Protection

The doorbell jingles as two men in dark suits briskly enter the small restaurant. Wasting no time, they head right for the counter. Mr. Campello, the proprietor, tries to ignore the icicles forming in his gut and greets them with a forced smile.

“Tony, Jimmy, what can I do for you today?”

“We’re just out visiting some of our folks in the neighborhood,” says Jimmy easily. “Just seeing how folks are doing.”

“We’re fine here, fellas. Everybody is getting by.”

“That’s good to know” answers Jimmy. “Because accidents can happen so easily in places like this. You know what I mean?”

“What?”

“You know how this works,” says Tony. “You just make a ‘donation’ of ten percent and it saves a lot of unpleasantness. If you don’t contribute then the Boss sees to it that things break and your people run into trouble. It will cost you a whole lot more than a measly ten.”

“I already give what I can. Business hasn’t been great….”

“It’s either ten percent up front or you’ll find that things are going to get ugly in mysterious ways. We’ll be seeing you soon.”

The doorbell jingles again as the two make their way outside.

“Who were those guys?” asks a customer  seated at the lunch counter. “Mafioso types?”

“Worse,” groans Mr. Campello holding his face in his hands “deacons from my church. The mob hasn’t got anything on the protection racket that the Baptists have going. God is their Enforcer.”

25 thoughts on “Protection”

  1. I’m with J Leslie; that gives a whole other meaning to being a member of the “family” of God, and the metaphor can (accurately) be extended a bit further, too…

  2. I love it! A lot of fundy churches have a “member in good standing” clause in their church constitutions. Basically, you can’t hold an office or be in any leadership positions if you don’t tithe. Of course, it’s always from the gross and not the net income.

  3. Writing here as one who has always had questions about this, how can “they” tell if you’re tithing from the net or the gross? And how private is the information? In other words, how much exposure does the list get?

    1. It depends on the church you’re in. In some churches, you’re on the honor system and everybody just takes you word for it. In other churches, you have to actually produce your paycheck stubs and your canceled checks to prove that you have been tithing. How private all that is depends on the church too. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to teach in a Christian school attached to the right kind of church, they will helpfully take the 10% right out of your paycheck before you even see it, so you don’t have to worry about that pesky “cheerful giver” stuff. It’s especially good if they don’t tell you about that before you sign the employment contract.

  4. The story could go even further. Mr. Campello could try to reason with them by saying he fed several homeless people in his restaurant that day. Or that he provided the food for the city mission shelter that week. That’s all well and good they would say, but you know the rules, your first priority is cash and it must be put into the storehouse. And even if Mr. Campello did hand over the money, but they would still want offerings and faith promise on top the 10 percent.

  5. I’d thought that the ten percent tithe was a spook story told to atheists to demonstrate how crazy fundies were, until my job forced me to spend three weeks in a fundie church. They actually had forms on the bulletin board that new members were required to sign giving the church access to their bank accounts and tax records.

    Blows my fucking mind.

  6. Nice nice nice. The picture adds a lot of effect!
    Stan’s addition is quite swell too!

    @Thomas. Wow…Never heard of that. You would think the new members would, ya know, NOT go there if they were required to hand over their bank accounts or tax records. (Who in their right mind would!?)

  7. I’ve seriously never heard of something quite as whacked as a church that requires access to your bank account. Maybe my fundy creds aren’t what I thought they were…

  8. I think the vocabulary actually fits in this case. The other option is to get out the whips and start doing the Jesus-thing in the courtyard.

    My church growing up wouldn’t let you “serve” if you didn’t tithe. I heard about it as a Junior-Higher and was appalled. I still am.

    I was always a bad ass.

  9. I’d give them the bank account number for the checking account in which I only deposit 1/4th of my paycheck (it’s not terribly large anyway, but that’s not the point). Of course, I have been known to be a sneaky little [insert choice word here]. Nah, forget that, you know I’m lying. If they asked for that info, I’d run like hades – after shaking the dust off my proverbial sandals!

  10. What’s sad about this story is that I went to an IFB church, where the people who recorded the tithe would gossip about who gave and who didn’t. It was a really small church so every one knew everything.

  11. Love the site, Darrell. IFB bible college student that I am, I figured this ‘protection’ was referring to the hedge about Job.
    e.g.,
    “God allus protects them what submit to Preacher’s authority and follow the rules. When you don’t, you step out of the Hedge, and a bus runs you over.”

    @Ron Bean- I’m stealing your quote.

  12. Two true stories about tithing: at my old church, the teachers in the attached Christian school had to give 10% of their gross back to the church or lose their jobs. They weren’t kidding about it either. I lost mine for that very reason. Later they made it more convenient and just took the 10% off before they paid you.

    At another church in our area, you have to submit 6 months worth of paychecks and prove that you’ve been tithing from it in order to apply to become a member. And it’s not even a fundy church.

  13. Yeah, well I just recently joined after the senior Mog got caught doing some not so cool things and resigned so I figured things my get less fundy in his absence, and I got my giving envelopes and I just refuse to use them, I put my cash in the offering plate and I have been pretty faithful to give what I have purposed in my heart cheerfully between me and God. Part of me is just daring someone to treat me different because they can’t keep a record of what I give.

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