The Donation Letter
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September 3rd, 2013

The Donation Letter


  • Tangerine

    1. I've never heard of it being ~required~, or anyone being turned away.
    2. I've never heard of guilting or any other creepy wording. I think that's only something that tiny cults and televangelists do. What you are describing is exactly like every Protestant/Anglican/Catholic community I've seen.
    3. What is this about a penalty? How do you imagine that is done?

    I agree with what you are saying, I just think this image you are so angrily tearing apart is a straw man. Tithing is not some weird mandated/enforced/guilt-tripped thing; in fact my understanding is that the Christian practice of tithing is drawn directly from the Jewish practices described in the Hebrew Bible. There are certainly a lot of verses there to support it. Passing a collection plate or sending support request letters or having a funding drive are not enforced or punitive operations. I really don't believe that there is only "one church in Hollywood" that doesn't demand, guilt-trip, enforce a penalty, or has open financial accounts. In my experience, those things are all par for the course. And even in this cartoon, the only thing being said is that "tithing is good for the soul", which I don't think anyone can disagree with–giving a small portion of your income for the good of others? Of course that's a spiritually healthy choice to make. Even when you have very little, finding a way to give to a cause you believe in is rewarding.

    I myself am in straitened financial circumstances but part of a much more affluent religious community. I've felt no pressure there, and no pressure anywhere else. I firmly believe that any decent religious community is protective of their poorer and otherwise vulnerable members.

    Upon further thought, it seems likely to me that you or someone you care about has had a spiritually abusive experience at the hands of a financially coercive leader or group. Such strong feelings don't arise out of a vacuum. And I totally agree that such a thing should never happen and is horribly destructive.

  • Tangerine

    Chaya, how do you think that building maintenance is done, or the church's staff is paid, or musical instruments or office supplies bought, or utilities paid for, without tithing? Furthermore, many churches help out those parishioners in need, providing food or even emergency cash, and have programs for things like subsidizing therapy for those who need it, and that's not to mention the charity work they often do for non-parishioners. Either you've had a very bad experience or you haven't given this a lot of thought.

    • chayafradle

      how do synagogues do it

      • Tangerine

        Well, you'd have to tell me. The burden of proof is on you to explain how your moral imperative could ever logically work. I suspect that these synagogues' parishioners are in fact supporting them through giving–which, incidentally, is not "mandatory" in any meaning sense that I've ever come across. That is, no one is being tracked and refused at the door, or sent personalized letters, or contacted individually in any way. An opportunity to give is usually part of the service, and often it is clarified that if you are only visiting and not a member of this faith community, you are specifically not included in the request.

        Anyway, unless synagogues are actively refusing to accept contributions, this is the most logical answer. If they are not supported financially, well, I guess that their utilities provide electricity and water for free, and that all of their staffing and labor is done on a volunteer basis (Home Depot must donate all supplies) with no paid coordinators, that their clergy have separate full-time jobs outside the ministry so they can pay their bills. Either they are requesting and receiving donations of labor and supplies all the time, or their parishioners donate time and labor–some of them much more than others, since not everyone has construction, plumbing, or clerical skills, or the free time to provide same.

        This is why money was invented, you know. So that everything doesn't have to be done on a barter system, and so you can give to your community of faith even if you can't fix toilets or do landscaping or building maintenance or preach. And there would be something really wrong with a community who thought that it was outsiders' responsibility to give to them, instead of being self-supporting and in turn contributing to their larger communities.

        Your position reminds me of when I was volunteering for NPR during a pledge drive and a young man called up and told me angrily that NPR should be free. I explained that it IS, since he can listen to it without ever donating. He hung up before I could point out that if NPR didn't take donations, all of the journalists and support staff would have to work for free, and if they were suddenly unable to pay rent and buy groceries and gas they'd all have to quit and go find paying work. Not to mention the equipment and power and station building have to be bought, maintained and replaced. It would be certainly nice if it were possible for important, valuable, altruistic things like education and information and disaster relief and religious institutions to be all for free. And yet, "free" education is paid for by taxes, as are libraries and to an extent NPR; and the Red Cross solicits donations, as do individual religious communities, But this is the reason for the difference between for-protift and non-profit corporations. Both need overhead to operate successfully, but nonprofits are just trying to keep themselves going, not taking in more in value than they need to the benefit of owners or shareholders or any kind of top fat cat.

        • chayafradle

          Chabad is frree. You can send in donations, but no money can even be brought in on the Sabbath. Special meals have suggested donation levels. I can't afford anything, and my rabbi told me not to worry. Some of the givers give extra for the poor. Giving Hebrew lessons and training for bar mitzvahs gives money for the bills. Believe me people who can afford to give do so as a mitzvah, that is, as a blessing to God. During worship, no one is turned away. Some rabbies do send letters asking for people to partner with them for this or that purpose, but it is 1- not required and 2- not sent along with a guilt trip or any wording that says IF you love God put your money where your mouth is, etc.

          • chayafradle

            There is one church in Hoollywood who did tithes morally on the up and up which is a particular Lutheran one, It was not demanded or guilt tripped, and there was no penalty if you didn't tithe. The financial accounts were open to the members so they knew where every penny went. I respect that type of funding. Open and honest.

  • Pat

    Many Orthodox synagogues do still require tithing, as do a handful of European and South American countries, and Zakat (a Pillar of Islam similar but not identical to tithing),is still an active practice in Islam, but there is a key difference: in Judaism and Islam, donations are generally given directly to those who need them rather than being routed through the clergy.

    Those who call for tithing in those religions don't usually claim it's giving money to God, exactly; they point out that it's good for society, good for the donor's feelings, and a way of putting faith into practice. Like mercy, it is twice blessed; it blesses him that gives and him that takes.

    • chayafradle

      Pat, name one Orthodox synagogue that REQUIRES tithing and speaks of being twice blessed. Just one actual Orthodox synagogue. We do not do a mitzvah with an expectation that God will pay us back with a blessing. We do a mitzvah out of love and appreciation for all the blessings we are given we don't deserve, ask for, or buy from God.
      The only moral way a church can explain tithing is that it is not spiritual, but an economic request to help. My beef is the horrible guilt trips laid on people who are not financially able to tiithe.When money is demanded, then it is a payment for God's love and acceptance.

      • Pat

        "Require" may be the wrong word; of course no one would be turned away from temple, nor does anyone check up on whether donations actually amount to 10% or any other arbitrary number. What I mean is that many synagogues, such as the Congregation Etz Ahaim in New Jersey, still actively practice and teach ma'aser kesafim.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating tithing in the sense of a literal tax paid to the temple upkeep. We see it as an aspect of the sedakah. Our tithing may therefore be directly to a deserving charity, just as the Muslim Zakat is, rather than through the temple, but we still consider it a tithe.

        As for being twice blessed, that was a personal note and a reference to Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice. I mean to convey that every mitzvah we perform is a blessing we bestow on ourselves by fulfilling our duty; it improves us. A mitzvah is its own reward.

        • chayafradle

          Pat,iy it not the same word although it's spelled the same. In most churches I know, giving tithes is a "proof" of your spiritual worthiness and respectability, and is payment to G-d" akin to a bribe for blessings.

  • chayafradle

    Tithing was a mode of welfare back in biblical days. 1/10 of all edible produce was used both in a barbecue in the temple, and also for the poor. Since there is no temple anymore in Jerusalem, there is no tithing. Even orthodox synagogues do not require tithing. The rationale churches use to insist this is giving money to God is a big hoax. A great big theft and lie. In fact, if the churches used their tithe money for giving retirement and/or welfare to the parishioners, now THAT would be a blessing to and from God.