The Business of Church

•08/28/2010 • 1 Comment
So I work a business to business sales job that conducts full day job shadows as a second interview.  More often than not I’ll have a recent graduate  along for the ride so that they can get a feel for the job and I can decide if they are a good fit for the position.  So two by two we go cold-calling to all the businesses in my territory.  And without fail when I turn down some side street and pull into the little white church nestled between two houses the interview will ask “Are we really going in there?  I mean, it’s a church.”  My standard reply is “of course we’re going in, it’s a business.”  The moral of the story is this: you would not believe how many people disagree with this statement.
On a professional note, for the record, churches are incorporated under tax ids and very unlikely to throw out some door to door sales rep so not only are they businesses, they are juicy ones!  In fact they have more money to spend than the most of the businesses I pitch.  The average pastor makes 77k a year, ranging somewhere between 30k and 80k.  Needless to say that’s a tad better than most small business owners I come across theses days.  And when you look at what they do in the simplest term they are no different, their patrons give them money in exchange for a service.  (We will save the question of what service they actually provide for another post… or three)
What is clever about the business of churches is their time-tested marketing strategy.  It brilliantly accomplishes what I think every salesperson is trying to, it makes their customers feel like they aren’t buying anything.  This is accomplished by changing the name of the transaction.  It’s not a purchase, it’s a tithing.
“Will a man rob god?  Yet ye have robbed me.  But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?  In tithes and offerings.”  Malachi 3:8
Man that’s hard to argue with isn’t it?  Robbing god sounds like a scary thing to be accused of, scarier than those “shoplifters will be prosecuted” signs you see in the dressing rooms.  But the sales pitch doesn’t stop there, after all how many Christians actually read the bible?  The various religious sects have their own methods for coaxing money out of the pockets of the faithful.  What probably comes to mind first, for those of us who’ve read the bible, is Pentecostals.
I just came across the story of a boy named Marjoe.  In the late 1940’s Marjoe became the world’s youngest ordained minister, preaching hell fire and praising Jesus from the early age of 4… that’s right, 4-years-old.  As you may have guessed his parents were behind this, with some physical abuse to off-set the emotional abuse of being made to travel the revival circuit for his entire childhood.  In his teenage years Marjoe quit the business, but returned as a young adult with a film crew behind him.  In 1972 the documentary they made won an academy award. (It can be viewed in its entirety here thanks to google)  In it he explained in great detail the tactics used to get people to offer up their money, everything from selling artifacts that were supposed to be holy or blessed, to raising 10 times more funds than needed for a mission trip.  But almost 40 years after our backstage pass we’re still lining up for tickets.  As Americans we give more to churches than education, charity foundations, arts, humanities, etc.  Churches are not only a business, they are a 107 billion dollar industry.  With tithing alone being called for at 10% we are left with about half of what we earn after god and country.
And then the question was posed to me… “so?” and I had to actually take a moment from proving my point to remember what it was.  Churches are big business in sheep’s clothing but why do they disguise themselves?  To obtain a tax-exempt status.
Granting the 501(c) status to churches was originally supposed to represent separation of church and state, and for that reason being tax-exempt is supposed to prohibit you from lobbying or campaigning politically.  So how then would we describe the actions of  churches in North Carolina telling their congregation that they were not welcome on Sundays if they did not support George Bush?  Or the overwhelming presence of the LDS church during the prop 8 campaign in California?  I myself was in church with my parents when a letter from the presidents of the church was read to us directing “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment.”  Quite frankly on the issue of separation of church and state, churches are not holding up their end of the bargain.  President Garfield once said  “a tax exemption is a tax on everyone else, because the exempt institution, by not paying its share, shifts that burden to the rest of society.”  There are no statistics to prove (because of course Church’s don’t have to report these things) how much money is lost by our government by not taxing churches.  However there are far more of them, making much more money, than secular 501(c) organizations, and that smaller group represents almost 3 trillion in untaxed property and income.  My argument here is that churches are businesses and they should be treated as such.
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My open letter to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey

•08/27/2010 • Leave a Comment

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/08/nj_democrats_to_try_to_overrri.html

I already knew about this, but it inspired me to write and send the following letter to my Governor.

