Transactional Religion

28 Apr

I believe in God. I’m also changing congregations for the second time in a year because my wife and I are not willing to pay the price their board has demanded. No negotiation, no understanding, just… this our policy. This is why believers stop going.

This is what we have decided to call “transactional religion.” I accept the fact that when you join a congregation, someone needs to pay for the building, someone needs to pay the priest, and all the little things that people don’t take on credit. That’s fine. However, that’s not what I’m talking about.

Congregations wants people to show up; after all, if two or three don’t appear in His name, why did I bother showing up? Services are free; you are donating your time and activity to better the congregation. (Now I’m using the generic term “congregation” to apply it to all American religions.) However, when you want something back from the congregation, they want you to pay.

Now most of the time, you can accept that transaction. You ask the priest to come out for a wedding or a funeral, they usually get a donation or an honorarium… which means money. You ask a group of Buddhist monks to come out and purify your house, you’re going to provide food, drink, and cigarettes. (The monks who came to our neighbor’s house smoked like chimneys.) You got to a temple, you leave a donation.

However, that’s an accepted transaction. It’s also based on the willingness and ability of the person to pay. If two poor people want to get married, but they can only offer $100 instead of $300 to the priest, the priest might show up anyway. But they won’t get married in a church, because they can’t afford the site fee. My wife and I wanted to get married in her “home” synagogue, the one she grew up in, before she left for Nebraska and India. So she hadn’t been members for a while. We were poor but we were willing to pay the site fee. But because we weren’t members, the board refused. So we got married in a park, the rabbi came to us, and we paid the honorarium.

That was 15 years ago. It’s not like there was a monster truck rally at the shul we were interrupting, or trying to bump off another wedding, or even interfering with a regular meeting. The shul was empty, they were open on a Thursday, but because we weren’t members… screw you. You don’t get to use our building.

I fear my kvetching is going to take longer than a single post, so I’ll finish this tomorrow, but have you run into this before? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then since we’re talking transactions, the post is free, but the reason is not, so buy one of my books. 🙂 However, I want you to be a member of this congregation, so if $1.99 is too pricey, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

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