Stop “Working on Your Relationship with Jesus” October 26, 2009

Stop “Working on Your Relationship with Jesus”

Dr. Richard Beck is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University.

He has a great piece where he goes after other Christians for something he dislikes about their (his) subculture:

Personal acts of piety and devotion are vital to a vibrant spiritual life and continued spiritual formation. But all too often “working on my relationship with God” has almost nothing to do with trying to become a more decent human being.

The trouble with contemporary Christianity is that a massive bait and switch is going on. “Christianity” has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else, an endorsed “spiritual” substitute

To illustrate his point, he uses the example of Christian tipping on Sundays — a point I’ve talked about here before. It’s no surprise that servers *hate* working on Sundays precisely because they know Christians will be coming in and tipping them nothing. Or next to nothing, if they’re lucky…

Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth.

… Rather than pouring our efforts into two hours of worship, bible study and Christian fellowship on Sunday why don’t we just take a moment and a few extra bucks to act like a decent human being when we go to lunch afterwards?

It’s a tremendous critique of Christianity coming from a person of faith. This is a piece all Christians ought to read, but I fear few will.

If they followed Beck’s advice, it wouldn’t make their beliefs any more reasonable, but it might make dealing with Christians that much more tolerable.

The Atheist raises a question he’d like to ask Christians after reading the piece:

… Is it more important to have a good relationship with your deity, or with the people around you? I’m not implying that the two are mutually exclusive, but clearly some people give preference to one over the other, and in my experience (and one would assume from the article, Dr Beck’s) it tends to be their deity.

(via WhyWontGodHealAmputees)


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  • Andy

    I worked at Taco Bell in high school, and while tips are a non factor there, the church crowd were always the rudest, most condescending people you had to deal with.

  • Perhaps pastors across the country should pre-record their sermons on Saturday then get a church volunteer to hit the “play button” so they won’t work on Sunday. I seem to remember that churches pass around a big tip basket themselves on Sunday.

  • JJR

    I just love how some Christians just cop this attitude that runs something like “well, God, the most powerful being in the universe forgives me, so what’s YOUR f*cking problem?”
    (“…you mere human and godless heathen to boot”)

    *facepalm*

    They don’t come out and say that word for word, but their actions speak louder than words on this point.

  • Speaking from a Mormon background, I was taught that serving someone else was serving God, so at least Mormon Christians could argue that by getting right with God, they are getting right with everyone… Sadly (as you wrote), it is not always the case in day-to-day living.

  • sc0tt

    The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd.

    Funny, but that’s over-stating things a bit, no?

  • Siamang

    I don’t have a comment on the tipping phenomenon.

    But from a spiritual perspective, I do find the point interesting that so much religion is *about* religion.

    It’s turned inward to the point of being an end unto itself.

    Which in a way makes it no different from entertainment. The point of which is to get you to buy more entertainment.

  • Polly

    I know a person who is exactly like this. Selfish to the point of oblivious, exhibits stratospheric levels of arrogance and is always the first person to raise their hand to answer a theological question. This person studies the Bible relentlessly and brags about 2 hour prayer sessions. Yes, brags about praying.
    “So” I want to ask, “what has all this kafe-klatching with god done for your character?”

  • Polly,

    Character development is for the secular world of Man. Praying and developing a relationship with Jesus is for the big prize and is much much more important.

    /sarcasm

  • And in another vein, the rowdiest, smokingest, drinkingest, sex-havingest (and, recently, anal-sex-havingest) crowd comes from your neighborhood church’s youth group.

  • Rich

    Hmm, I read “Christian tipping on Sundays” as the something akin to cow tipping. The imagery that was going on before I figured out what was actually meant was fairly entertaining.

  • Lee Shaver

    Interestingly, when asked what the ONE most important commandment was, Jesus gave TWO answers: love God, and love your neighbor. As if to say the two are one and the same.

  • Tony

    Interestingly, when asked what the ONE most important commandment was, Jesus gave TWO answers: love God, and love your neighbor. As if to say the two are one and the same.

    But the churchgoers live nowhere near the people who work at Golden Griddle!

  • Ron in Houston

    I think all of us desire to be virtuous examples of humanity. I think that most of us understand on a basic biological basis that things like love, compassion, and empathy are really what matter.

