Thursday, 4 August 2011

There was a knock on our door

several days ago. When I went to answer it I found, for the first time in several years, two women from a certain religious group. I gave them short shrift. The claim that they are not "selling" anything is false. They are selling their brand of religion.
I find the notion of selling your religious faith to other people offensive. I find that particular group particularly offensive.
There are several reasons for this. Some years ago I was asked to give some assistance to an elderly woman. I did not know her but I was told she was "on her own". Having had very little schooling she needed help with the paperwork surrounding her move into an aged care complex. It was a thoroughly sensible move on her part because she had no relatives here and did not want to rely on friends.
She had been going to the meetings of this particular religous group for a long time.
When we sat down together to go through the paper work it proved necessary for her to let me know something of her financial affairs. I was aware she was not well off and the person who had asked me to help had said, "She does not seem to manage her affairs terribly well but I cannot work out what she spends the money on because she does not seem to indulge herself at all."
No, she did not indulge herself. She had been struggling to "double tithe". Twenty percent of her meagre income was being given to her church. She had been told she "must" do this. It was what "everyone" did.
This elderly woman had been denying herself all comfort in the belief that she must give up twenty percent of her income to her church - the place that had been her limited social life and support group and to which she had given hours or kitchen work and charity shop work. She was trying to work out how she was going to keep on doing this and pay her fees to the aged care complex. They would also take a fixed percentage of her limited income. It would leave her with almost nothing. Her distress was obvious.
It took a long time and a lot of help from a number of people before we had the situation sorted.
She stopped double tithing, indeed she stopped tithing. The church cut her off. She was no longer welcome there. The members of it would no longer speak to her. She no longer existed for them.
Fortunately, inside the aged care complex, she found there was a group of volunteers happy to take her to a church on Sundays. They did not ask her to tithe. They just said she was welcome. Would she like to join the women's group? There was no pressure to do so. It was just an offer of friendship. After a little hesitation she joined. She also, tentatively at first, joined in some of the activities the complex had to offer.
I saw her several times and she always told me how glad she was that she had moved there. She spoke of how kind and caring her new friends were. Just once she mentioned her distress when, in the chemist shop, she was completely ignored by someone she had once considered a very close friend. That went on hurting. She died without ever being visited by anyone from her former church.
I have heard similar stories from other people about similar groups. I have seen more than one teen or young adult leave such groups and have family cut them off. I have seen people cripple themselves financially and then still be forced from the group.
I am suspicious of "prosperity theology" and anything which demands a great financial contribution. I am angered by anything which cuts off contact because of a difference in beliefs.
If that is the sort of religion being sold by these people who trespass on the property then I do not want to buy.


jeanfromcornwall said...

These "churches" - and there are many different sects with the same philosophy - do a neat line in reversing the instruction in the New Testament.
"Sell all that you have and give to the poor" becomes "Give all that you have and become the poor" except that the organisation is giving to nobody.
What do they do with the money?

Anonymous said...

Yes Cat, what do they do with the money? Have you got any idea? Ros