September 17, 2018


These signs are all over
front yards in my town.
The word "tithe" has been stuck in my head this morning.  It simply means "tenth" but we recognize its religious meaning more readily, the practice of signing over one-tenth of one's income or possessions to a religious establishment. 

The Mennonite description of the principle underlying tithing holds that "whether through community of goods or other forms of financial sharing, mutual aid continues the practice of ... giving special care to widows, orphans, aliens, and others in economic need."

My description of the principle has always been "the way churches self-perpetuate meaninglessly and wield power over sheep-people who can scarcely afford to give up that tenth and still make ends meet, while you preach sermons about why it means gross and not net income."

And that's nothing compared to the things I have to say when people are interviewed after a tornado or hurricane or earthquake, with the camera angled to show their home still standing in the background, thanking God for sparing them and answering their prayers.  To all those around them whose homes are now so many matchsticks piled up, our thoughts and prayers are with you, to the same God who didn't spare you.  Were you praying hard enough?  God is Good.  I can see my house from here.  Thank you, Jesus.

That's what we were in my town:  We were "spared" from Florence this weekend.  The forecasts never came to fruition, the rainfall was light, and the winds were mere breezes.  Somehow, the spin of the thing put us in a gap in the fingers of destructive storm and as she moved, we were spared.  I drove to work this morning over stretches of road that had actual dry patches.  Our schools were delayed by a couple of hours.

Unless your God is the capricious, sadistic bastard star of Judeo-Christian theology, then you know there is no such thing as being spared.  Omnipotence and beneficence cannot co-exist, no, not in a world where houses lie under water and dogs die of snake bites and people die of their own humanity.  Things happen.  Storms happen.

Throw "lucky" into the mix.  We were lucky.  Others have been horribly unlucky.  They didn't deserve their luck.  Neither did we.

Now the neon-orange imbecile who called Florence "tremendously big and tremendously wet," words that better belong in a low-budget porn, will do so much less than is desperately needed by way of governmental response for the unlucky among us, and the churches will move in and declare their role as the bringers of God's mercy and feel good about doing it, feel "spared".

Tithing is not the purview of churches.  A temple should not sustain itself when there are those in great need crying outside its gates.  Show me a church that will empty its growing capital building fund for a planned Family Life Center, to be built on the property next door, into the coffers of aid for the widows, the orphans, the devastated.  Show me a single one.

We can all share, send aid, recognize and fill need.  We can tithe because we were lucky.

I urge my fellow non-Christians, non-Jews, non-Muslims to give, to Red Cross, to animal rescue efforts, to any organization without significant overhead that does its work in the name of community, charity, love, and we're-all-in-this-together-ness.  The coastal areas of North and South Carolina are devastated almost as badly as Houston was last year. 

1 comment:

  1. Lille,
    As usual, another well thought out, well written, and heartfelt post. I think you're right and that it's more about luck than anything. May you and yours continue to be lucky. May those who are in need, get the help and resources they need! We are all just mere drops of water or a few strong breezes away from disaster at any given time.