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Need Advice On Giving To Charity At My Old Church


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This is my first thread. Woo hoo!

 

I have found myself in a bit of a dilemma, and would like some input, please. As many of you know, I loathe the leadership at my former church. You may have also read a few of my positive comments regarding my best friend, who has stuck with me despite my deconversion. Unfortunately those two things are colliding for me, and I want to do the right thing.

 

As a little background: I started noticing the abuse doled out to me about 2 years ago, and pretty much stopped going to church but remained a member. Last October is when the shit really hit the fan, and I endured my "trial" before the elders and the nasty follow-up letter they sent me after that. (My secular counselor said she has seen churches do stupid things, but this is the most evil thing she has ever heard.)

 

My best friend is still a member there. She has a part-time job teaching in their preschool. She witnessed all my drama, but was helpless to do anything about it, other than continue to love me like I needed. She is my one true friend. I respect her reasons for staying there. Despite the fact that she is a poor, obese, single mom with a mixed-race child, they have really embraced her. This is an upper-middle-class church full of mostly-married well-employed white people, so she sticks out like a sore thumb. But my friend is a genuine good soul, and they include her and love her little girl. This is where she needs to be at this moment. (I only hope it doesn't go as sour for her as it did for me, but I understand that right now it is filling her needs.)

 

My friend has her elderly mother living with her, who requires a lot of care. She also has her young daughter. She has her own health issues, making a regular job difficult for her, not to mention child care and elder care expenses, thus the part-time preschool job. She is doing her best to make it work, without accepting government assistance in any way (other than maybe health care for her child). No welfare, no food stamps, no housing subsidy, etc. I have encouraged her that these things are set up to help, and she has legitimate reasons for needing it, but ethically she does not want to accept it. She says she has made her choices and chooses to live with them and make it work. I respect that. She cares for her mother and enriches her daughter's life at every chance, and I appreciate her in so many ways.

 

Back to the dilemma part...

 

I have always been selective about where my church donations go, such as the youth group or the music ministry, and not so much into the general fund. I always do it anonymously so it's not about me. Since my evil letter last October, I have stopped almost all giving to this place.

 

So here's the problem: Late last summer I started anonymously sending $100 a month to the preschool to offset my friend's tuition for her little girl. (Even though she works there and gets a discount, she still has to pay partial tuition.) My contribution is enough to cover most of the cost, since her daughter only attends a few days a week. My friend had just taken the job, and I was so proud of her for getting out and making positive steps in her life. I wanted her to know that someone in that church loved her enough to make a difference for her, and just knowing that "someone" is out there has been very encouraging to her. Does she know it's me? I don't think so, but maybe. She is the only one who knows that I anonymously sponsor a youth every year for the national gathering, for example, so maybe she has figured me out. That's not the issue.

 

My husband has brought up two issues: giving money to that evil church, and giving money to someone who could get help elsewhere or simply live with her own choices. (He notices, for example, that she takes her child to the science center a lot, so she doesn't need our money, but actually she has a season pass that someone gave to her.) I respect his points. He also loves her and her daughter, so there is no ill will there, just sort of a moral dilemma.

 

I have several options:

 

1. Give the money directly to her so it's not running through the church. On the assumption that she doesn't know it's me, that would feel like buying her friendship. It might also disappoint her that it's not some mysterious silent benefactor who loves her from afar, but just me. She would probably turn me down anyway. And if she did accept it, she would use it for preschool anyway, so what's the difference? At least this way I am still getting the charitable deduction of $1000 a year. (hee hee)

 

2. Ask the elders to step up and find other people to continue this little "scholarship" of mine without me. One of the elders knows about it already, and loves me for it. (Well, loves me except for the fact that technically he was involved in the evil letter, but I assume his hands were tied with the power structure there. Whatever.) There is a good chance that they would do this. My friend is a valuable volunteer, and people love her. This would be a little pet project to make them feel good about helping someone who is really in need. I know I can easily guilt them into it, lol. This may sound selfish, but this would make them do a little work, and maybe think twice about the evil they did to me (but probably not, the clueless pricks that they are).

 

As a side note, this elder "friend" respects that I have continued this commitment, despite all the evil shit that went down. It just shows that I am the good person, and the leadership is the dark force. I admit I take some comfort in that.

 

3. Stop altogether and let it go. Give the money to another charity or put it in my savings account. However, this is a "charity" that I can see working, and know my money is spent the way I would want.

