The general mindset of the membership is that the $$$$$ is not for the Cult Org., but rather, for yourself.
It's the corollary to the "Prosperity Gospel" or "Prosperity Theology" of the Pentecostals:
Last year’s Pew Foundation mega-poll, which surveyed nearly 35,000 people (one of the largest religion polls ever accomplished), revealed a few interesting facts about Christians in the Pentecostal tradition, among them:
• Pentecostals have the lowest incomes of any other Christian denomination.
• Pentecostals have the least education of any other Christian denomination.
The results show that Pentecostals have the most high school dropouts, the fewest college graduates, and the fewest post-graduates. But the most interesting thing is that they earn the least annual income of any other Christian tradition polled. This is shocking, considering that a main feature in popular Pentecostalism is the Prosperity Gospel, where church members are promised that God will make them rich beyond their wildest dreams if they tithe generously and believe that they will receive the money.
I often speak with coworkers and church members as they slowly slip into despair. I watch helplessly as their hopes dim, and their pennies dwindle. When I attend a service at this church, I hear the pastors declare that God will make everybody rich, if only they will throw what little they do have into the offering plate. Loud confident voices echo off the palatial walls of the sanctuary, while weary, struggling believers bristle with the hope of God’s “promises.” My impoverished friends dance down the plush expensive carpet to the altar and pull out their dollar bills (not their food stamps and government checks, though they have those also) and cheerfully give. The pastor nods approvingly, his hands folded in prayer (a shiny Rolex on his wrist), his eyes misty.
Say what you want about the corruption of the pulpit, or the decadence of the minister—that’s not my issue. My point is that while the world howls at the scam artists who fail to deliver on big promises, Christianity has its very own Ponzi scheme that’s alive and well. At least when Bernie Madoff promised big returns he actually delivered (if only for a moment); the prosperity gospel doesn’t even do that much. When Joel Osteen, Ken Copeland, Paula White, or Benny Hinn take your money, you’ll never see it again (unless you happen to glimpse one of their private jets leaving a runway for Bermuda).
Creating “The Least of These”
When a major tenet of your theology is that people who invest in your church will experience wealth, while the facts show that your congregants are among the poorest and most desperate in the country, you have just been exposed. [signposts02.wordpress.com
The only reason the SGI has not been likewise exposed is because it's so small that it's currently flying under the radar. Nobody's examining it. Just substitute "SGI" for "Christianity", above, and "Daisaku Ikeda" for any of the names - it ends up being the exact same story.
For me, the fact that the SGI-USA does *NO* charitable work, has no programs to assist the poor and needy, and explicitly states that people need to solve all their own problems on their own by chanting was embarrassing and off-putting. I was ashamed that the group I was affiliated with was so stingy and greedy. What were we getting for our donations? Rented office space in shabby industrial strip malls. When I offered to be in charge of the Future Group (I think that was the name - it was the youngest children, toddlers on up to school age), I was told that I could turn in my receipts for the supplies I purchased and the SGI would reimburse me. Though I turned in my receipts faithfully, I never got a penny in reimbursement.
In Buddhism, one of the foundation doctrines is that attachment causes suffering. Encourage your wife to think about what she receives back for your family's donations. Is it just the private clubhouse? If so, is your family receiving amenities and benefits comparable to what you would get if you used that same amount of money to buy a family YMCA membership? Look around - do you get what you chant for? Do others? Be honest with yourselves. The SGI has enough money to build an entire university from scratch, from the ground up - they obviously don't need your family's money as much as your family needs that money.
Why is she so *attached* to the idea of donating? That is a question to suggest, very gently and kindly. Is it to maintain social standing with the leaders who see all the donations - and talk about everybody behind their backs? Is it because she's hoping it will serve as seed money for a magical financial windfall? Is she afraid that, if she doesn't give, she'll be punished somehow and she won't be able to survive it? What does she get from her donations? What are her donations used for? I remember when I called LA (national HQ - I live in San Diego) and asked for a copy of the SGI's financial statements (you know, transparency?), I was told that, if I drove the 2 hours up there, I would be allowed to go into a room - alone - and *look* at the financial statements (no pictures, no notes). Is that how an honest and upstanding organization handles its financial accountability to its membership?
You might ask her to ask for a financial statement from the local leadership, you know, so that *you* can feel more confident about where your family's donations are going and how they're being used.
Remember: Buddhism is common sense. We've heard THAT enough, right?
You mention "family," Scooby - you have children? Perhaps you and your wife should have a talk about your family's future. For example, is your children's future college tuition already saved up? If not, you might be able to agree on a certain sense of urgency and agree to put *all* donation moneys into your kids' college funds until they reach a certain amount; after that, you can donate to the SGI if you still want to.
I suspect that there is a fear within your wife that, if she DOESN'T donate, terrible things will happen. The SGI promotes that kind of fear - though very subtly. Since I left the SGI, my (completely nonreligious and atheist) husband's income has increased almost 400%. My children are excelling in school and socially. I discovered I had a thyroid deficiency (which I had but never discovered while chanting) and now, with regular supplementation, I feel better than I have in years. I left in early 2008, so I've had a few years to observe the outcome. It's been all good.
If you could get your wife to perhaps put off the donation until, say, July (instead of doing it as expected during May), that might help break the chains of fear that are driving her. If your family's donation is delayed, and nothing happens, I think she'll maybe start to feel a little more empowered about controlling when she does what.
For me, I looked around me at my fellow members, and what I saw was very disturbing. One high-ranking Japanese-born leader, Jt. Terr. or something, dropped dead - she was only in her late 50s. My former district WD leader's beautiful son was crippled in a freak accident - he'll never walk normally again, and, despite months of 3-hour-long daimoku tosos for his complete recovery, his legs are atrophied to toothpicks and he has to wear a diaper. He is permanently crippled. My last district WD leader is now dead - she was younger than I am. She died after I stopped attending meetings - no one even told me. Her husband is preparing to marry his cousin. My best friend's husband, upon his release from prison, returned to his drug and crime habits, and now, in spite of his devout fortune-baby Japanese wife's untiring efforts and countless hours of daimoku, he's back in prison for the rest of his life. Another very devout member died of stomach cancer. Look around with merciless clarity, and you'll see abundant suffering and failure - just like anywhere. It's not working. Not the way we'd been led to believe it would.