Dear Gov. Chris Christie,

You say that you are “morally opposed” to women’s health care. Let me tell you what that says to me, a woman, a young woman, living in the state of New Jersey. It means you are morally opposed to my right to dictate the terms of my life. You’re morally opposed to a family getting to choose the environment and/or circumstances under which they bring a child into this world. It says to me that you are morally opposed to quality of life, especially the quality of life for women. My pains aren’t real. My joys irrelevant. All because I participated in an activity you (apparently) disprove of. Sex. No, not unprotected sex, because if that was all you disproved of you would put MORE funding into family planning services not less. As someone “morally opposed” to women’s health care services, service that is guaranteed to me by law, mind you, regardless of your personal preference, (under the right to privacy no less, which means it’s none of your business if you do disagree,) you should know that pro-choice organizations are the only ones that actually effectively help prevent abortion. Because you must know that abstinence only education works at preventing sex about as well as “buck up!” helps the clinically depressed. You must know also, if you are so personally invested in this cause, that the bible belt has the highest rates of divorce, teen pregnancy and STIs in the country. Not New Jersey, not California, not New York. This is because the only REAL prevention against abortion is birth control, condoms and knowledge. Family planning services provide that, while pro-life institutions operate entirely on the notion that sex is for procreation only, and it’s wrong. That’s your right to think so, if you do Mr. Governor, but it’s not your right to tell me to think so too, and to enact policies with your own morals in mind. Please, wake up and see that sex isn’t going anywhere, and to cut funding from those who provide abortions is to cut funding to those who best help to prevent it. Personally I do not think abortion is wrong, but I respect you and your right to think otherwise. But I do not respect you for cutting off my access to my health care because you don’t agree with the procedure. You may potentially get diabetes (I admit I do not know the current state of your health, but I am estimating that it is likely from your obesity) or have a heart attack due to the life style you chose to live. Personally, I work out. I love ice cream and mac and cheese, but I eat right for the most part. Were I governor would you not be opposed if I cut funding to centers that helped patients with the health issues that ensue because of obesity, especially if those same centers also provided the most information and support on obesity prevention? I’m sure you would feel personally slighted. You may not need the services such a place would offer right now, but you very possibly could, you’re obese. I am a woman in the same respect. I do not believe sex is wrong any more than you believe eating is wrong, but because your religion tells you that I was born of Eve, that I am tainted just by being a woman, and so I must be pure in all other ways, and because the people also saw fit to elect you as governor, you not only get to judge me, but you get to make laws that directly affect my health when you have never and will never ever know what it is to be a woman in this world, what it feels like to possibly become pregnant, to be pregnant, or have born children of your own. My abortion, should I need one, would save the state money in the long run, since having a child at this stage of my life would put me on welfare. What your veto says to me is that you think I’m a slut who should just keep her legs closed, or open them up for the baby that follows. But I love children, governor, I spend my free time babysitting, I donate to St. Jude’s, I adore them, which is why I am Pro-Choice. I would never, ever want a child brought into this world because their mother couldn’t afford to abort him (and what makes you think she can then support him?) or a child whose mother didn’t want her then, and continues to not want her for the rest of her life. I was abused, and when you are abused so young you quickly see what a lie purity is. How can I be held responsible, seen as more or less valuable for something that can be taken form me so easily? You also see how important it is to protect children, the children that exist, the children that are born, that are HERE from anything you can. I was a wanted baby and my parents loved me, thank goodness, because otherwise I would never have made it through the hell that is recovering from the shame that falls on the victim – the sexual shame – in the aftermath of my day care provider’s impulses. All I can do is write to you and hope you hear me and the other women who have no doubt also written to you begging to respect us, respect our lives and respect our choices. They are private, and respectfully sir, they are not yours and will never be yours. You’re a public figure, you send a message to children, living, breathing, comprehending children, that women’s lives and choices are not to be taken seriously, and quiet honestly that health isn’t to be taken seriously either. I just have a facebook page, you are a public figure. I hope you do what is really truly the right thing and stop attacking the well being of the families of NJ. No one benefits from a forced pregnancy. Not the state, not the family, and CERTAINLY not the child that is created only to be unwanted. I really do hope that you come to see that, or at least come to see that our bodies are none of your business. Not as a man, not as a person, and not as governor.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Carl

Why abortion should be safe, legal… and is necessary.*

•08/27/2010 • Leave a Comment

*The original quote was by Bill Clinton and it went something like, “Abortion should be safe, legal and rare.” I feel otherwise about that last bit, as I will outline here.

I can see now that a lot of my posts here are going to be my adventures as a feminist on facebook… Armies of the status quo and all. So here’s my latest tale.

I received this post from a friend of mine from the FB, who is Republican, and with whom I often clash with on the issues, though I feel, for the most part, respectfully. I recently posted a letter to the governor of the state I live in, New Jersey, about his cutting $7.5M dollars from family planning services because he “morally opposes” them. I shared a link to the article and the letter it inspired in a note on facebook. (You can read that article and my letter to Governor Chris Christie here.) My friend’s following question was posted to my wall, not the note, though I am fairly certain it was inspired by said post.

