I rarely get to read for fun.
This is a very sad thing, as I love nothing better than reading something really thought-provoking and wonderful . . . you know, something you hate to put down at night.
My very good friend and colleague Elizabeth Hagan lent me her beach read from this summer and I finally made time to start reading it. It was already on my list . . . I mean, Christian Century reviewed it so I figure it technically counts as work reading, but I tell you, I could not stop laughing all the way through.
As I was making my way through The Year of Living Biblically, I suddenly saw some correlation with our recent congregational discussions about stewardship (p. 37 ff.)
“‘I am going to tithe,'” I announce to Julie (his wife) over breakfast.
She seems concerned. In general, she’s much more magnanimous than I am. She’s a sucker for those charities that send you free sheets of return-address labels with little cartoons of a Rollerblading Ziggy, along with a heatbreaking brochure about lymphoma. I tell her it’s emotional blackmail. She ignores me and mails them checks.
But even for Julie 10 percent is high, especially with Jasper (their child) and, we hope, another kid to come . . . .
That night, I call my spiritual advisory board to ask. I reach Elton Richards, the pastor out to pasture.
‘You shouldn’t get too legalistic with it,’ says Elton. ‘Give what you can afford. And then give some more. It should feel like a sacrifice . . . .’
That night I spend three hours browsing a web site called Charity Navigator. It’s sort of a Zagat guide to aid organizations. I settle on several organizations–Feed the Children and Save Darfur among them–and donate about 2 percent of my income. That’s as much as I can do in one shot.
When the confirmation emails ping in, I feel good. There’s a haunting line from the film Chariots of Fire. It’s spoken by Eric Liddell, the most religious runner, the one who carries a Bible with him during his spring. He says: ‘When I run, I feel His pleasure.’ and as I gave away money I think I might have felt God’s pleasure. I know: I’m agnostic. But still–I feel his pleasure. It’s a warm ember that starts at the back of my neck and spreads through my skull. I feel like I am doing something I should have been doing my whole life.'”