The blog

The blog—informal opinions and chat about the parish

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Church Money

Our current church treasurer has announced that he will be leaving the post, effective December 31. Perhaps I was a fool, but I have volunteered to take his place. What on earth have I gotten myself into?

I have spent several weeks creating spreadsheets that will give us good information about how we are spending our money and where the money is coming from. (I do not want to spend the $200 or so for a commercial church spreadsheet because those products never quite do what I would like.) I have also devoted a lot of time to considering how much money it costs to run a church and how much money we have to work with.

I suspect the parish could use more information.

The whole thing reminds me of a teenager moving into an apartment and getting a car. We all went through this. Most teenagers are astonished when they realize that cars need repairs, oil changes, and tires. They figure that gasoline is about their only expense after they get the car. And a lot of those expenses are very non-glamorous, things that you cannot see. After an oil change, the car runs about the same as it did before, so why bother? And when a teenager has been living with parents who pay the bills, a lot of hidden apartment expenses pop up too. Who could have guessed that electricity would cost so much? Or that the electric company will shut off the power when you don't pay?

And inflation catches us unawares too. If you were in the habit of throwing $20 into the offering plate in 1980, you need to put in $58.60 to have the same effect in 2016.

As a character said in one of the Harry Potter movies, "Buckle your seat belts. We're in for a bumpy ride." I'm going to be telling the church folk this sort of thing for a while.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

That Videotape

By now, almost everyone in the USA (at least everyone who can read) is aware of an extremely lewd, demeaning videotape in which a major political candidate said things that would put him on the sex offender registry in most states, things that, if said by your 13-year-old son, would result in a month of grounding without access to friends or Internet.

In a way, it's not a surprise. A general theme throughout the Bible is that the tongue expresses the true values of a person's heart. We should have seen that tape coming.

The surprise to me is summarized in this quotation from the Washington Post:
One of Trump’s most prominent social-conservative supporters, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray: “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values.”
The FRC calls itself a Christian lobbying organization that opposes gay rights, abortion, divorce, stem-cell research, and pornography. If those are not values, then I do not know what the word "value" means.

The question, then, to a self-proclaimed Christian leader, is why you would support a candidate, if not on the basis of your value system. Pragmatics? No matter who gets hurt or what it does to either the core ideas of our Republic or to the Christian message, you support someone because you think his ideas will "work"?

Here, then, is the danger for Christian voters. Assuming that a candidate is not Mary Poppins ("practically perfect in every way"), we are tempted to do one of three things:
  1. Vote a single issue only. "I don't care that the candidate is a fool, a liar, a bully, and a potential sex offender, at least he's against abortion." (In case you had not noticed, there is a lot more to governing that being against abortion.)
  2. Vote pragmatics. "Even though there is nothing in this candidate that reflects Christian character or even the secular definition of a good man, at least he said he will bring jobs back." (That's how Germany got Hitler.)
  3. Vote hatred. "He hates the same ethnic groups and religions that I hate, so I will vote for him." (Can you hear yourself? Really?)
We Americans—and especially Christians—do not like to think too hard and we really want a quick, easy fix for our problems. Mary Poppins is not running for office this time, so we need to make difficult choices. We need to pray. We need to set aside hatreds and ignore the hate-mongers on television and the Internet. And we really do need to vote on the basis of shared values.