Three large white crosses, each at least 10 stories tall, are going up on the property of an East Brainerd church.
Drivers nearing the Shallowford Road exit of Interstate 75 will be able to spot the crosses, day or night. The tallest of the three? As high as the downtown DoubleTree Hotel.
(Still smaller, they are, than Anthony Weiner's ego.)
The project will cost about $700,000.
Jesus, though, wasn't big on bling. His whole resume was one lifelong exercise in climbing down, not up, the ladder: poor, no place to rest his head, born in a cow barn. He traipsed around with the lowest of the low: hookers, drunks, dealers, tax collectors, sinners, LSU fans, lepers.
Speaking of lepers, the $700,000 spent on the giant crosses could have provided 500 lepers with new houses (they're marginalized and living in terrible conditions) in Africa and Asia, according to The Leprosy Mission.
Leprosy's not your issue? Look what else the $700,000 could have done:
• Vaccinate 700,000 global children against measles, according to Doctors Without Borders.
• Fund the homeless winter shelter at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen for the next nine years.
• Provide 3.5 million meals for hungry people coming to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
• Drill and build 100 wells, providing clean, disease-free water for communities in Africa that have little access, says Water Wells for Africa. (Just think: billions of people in the world would jump for joy at the sight of a simple kitchen faucet.)
• Send 70,000 orphans living in Ghana or Chad (their parents dead from AIDs) to school for one year.
"You'll help a special child overcome tragedy and reach his or her God-given potential," says World Vision.
• Stock the bookbags and closets of 28,000 poor American families without enough money for school supplies and clothing (they're too busy paying for groceries), according to World Vision. A corporate matching program balloons the number to 280,000 families, which is kind of like the loaves and fishes trick.
• Surprise 1,400 Hamilton County high school students with a free 3-D printer. No strings attached, save one: they have to use their powers for good, not evil.
• Rescue 155 women enslaved in sex trafficking through the abolition work of International Justice Mission.
• Take 21,000 kids to see their first Braves game (outfield seats, with enough leftover for a Coke and peanuts.)
• Buy textbooks for 1,068 college students.
• Invest in 350,000 lottery tickets; another $448 million Powerball payoff would pay for 1,920 more tall white crosses.
That felt good.
Really good, in a smug kind of way.
Here's what doesn't: a look at my own checkbook and (lack of) contributions to charity.
Researching this column, I ran across dozens of organizations, near and far, doing the work of saints with the budget of Bob Cratchit.
I read about the crippling monster of leprosy, the never-ending hunger of American children, the 20,000 kids across the world who die every day (I repeat: every single day) from things like malaria, drinking bad water, disease. (I repeat: every ... single ... day.)
Not once did I give a dime.
I wrote lots of self-righteous sentences, but not once did I give a donate any money.
For all the size of those East Brainerd crosses, not one is as large as the plank lodged in my own eye. My monthly giving? My tithe? I continually choose pleasure and self over charity and others.
Hypocrisy is what the Gospels call it.
(If only something could save me from myself.)
I'm still disappointed and frustrated over the $700,000; plenty of others are, too. Spiritually speaking, it just smells bad.
But really, I think we're frustrated with the church at-large, the church as a whole, which means we're really frustrated with each other.
Christians, so unlike our Christ.
We want a church that trainwrecks the banality of junk culture; we want a church that snowballs compassion, models Mother Theresa, kisses the leper. Smack-dab on the lips.
We want a church that makes faith and mystery something fragrant. A church that has no enemies except evil. A church that sells its gold to feed the poor.
A church that mimics Christ.
Those giant crosses?
We want something - larger - on display.
Contact David Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.