Thursday, October 16, 2008

Freakonomics on Stewardship

Here in the middle of stewardship season, I came across this piece. Hmmm... Of course the trouble is that a pledge to the Church isn’t a simple financial transaction. It isn’t shopping for an efficient purveyor of religious goods and services. A pledge is more like a tangible prayer of commitment to God’s unfolding future.

Why Can’t Religion Be “Pay to Play”?

The most annoying volunteer job I’ve ever had is that of treasurer at my synagogue; three years at one place, and I was dumb enough to volunteer for three years at another.

Trying to eke dues out of the small number of delinquent members had bad effects on my blood pressure.

Synagogues and other religious organizations are public goods; it’s easy to enjoy the services offered (pun intended) without paying your fair share of the costs.

Many European countries do it differently. When you move to a town in Germany, for example, you are asked to state your religion at the city office. Unless you say none, you are then assessed a surtax of 8 percent on your income tax liability, and the funds are paid directly to your religious community.

With a progressive income tax, this means that the rich pay a greater share of their incomes to support religious institutions than the poor do.

No need to go harassing delinquent members; it’s pay to play.

As a synagogue treasurer, I would have loved that; as a U.S. citizen, I realize that this is inconsistent with the separation of church and state in the United States (but any more so than Bush’s faith-based initiatives?).

And I realize that it might be difficult to determine what constitutes a religious organization — a problem that has arisen in Germany.

Prof. Good on Bill Maher

Prof. Good is the New Testament Prof. at General Seminary. She is a great teacher and an interesting thinker. Her critique of Maher’s new movie is quite thoughtful. It sounds like the movie is just what you would expect. Too bad Maher isn’t interested in something more constructive. I guess the constructive doesn’t sell enough tickets.

Prof. Good

Freakonomics on the Financial Crisis

For those of you that don’t regularly read the Freakonomics blog, I want to call your attention to this one. It offers an explanation of our current financial situation. It is easy to be concerned and anxious at this uncertain time. I hope a little clarity and perspective will help us be our best selves.


Guest Post