    I think the professor hits on a very important point. When you try to be a virtuous human because you think you should, you are no longer being virtuous. You are now doing it for selfish reasons.

    Give me a virtuous atheist any day. They don’t do it because they think they should to please some deity. They do it solely to be virtuous.

  • Siamang

    …. and to impress the chicks.

  • Frank

    I don’t think tipping is necessarily a good metric. I’m an atheist who doesn’t tip on any day of the week for reasons that have nothing to do with money. I simply find the whole system of tipping incredibly primitive and inappropriate. In what other industry is the costumer, rather than the business, expected to pay the salary of the employees?

  • Jen

    Frank, seriously? I have never worked a tip-related job, but I have had friends who have depended on tips to eat, and on behalf of them, I hope you never frequent restaurants with waiters (which still leaves you plenty of options, of course), salons/barbers, or hotels, at least in America. And if you do, feel free to pretend not to be an atheist.

    I like Dr Beck’s argument because it is certainly true that various Christians I have known have spent far more time praying than helping people, and I can’t even see as good a philosophical system that fails to emphasize the utter importance of your fellow man. I suppose it could be morally neutral, spending time in prayer- and really, its no more of a time waster than, say, commenting on this site while watching videos on youtube and looking up stuff on amazon (not that I am referring to me)- but I can’t see how that philosophy could be morally better.

  • David D.G.

    Frank wrote:

    I don’t think tipping is necessarily a good metric. I’m an atheist who doesn’t tip on any day of the week for reasons that have nothing to do with money. I simply find the whole system of tipping incredibly primitive and inappropriate. In what other industry is the costumer, rather than the business, expected to pay the salary of the employees?

    Frank, I understand your position; it is an extremely backward setup, with the effect of making wage policy for millions of people subject to “custom” (and whims).

    However, this custom, whether sensible or not, is deeply rooted and pervasive in our culture. I can understand if you want to protest it by opting out, but a relative handful of people not tipping the waitstaff will never correct the matter and induce restaurateurs (and especially restaurant corporations) to pay their waitpeople a proper wage. It will result only in waitpeople getting shafted even worse than they already are.

    Regardless of how the system got here, or how screwed up it is, that’s how things work in the United States. (I have no idea how such things are handled elsewhere.) So please reconsider your position on tipping. Thanks.

    ~David D.G.

  • Rich

    Frank,
    I hope you don’t frequent the same restaurant more than once. It’s always a bad call to be rude in any way to the people who handle your food. A waiter is not going to interpret your lack of tip as a “protest against the system,” they’re going to see it as you being cheap, and that is the reputation that you will earn, deserved or not.

    That’s not to say there isn’t merit to your point, I think tipping is a bad system. But to protest by opting out is not the right response.

  • A) Dr. Beck and I went to college together. ACU is our mutual alma mater. I knew him. If you want a great interview with a brilliant Christian, Richard is your man.

    B) As a waiter myself, I will ask Frank to kindly keep to self-service restaurants with no tipped employees. Let me be clear, Frank, and anyone else with a similar misunderstanding:

    If you do not tip, you are a thief. You have stolen a service in exactly the same way you would have if you didn’t pay the plumber or electrician who provides a service. Someone who would have paid me for my service could have been sitting at that table. I have to pay my rent with those tips, man.

    Ripping off servers is not the way to change the system. It will only hurt the people who are washing your feet.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Twin-Skies

    Considering the typical waiter in my area earns about $ 160-200 a month, adding that extra bit of spare change certainly goes a long way to help their daily needs.

    That’s just a rough estimate – the conversion of pesos to a dollar here is 46 : 1.

  • Roger

    Frank, I’m going to borrow from Wil Wheaton’s blog and use his motto: “Don’t be a dick!”

  • keddaw

    1. Just because your tight-ass company/country doesn’t pay the staff a decent living wage why should the customer, who is already paying for the goods and service provided fork out more to pay for the staff? When you buy a car do you tip the dealer, the test driver, the assembler? No. It’s all included in the price. Tipping should be the exception for exceptional service and should never be expected.

    2. Christians don’t tip on Sundays because everyone who serves them is not respecting the Sabbath and are therefore sinners. It is un-Christian and immoral to reward sinners for their sins.