 

After this upcoming school year, my friend's daughter will be in public school and won't need the preschool money any more. So I only have another year to go. Should I continue as-is? I promised my dear husband that I would ask you guys, and he is excited to hear your thoughts, as am I.

 

Thank you for reading this. I look forward to your input.

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Congratulations on starting your first thread!

 

No welfare, no food stamps, no housing subsidy, etc. I have encouraged her that these things are set up to help, and she has legitimate reasons for needing it, but ethically she does not want to accept it.

 

This is what trips me up. She has "ethics" about accepting help from one appropriate source but is willing to accept help from another. If she is entitled to government assistance, and you already pay taxes, why should you contribute to her twice? I think her selective pride in refusing some help she's entitled to but accepting private money is misplaced. Personally, I wouldn't funnel one more dollar through the church even if I thought it might go to her. She has other resources she refuses to use. If you feel you must give her money, just give it to her as a friend and assure her you simply feel good helping a friend.

 

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Thanks, Florduh. You hit the nail on the head. Although I would respectfully argue that taking money from someone who freely gives it is slightly different than accepting public assistance which is funded by forced taxation. (Not to start a debate on taxation, but I think you know what I mean.) And yes, I pay a ton of taxes every year.

 

I guess the next issue is that someone is going to have to tell her that the money is not going to be available to her this year. That's only fair warning. Maybe I'll ask my elder "friend" to do it... see how decent of a guy he really is.

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Suggesting that the church pay for your friend's preschool expenses sounds fine to me.  Or you could send your check to the preschool directly.  I wouldn't give anything else to the church though-- there are so many worthy causes out there!  And I know you don't want to empower them.

You sound like a good friend yourself btw!

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Awww, thanks, Aggie. Having lost all my other "friends" since de-conversion, I think I needed to hear that. * sniff sniff *

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I want to make sure I understand this correctly: Your friend works part time for this pre-school, and yet the church still charges her for tuition for her daughter to go there? That church is horrible. I mean... they could let her go for free, right? 

 

I'm not a fan of church sponsored schools anyway--churches don't pay taxes, right? Plus, the teachers use the opportunity to indoctrinate the kids. 

 

I wouldn't be able to give money to support this in any way, not even to give $100 to her if I knew it were going to be used by her to pay them, but that's where I would draw my own ethical line. 

 

Truly, this is 100% your decision. She's a good friend of yours, and this place employs her, educates her daughter, and is her place of worship and community. She's accepted that you left and stayed your friend, just as you've stayed hers. So it might come down to doing what you feel is best for her while doing the least to enrich this church that treated you so terribly. 

 

I lean toward pressuring the church to cover her expenses. 

 

And PLEASE don't worry about losing any esteem from the elder. You aren't helping your friend in order to be admired by him. Plus, he didn't really do anything to help you when his influence could have been of great assistance to you. So who cares whether he respects your decision to keep giving or to stop giving? You aren't doing this kind deed for his sake anyway. 

 

One of my favorite things about not being part of the Christian circle anymore is that I don't have to care about what cruel, mean, or snarky things any of them might say or might have said about me behind my back. They aren't my community anymore, and it doesn't concern me. Their judgmental gossip says more about them than me anyway. This is part of having healthy boundaries. You'll need those after you leave the church, because they teach you to care far too much about how others perceive you than is healthy while you belong as a member. (That whole "be a good witness in all you do" mentality, which leads to paranoia and over-achieving people-pleasing behavior, an unhealthy preoccupation with what other people think of you.) You don't need that kind of behavior anymore. 

 

I'd say follow your own heart on this, but leave how others see you out of the equation. You're doing this for your friend, not for the glory anyway, right?

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RaLeah, thanks!

 

Yes, the church, in my opinion, should step up on this one; thanks for reinforcing my suspicion.

 

As for the indoctrination, yes, I have considered that too. I've been trying to ignore that issue because it pains me like it does you, but you are right to bring it back to my attention. Darn it!

 

As for the elder, I really don't care what he thinks. I bring him up here because of the irony of it -- they don't want my "presence" there, but they still accept my "presents". I keep hoping someday someone will see this, but alas... not gonna happen. The only reason he knows about my donations is because, based on the nature of the letter, I actually felt the need to ask "permission" to continue giving in this way. (Of course, the answer was yes.)

 

Holy shit. Listen to me! Did I just answer my own question? These sorry fuckers.

