very small, the siding was cracked in places it obviously needed a new roof. As I walked up the broken and cracked sidewalk, I took note of the warped and unpainted boards of the front porch.
I knocked on the door which was almost immediately opened and I greeted my friends with handshakes and hugs. After a minute, as I was shown to the bedroom where I stashed my bags, I was again surprised to see the old, wobbly furniture, worn rugs and walls in need of paint. More disturbing however, was the general cleanliness, or lack of it. The place wasn’t a disaster, it was simply nowhere near the care they gave their home in Albuquerque.
As the evening and the next several days unfolded, I learned that my friend was doing well in his job—for which he transferred to Denver. His wife had taken a job, which I thought was good on the surface of things. I couldn’t help but notice that the food available in the house was the least expensive available there wasn’t much of it.
Finally, the answer came out late in the day on Saturday. I had been listening since I arrived to a religious reference in almost every comment either of them uttered. The references were benign enough, but there were just so many of them, my “what’s wrong with this picture” radar was pinging off the scale.
Saturday afternoon, after burgers on the grill, the couple sat together and told me they had been converted shortly after their move to Denver. Searching for a church home, they visited one referred by a co-worker. After attending several weeks in a row, they began dedicating more time and money to the church. They have belonged to the church for the last six months or so and this turned out to be the very why the wife found a job. They simply couldn’t support the needs of the church on his salary alone. Her entire weekly check and a big portion of his were devoted to the church and its outreach programs, which explained their living conditions.
I attended services on Sunday—not realizing it was a daylong affair and I saw what I regarded as a brainwashed, somewhat manic congregation hard at work on any number of good causes.
I firmly believe that my friends—in the not too distant future—will have exhausted their funds and will need the same assistance that they are now spending their money to dole out. After all, they have pulled their investments and have proudly sponsored several activities at the church.
I have been dispirited since returning home and worried about what’s going on in Denver with my friends. Certainly, if a person is going to contribute money over the long term, they have to maintain enough resources to live on—in order to generate more money to contribute.