Wall post, Friday, August 27th, 2010, 9:26 AM EST: Jen, I don’t mean to disrespect your beliefs but would you agree that ideally no or few abortions is more ideal than what we currently have in the world? x

My reply:

No disrespect in asking questions respectfully, I am happy to share my views even when I know we disagree.

My answer is no. I think too many women are still forced into pregnancies, and that every child had should be a wanted child. I think …forced abortion is just as bad as forced pregnancy, any situation in which someone isn’t in control of her (or his!) own medical fate or body is awful. But I think that every woman should make whatever decision is best for her at the moment of the decisions, and we should get over this knee jerk reaction that abortion is automatically a bad thing. What makes it so bad, other than our (in my opinion irrational and also knee jerk) moral opinion that it’s “wrong.” Abortion saves lives, and helps the majority of women who have them to better able to do what they want in their life, have children when they are better prepared for them, and/or better care for their existing families.

In the US over 90% of abortions happen in the first trimester. I (along with the majority of Americans, statistics show) have no problem with abortions done in the first trimester. Second trimester abortions are largely (though not all) caused by restrictions on first trimester abortions such as parental consent, having to raise money because of lack of coverage, and fear due to misinformation. Then there’s third trimester abortions, which everyone screams their head off about. Third trimester abortions are only performed in two clinics in the entire country (after the 3rd clinic’s doctor was assassinated) and every single one of those is medically indicated, monitored, and approved by a medical board. They are only allowed in cases of child rape, life of the mother, or severe malformation of the fetus. (Such as having formed without a brain.)

Often times these doctors are what allow these women to have any children at all after the operation, as they save a reproductive system which would have been compromised in the delivery of severely low-functioning infant who will only live a few weeks after birth, if not a few days, hours, minutes. (This is the case in almost all of the stories I have read about people in this situation.) A woman with a perfectly healthy fetus simply cannot walk into a clinic and have an abortion past a certain number of weeks. And most (I’d say all, but there’s always exceptions) women wouldn’t carry a fetus that far only to willfully have it aborted. Third trimester abortions were wanted pregnancies where something went horribly wrong. The women who suffer them are then labeled as “baby killers” when they are mourning the end of a very much wanted pregnancy, and are also given little to no medical recourse for their medically indicated, very very serious medical issues.

The fact of the matter is that we will never live in a world where abortion isn’t needed or wanted. It’s like saying wouldn’t it be nice if people only had sex when they specifically intended to create babies. It’s not going to happen. Even if it was the case I STILL think abortion would be necessary because circumstances change, and bodies change. Limited access to abortion only creates more unsafe operations, more dead or butchered women, and more unwanted children. Limited to no access to abortion also usually comes hand in hand with limited to no access to birth control methods. As I said in my letter to the governor, pro-choice organizations and clinics that provide abortions are the ones doing THE MOST to prevent them in the first place. The organizations that oppose abortion most fiercely also seem to be the ones helping unwanted pregnancies (and later term abortions) come into being by their constant denial of the facts, spread of misinformation and just basic misunderstanding of human nature and how humans behave regardless of how many abstinence only education videos they see as teens. Abstinence only education doesn’t reduce the number of people having sex, it reduces the number of people having protected, informed sex.

We are also becoming vastly overpopulated. There are millions of children already born are abused, beaten, starved, sold into slavery, sold into prostitution, the list goes on. We can’t or won’t or don’t take care of the children we already have in this world. I am pro-choice and if that makes me pro-abortion then so be it, I’m not afraid to say it. In fact I’m proud, because I would say that, ideally, few or no unwanted children in this world is a far better goal to strive towards than few or no abortions – and it’s a more attainable goal to boot.

-Jen

My last post got deleted, many many tears. So here’s the readers digest version.

•08/20/2010 • 2 Comments

This happened on twitter:

Then this happened on facebook:

Then this happened:

Then this:

And then he defriended me. lol

Moral of the story:

We’re not wrong when we speak out against people who threaten our civil rights. Too often organizations form and operate to oppress a group of people, and nothing is done. But when the group they seek to oppress speaks against them or takes action, they are labeled as the ones in the wrong, as the oppressive ones.  And if you do nothing in the name of “fairness,” well, I’ll leave you with a quote.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”  ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

Oh, and being rude gets you no where. If I already disagree with you, being rude and superior will only make me more inclined to do so.

-Jen

Hey Hey I Got Something To Say

•08/16/2010 • Leave a Comment

it’s better to burn out than to fade away….

(10 points if you get the song reference)