 

I'm having lunch with him next week to tell him I'm dropping this, and he needs to tell my friend, or get the church to pick up the slack. I think it's the "bigger person" thing to do rather than just stop sending the money. (Although I would enjoy a bit of confusion on their part, but not on this topic.) I could have just told him in an email, but I want to see what he has to say face-to-face. Could be interesting.

 

And you are sooooo right about the "over-achieving people-pleasing behavior." This is so damaging, I totally know!

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Oh, good! I'm glad the advice is useful, but it really does keep coming back to trusting your own intuition and doing what you know is right for you in your own heart and not worrying about how anyone else views your actions. 

 

You might be more persuasive in person, that's true. And sometimes tone in an email can be misunderstood--you have a better chance of getting them to pick up her tuition bill if you come across and genuine and concerned and appeal to their compassion for one of their teachers. (Do be careful that you don't let him talk you out of your decision. Standing firm when other people try to get you to do something you don't want to / don't feel good about is good practice and will strengthen your boundaries. So don't cave in!) Also remember, your friend does have resources if she becomes desperate--she qualifies for government aid. If she depends on your giving, you're enabling her to opt out of the aid she's entitled to. 

 

You are also reinforcing to her (by secretly donating this gift to her) that someone (or perhaps several someones) in the church cares about her, which is inadvertently making the church look better to her than it deserves to look. Just something to keep in mind. I can tell you have a kind heart and that you're a good friend, and that matters more than giving money to someone. 

 

Good luck to you!!

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Yes! This is exactly why I needed to ask about this here. You're helping me take off my blinders. I was letting my emotional ties get in the way of clear thinking.

 

Oh my, yes... I am once again making them look good for doing nothing. Typical pattern, now that I think about it. Another layer of that onion is peeling away...

 

This is my last formal tie to this dreadful church, and I am relieved to see a way out now.

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Burn that last bridge, RW. Be done with them. They must not have wanted your gifts too badly, otherwise they would have treated you better while they had the chance. They had the chance and they blew it. You had a LOT to offer them, and they weren't interested. Of course they'll still take your money after all the crap they've caused you. What a vile church!

 

As for your friend, she can turn to the church or to the public aid. It wouldn't surprise me if they decide to turn their backs on her as well, since it sounds like they only want her around to make themselves look good for the brownie points, despicable as it is. If they were that ready and willing to throw you under the bus, what's to stop them from doing the same to her?

 

Draw that line. Put that money in a savings account or make a rainy day fund of it. That stupid hellhole doesn't deserve another penny out of you.

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You guys on this site are the smartest, most compassionate people. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Hey guys... Second question based on what has been discussed here:

 

Do I come clean to my friend?

 

My eyes are open now. I'd love to "crush" the church by exposing the lazy people that they are, so she knows it was just one good person helping her, and that was me. But I don't want to crush her. She's not ready to de-convert, so I don't want to push it how evil church is (aside from what she already knows about how they treated me).

 

Either way, I will wait to tell her until after I have lunch with the elder, and see if he plans to continue helping her.

 

Any thoughts?

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This is something I hesitate to post, this is a tough call.  I would be honest with her. It is best for her to hear it from you instead of someone else, especially if you decide to light a fire under some rear ends.  No matter what you decide take some time to decide how to do this diplomatically.  Be careful and I hope everything works out.

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RenaissanceWoman,

 

I know I'm late to this thread, and you seem to have made up your mind about how to handle it, and you've gotten great advice. I just thought I'd say that I'm horrified at how you've been treated by these people. The leadership of the church is worse than lazy. They're duplicitous, self-righteous, hypocritical scum. To write you that letter, and then accept your money, when they haven't done a thing to help your friend is just puppy-kickingly wrong.

 

Help your friend, by all means, but don't give another dime to these smarmy scam artists. Hold your head high: you don't have to apologize for a single thing. You're doing the right thing, as a decent human being.

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Lifting the anonymity on a donation is a tough call. She might have felt uncomfortable accepting the gift in the first place if she knew it was all from you. If you tell her now, she might want to pay you back. (If she feels in your debt, it might make the friendship feel lopsided to her too.) The point of giving anonymously is that you don't ever need to reveal your generosity and get a personal thank you for it. 

 

So you're kind of in a bind now. 