    3. How does adding a few extra bucks to a bill make you a ‘decent human being’? Surely this should be directed to the terrible boss who isn’t paying his staff a decent living wage?

  • @Scott, nope that is not overstating anything. Ask any waitstaff about Sunday lunch/brunch. Monetary tips can be counted in pennies. Tips consisting of Chick tracts and church literature could fill a -large- recycle bin.

  • Matthew

    @keddaw,

    If it’s un-Christian and immoral to reward sinners for not respecting the Sabbath why do Christians go out to eat on Sunday thus feeding the demand for people to work on the Sabbath in the first place? Wouldn’t it be more socially conscious for Christians to go straight home on Sundays after church?

  • JimboB

    I think religion has become an ugly word, a taboo even. I think this holds especially true of organized religions. Many believers I’ve talked to seem to think that their church has “lost its way”, and they need to “get back to their roots” (i.e. God). It seems like a nice idea, but it’s a shallow sentiment. It’s like saying:

    “I don’t have a job; I have a professional relationship with a company that pays me for my services”

    or

    “I don’t have a family; I have a biological and/or psychological relationship with the persons who raised me”

    You can phrase it however you want, but you’re stuck in the same boat. I think Dr. Beck has the right idea. Stop worrying about your “relationship with God” and focus on the real matters at hand.

  • keddaw

    @Matthew
    Give me a break, 1 was social commentary, 2 was a pseudo-morality tale of hypocrisy for Christians and 3 was a minimum wage plea.

  • Flah

    My thoughts on The Atheist’s question is that the central message of Christ is one of reconciliation and loving our fellow brothers and sisters. That includes respecting their choices regarding religion.

    That also includes actively addressing the worldly needs of all: hunger, health care, safety, etc. A lot of the “working on my relationship with Christ” is a form of self-gratification that makes the perfect excuse to avoid actually doing anything.

    Short response: self-proclaimed Christian, Little Sister of the Blessed Sepulcher, agnostic, atheist, or otherwise, if you don’t tip you’re a dick.

  • Totally. I wrote a post about this a little while ago, guess it sums up what I think. http://www.stuffchristianculturelikes.com/2009/06/86-leaving-gospel-tract-with-tip.html

  • Glen57

    so at least Mormon Christians could argue that by getting right with God, they are getting right with everyone…

    Or to put it another way, by getting right with everyone, they were getting right with god,… which makes more sense to me.
    One of the sayings attributed to Jesus is, “if ye have done it to the least of these thy brethren, ye have done it unto me.” So if you served your fellow humans you would be serving god. I don’t believe in god but I think the serving your fellow humans part was good.

  • A Mile of Bad Road

    Well, you can tell who the people are in this thread who’ve never worked a low-paying job.

    What utter selfishness.

  • stoat100

    From my harrowing memories of the ‘Rapture Ready’ forums, I got the impression that some strains of fundiness emphasis ‘faith’ rather than ‘works’ for a ticket to heaven – even to the extent that doing good works for people is actually a sin, as it’s calling god a liar. Or something…

    See also: the Prosperity Gospel…

  • Neon Elf

    stoat100 hitthe point I was about to raise.
    The doctrine of salvation through faith is the thing I hate most about the sects that believe it.
    It’s an open invitation to be a complete dick, secure in the knowledge that you will still get to heaven because you accept Christ as your saviour.
    And it always seem to be coupled with a childish arrogance: “I’m saved and you’re going to hell neener neener neener!”.
    As alluded to above, it completely negates the ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ side of Christianity.
    I don’t know what annoys me more: that it is so obnoxious or just so damned lazy!

  • Jerry Priori

    I think Dr. Beck’s commentary is very obvious. I can’t imagine anyone offering much disagreement with it. Then I read the comments after his article. While some comments were full of thanks and agreement, many of them were very sad. Some seem incapable of being decent people without their “relationship with god,” while others are not interested in being “decent” because, they say, Jesus was not “decent.”

    Christianity may have many faces, but I find most of them very ugly.

  • muggle

    Well, I hate to concede this, but if you did believe in that rather angry, vengeful Christian God, you’d be trembling with fear and kissing his ass all the time too.

    Which makes me rather glad I don’t.

