The Other Side of the Coin

Last week, Dan wrote about the displaced folks in Memphis who accepted a free house from a church, did not move into it, and then sold it for a $60,000 profit. And of course this story went national in the latest round of press trying to paint New Orleanians as a bunch of lazy grifting negroes.

Anyway, my opinion all along was that these people are indeed assholes, but if the house had been donated by say, McDonalds and not a church, than nobody would give a damn. But since a poor, hapless church congregation was swindled, suddenly these people became total villians.

The church that donated the house was the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), a national evangelical pentecostal church. It is the fourth largest Christian Church in the U.S., and is headquartered in Memphis. Let’s look at another real estate deal they participated in:

1981 – COGIC receives the deed to the Stax recording studio in Memphis from Union Planters Bank for $1. For the next eight years they let this historic property fall into disrepair, and they tear it down in 1989. About a decade later, COGIC sells the land for $100,000, and the Stax Museum is built on the property.

Hmmm, karma is a bitch, huh?

4 Comments so far

  1. Heather (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 1:21 pm

    The thing I haven’t understood about this story is the mistakes the church made that no one in the press is discussing: Why did they think a New Orleanian family would want to live in Memphis, and why did they not have a legal contract that stated that the family must occupy the home? I can be pretty naive at times but come on! The story makes me think the church didn’t communicate very well with the family who received the home in the first place. Charity is nice, but when it is unwanted these things can happen.

  2. Gwendolyn (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

    I, too, read that editorial and had mixed emotions while reading it.

    On the one hand, the author of the article was very vague about the particulars. “may or may not have been married” among other vague comments seem to leave this lingering cloud of unexamined accusation around the situation. And it seems like these are the sort of facts that are really very easy to check. (As a former fact checker for a major newspaper, I can speak with some certainty about this) Ok, so it was an editorial not investigative reporting, so I kind of understand that – but still.

    More importantly – if you are like me and you lived in New Orleans before Katrina and had to evacuate, you might have had a moment when you wanted to hear more about the couple’s perspective. When I evacuated I was bombarded, really, with a bewildering range of charitable offers. I had no money, no job, no direction, no idea if I would ever get back to my home or if I still had a home. So some of these offers were accepted with gratitude. Some of them were accepted and had to be later renounced. All of them came with unspoken expectations. A Baptist preacher and his wife in Pangburn, Arkansas offered me a home in their trailer, which offer came on the condition that I not smoke or drink or swear. I didn’t accept this offer but if I’d been just a shade more desperate, I might’ve had to. A nice couple in Memphis offered to let me stay with them for a while. I visited for two days and quickly found out that I was expected to play the role of a destitute person – humbly grateful, dependent, docile. I left them on good terms and still have much love for all those who helped me out or meant to help me out but … Let’s just say I can imagine a scenario in which the couple quite honestly and innocently found the terms of this incredible gift untenable. Maybe they were really just scheming con artists – I don’t know. But maybe not. None of us are angels and if the author of that article was suggesting they simply return the real estate to the church, well, I think he’s expecting too much and judging too quickly.

  3. Laurie (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

    The church does not communicate well to begin with

    you’re expected to follow any one considered

    out side of the flock is pushed out.


  4. Ann (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

    Didn’t know about Stax. Interesting. I posted some other info about COGIC in the original post – and referenced karma as well. Great minds think alike. ;-)

    No one in Memphis feels sorry for COGIC, not even members of their own congregations. They should have spent that money helping the families in their own neighborhoods that need shelter, childcare, elderly/hospice care and the like.

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