 

I think if the elder says they'll take over the donation, it's better if you keep it to yourself. If it comes up a year or so from now, you could tell her you arranged the donation with the church to cover her child's tuition in the first place, but that others have contributed to it. (Which will be true by then. And she won't be able to calculate how much you personally gave her and try to pay you back that amount.) 

 

If they don't take over the donation, you should still discontinue it and let the elders explain to her that they don't have a tuition scholarship for her this upcoming year. If she asks you if it was you who donated it in the first place, you can tell her the truth. Yes, you did sponsor her daughter for one school year, but that you aren't a member of the church anymore, and after the way they treated you, it just feels wrong for you to give them money. That you told them you felt she shouldn't be paying tuition anyway, considering she's a teacher there, and you tried to talk them into giving her child a scholarship, but they wouldn't. Then it's on them. 

 

I want to encourage you to try one more thing: I know you said that she won't take any government help. I had a friend like this too, but the truth was, she was too overwhelmed to research what she qualified for, and how to do the paperwork, etc. Maybe if you helped her figure it out and let her know it's there for the benefit of not just her but her daughter--and hey, if she has any extra money left over at the end of the month, she can donate it to charity--and that you don't judge people for accepting govt assistance they're qualified to take, she might come around. Does she have internet access? Could you look up the SNAP program and print out the information for her? Tell her it's like if you handed her a coupon for her favorite cereal, but she decided not to use it in the check out line. 

 

I strongly urge people who qualify for govt assistance to take it. She might be surrounded by a bunch of fundamentalist Republicans who are like, Keep your govt hands off my Medicare, but you have to help her undo that brainwashing and shaming of anyone who needs assistance. She's likely heard that sort of judgmental look-down-your-nose at people who are "takers" and nonsense like that. As someone who is outside of that brainwashing, please try to help her see that she isn't being some sort of lazy leach if she takes the available assistance. If she qualifies for it, she's entitled to it, and her daughter and mother deserve the extra income support. If she declines and says she just can't, ask her if she would look down on someone who took food stamps, etc. due to hardship or under-employment. Gently challenge her on that prejudice. She might be thinking, Well, I might be poor, but at least I don't take any handouts, and you can steer her away from that sort of judgmental pride. 

 

I realize that's a lot of unsolicited advice, and of course you can take it or leave it. You know your friend best, and of course I don't know her at all. I just think it's sad when someone is struggling financially and they feel too ashamed even to take the little bit of help that's out there available to them. 

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Here's a little more unsolicited advice, which you can take or leave: Since she's working for the church, she's probably not getting any retirement benefits whatsoever either (and maybe not even social security--I think churches might be exempt from paying into that?). If you can help her navigate her finances a little, I'll bet it would be a huge help to her. Offer to drive her and go with her to navigate the paperwork and really keep the tone light and matter-of-fact, as if it's something that of course she ought to do. You can bring it up as a sort of, Hey, do you have a SNAP card yet for groceries? We should go get you one. 

 

If she's anxious, you can do the talking if she feels too embarrassed to do it herself. 

 

Any money she has left over at the end of the month should go into a retirement account. Any bank can set that up for her. You could offer to help her do that too. It's simple, but it can be intimidating for someone who hasn't done it before. 

 

Some people are just very anxious about figuring out their finances, and you could be a huge help to her if you aren't afraid of doing a little research and then walking her through it. 

 

Again, just a thought. It might not be something you're comfortable doing, but it would be a lovely free gift of your time to her if you feel up to it. 

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I agree with everyone else as well.  Good point that she can get assistance and you're technically already paying for that so it's like you're doubling your pay towards her. And after the church has been so awful to you, who could blame you for not wanting to take any part of it. The elders SHOULD set up a donation program, it should have been them doing that in the first place.  I would just tell her the truth if it comes up, if it doesn't, I wouldn't worry about it.  It's hard not to worry, though, I know, LOL.  I worry waaaay too much. 

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Thank you so much! I have been soaking up everything you all have said, and it is so helpful to get a fresh, outside perspective. Wow, I have a lot to consider now. Y'all are great.

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Yeah, I know that day is coming to give my full extimony, including the letter. The envelope said "personal and confidential." Do you think I should honor that? LOL naaaah. Only other problem... it hit me wrong at a bad time, and it is pretty mean-spirited, but you guys might read it and said, "Meh, I've seen worse." Awkward. But yes, I'll do it. Just not today. Giving the whole backstory is a sad trip down memory lane.

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