Saturday, September 4, 2010

Residual Guilt: Tithing

So the economy has finally hit us.

We're lucky, I know.

But seriously. I posted a status for a short time on facebook regarding how lame it was of Ah-nold to cut teachers' pay and where the hell is his personal contribution to all these cuts?

Then I realized I should be damned thankful my husband still has a job when so many people cannot find one and live--god, I don't even know how. So I deleted it.

But, stupid or not, I can't help but feel angry about this. It wasn't a small pay cut, and it'll only get deeper once our insurance rates go up by 25% in the near future. Now our premiums are (i suppose) reasonable compared to what they are for other people even in the neighboring district, but we are working off a beginning teacher's salary. With three kids. And I'm going back to school full time next semester--that is, if Ah-nold's education budget will allow me to.

Seriously, they won't even look at my application until they know if they can even afford me. Which I hope comes soon.

To put it into another perspective: my husband made more money working as a not-quite-full-time night clerk at a grocery store. We took a slash in pay when he took his seven years of education and put it to work doing something much more beneficial to society.

I mean, how do you compare stocking shelves to teaching kids critical thinking and preparing them for being productive adults?


So they cut education. And while I'm all about taking a hit along with everyone else, fuck!

But again, lucky to have a job. He did get the pink-slip this past May and was thankfully rehired.

Anyway. Back to the point.

Since we stopped paying tithing two years ago, we've gone on this whole celebration: "lookit! the world still revolves! we got a JOB in this economy! we got a great house at great rent! what? now we're BUYING a house at a great price? but i thought our financial house of cards was going to fall apart without tithing!"

Prideful? Maybe. But it was a big relief. A revelation.

Our bishop in the last ward we attended was also a teacher in the same district Eric is in, except this guy had seniority on his side. Tenure. Many years.

He lost his job.

Further proof, we thought, that tithing and blessings don't necessarily correlate. That said, for all we know said bishop found an even better job. But the experience still taught us that hardship is no respecter of persons. And I fully believe that.

Which is why I felt so angry.

Well, annoyed.

For a long time I worried, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's what I'm good at. And when we did the numbers the other day on our current finances, I couldn't help but wonder if it was maybe, maybe because we'd been bad. Yanno, no tithing. Among other things.

It sounds stupid now, but it isn't. Not after all those years.

Not that we're in a big bind or anything, but we have to tighten up big time. Discipline. You know. Things we're not exactly great at. Not with big things mind you, but small.

We're in debt (minus the house) for the first time ever. Not gigantic debt by any means, but debt nonetheless. I have to remind myself that some debt is okay if handled responsibly and is backed by a plan.

This and our savings account is a bit low, money we need to make it each month. It's not a matter of living within our means, just a matter of living. If it got bad enough we'd ditch the cell phone, but cells are pretty necessary these days. Especially for me. For various reasons I'll lump into a category entitled "anxiety" (increased anxiety = increased need for medical = more money per month than is needed for the cell)

Until I wrote this, I couldn't help but worry just a little in the back of my mind that we were being punished for our omissions. To put it in a more PC way, that god was "withholding blessings" from us because we hadn't met our part of the bargain.

Even though I don't believe. Leaning more atheist these days than agnostic, but you get the point.

I told Eric this last night and he reminded me that even faithful members are going through the same issues and maybe even worse. Just like anyone else.

Again, hardship is no respecter of persons.

Things have been good for us for a very long time now, so maybe we're about due anyways, if not overdue. Time to be adults, I guess, even though we've always been sticklers. Just not in this particular way.

It's scary, really.

That said, this might be really, really good for us.

I'm just tired of the residual guilt. Even when it does go away, something else always tends to sneak back in. I'm hoping that'll stop soon.


  1. I never felt much guilt on this end because we struggled just as much - worse, actually - as members. I just went on this enormous diatribe about the many times we were on the brink of bankruptcy or homelessless - or both! - and the Church said we should keep paying tithing and just go on welfare to compensate. I deleted all the details but, suffice to say, I don't have any kind feelings about tithing.

    When we quit the Church we actually found it easier than ever to pay our bills. A year later, though, J's school shut down and we had a year of serious struggle while he was out of work; we lived on about $1000 a month in a $900 rental. Those were hard times and I knew my in-laws were positively gleeful about our punishment from God.

    But we got through it. J got a new job in a wonderful school and we finally got out of Utah and into a place we can't stop raving about, and we haven't had to ask for help since.

    So as far as the influence of tithing, it's been a draw.

  2. Yeah, I can see that. I suppose for me I always had a "testimony" of tithing because I worked a *really* part-time job, lived on my own (with a roomie) in a fairly expensive--for us--townhouse and somehow always did fine. I figured it was the tithing.

    But I've heard SO MANY stories like yours and worse. I see them in my own extended family, actually.

    I don't understand how the church, full of these crazy republican anti-government-help people, can say "no, pay us and just go on welfare" But they do, all the time.

    But that's an entirely different rant of itself.

    Anyway, we'd totally be in HUGE trouble now if we had to pay tithing. If we ever think we're in trouble now, we only have to remind ourselves of how much cash would be flying out the door if we did the tithing thing. It'd be ridiculous.

  3. I am currently watching my in-laws suffer under the hands of a horrible bishop, who has offered them horrendous financial advice under the guise of "PH leadership". My FIL and MIL faithfully paid upwards of $300,000 in tithing over the years. Dad lost his job 3 years ago, and the bishop has only made things much, much, much harder and worse for the family. He won't even let them get food from the bishop's storehouse. The man has no credentials to be offering financial advice, and the evidence of this fact is now playing out in my in-laws lives'. But they obey him because he is their authorized PH leader, and should therefore be speaking for God.

  4. I think of all the good that $300,000 in savings could be doing for them right now, and it makes me shudder.

  5. MC: God. $300k.

    I mean, I've seen this too. The unbeliEVABLE red tape a faithful family has to go through just to get church help. Especially for a family who has faithfully paid not only tithing, but fast offerings, et al. throughout the years previous to their need.

    Fucking ridiculous.

  6. Hi Lisa,

    At the same crossroads myself. New York, New York. Gotta love those taxes, and tolls, parking permits, and ridiculous rents, etc. I'm paying it though. Going to try a shift mental gears and think of how it's helping the jobless in our ward who are getting help from the church.


  7. annalee,

    I've really debated with myself (and asked for my husband's input) in whether or not i should respond the way i want to to this, but I want to because--well, i think it's right. Now that I've written that I'm afraid it won't be as big a deal, but whatever.

    Tithing is used for temple and church building funds--those sorts of things. Maybe even church schools (not entirely sure on that one) Only fast offerings are there to help the jobless/poor/otherwise destitute.

    Just thought you might want to know in case you want to shift where your money goes. <3

  8. Yeah, what Lisa said.

    I was shattered once I really understood where the tithing money was going - ward buildings, temples, ward budgets, etc., and not to humanitarian aid, food needs, welfare needs, etc.

    I really, really, really like the idea of giving a tithe of my earnings to help others. I still give 10%, I have just shifted where I donate to. I very carefully choose where I donate, and I donate to a wide range of political, religious, amnesty, social, and literacy causes. I feel much more involved in the process now than I ever did writing my "month church check". I like the sense of ownership for my charitable contributions that I feel.