    Hmmm, heaven or hell for all eternity rides only on this one being’s judgment and people here on temporal earth can only make your mortal life (as opposed to your immortal one) more pleasant. Yep, kind of goes without saying who’s more important to to the believer. God’s more important than their own children.

    However, as others have said, the self-serving ones are overlooking one way in which to please him with kind actions.

    Frank, I used to feel that way (still kinda of do but tip generously anyway) then I knew people who had to rely on tips, etc. It sucks and it’s wrong but tip at least until the laws change and wait staff have to be paid at least minimum wage.

    Look at it this way, if they were paid to where they didn’t need the tips, the prices on the menu would be higher. So six of one, half dozen of the other…

  • Polly

    @keddaw

    1. Just because your tight-ass company/country doesn’t pay the staff a decent living wage why should the customer, who is already paying for the goods and service provided fork out more to pay for the staff? When you buy a car do you tip the dealer, the test driver, the assembler? No. It’s all included in the price. Tipping should be the exception for exceptional service and should never be expected.

    The way I think of it is like this: part of my salary is in the form of a bonus at the company’s discretion based on the company’s performance (last year we got no bonus). How much bonus (if any) any employee gets is allocated by the dept. manager who, since I don’t deal with the public, is my only “customer.”

    I look at waiting as a profession where one’s bonus is determined even more directly based on performance. It fosters direct feedback from the customer and probably does a good job of maintaining service levels relatively high. Actually, it’s too bad all jobs can’t be similarly tied to performance.

    The price you pay for the meal may cover the food, but not the service. The remainder still remains to be paid, but it just so happens that it’s at your discretion. Otherwise, you’d just see higher prices on the menu and the task of rating waite-persons would fall back on the shoulders of restaurant management.

    The chick tract tippers are not only dicks but THIEVES.

  • Polly

    I didn’t see muggle’s comment before typing that thing about menu prices, I swear. 🙂

    If it doesn’t bother waitstaff I have no problem with a tipping economy as long as the abuse is kept to a minimum. As a concept it just happens to fit this particular model of employment better than a factory worker.
    Hell, doctors should get part of their remuneration in tips. Then maybe we’d see some improved bedside manners! Bet you wouldn’t see people waiting in those paper robes for half-an-hour before anyone even comes by. 🙂

  • keddaw

    Mr. Pink: I don’t tip because society says I have to. All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.

    Seconded. That their job pays minimum, or below minimum, wage is not my fault and neither is it my responsibility.

    Mr. Pink: I’m very sorry the government taxes their tips, that’s f*cked up. That ain’t my fault. It would seem to me that waitresses are one of the many groups the government f*cks in the ass on a regular basis. Look, if you ask me to sign something that says the government shouldn’t do that, I’ll sign it, put it to a vote, I’ll vote for it, but what I won’t do is play ball. And as for this non-college bullshit I got two words for that: learn to f*ckin’ type, ’cause if you’re expecting me to help out with the rent you’re in for a big f*ckin’ surprise.

    Not everyone can type or get a job that allows them to work varied hours like waiting or bar work, but I agree with most of what Mr Pink is saying.

    In the great capitalist country the obvious problem is supply and demand, waiting staff are easy to find and replace and the skills required are common, but the number of jobs limited. This pushes the wages down, but surely the better thing to do is save the tips and give them to the poor people who didn’t get the waiting job – they’re much worse off.

  • Ed

    @ Keddaw

    “but surely the better thing to do is save the tips and give them to the poor people who didn’t get the waiting job – they’re much worse off.”

    I suppose so, but wouldn’t it make more sense to skip the restaurant altogether and eat at home instead? You would have a lot more cash to donate as a result and you would be avoiding a service and practice you find objectionable.

    Yes Mr Pink has a point, however, to properly protest this unfair system one ought not make use of the service in the first place. If you do eat out and fail to tip when it is expected, you are protesting nothing, just injuring the wait staff.

  • Ed

    @ Polly

    “I look at waiting as a profession where one’s bonus is determined even more directly based on performance. It fosters direct feedback from the customer and probably does a good job of maintaining service levels relatively high.”

    This is not borne out by experience however. Tipping has very little to do with the actual quality of service.

    Here is an overview
    http://www.icrsurvey.com/Study.aspx?f=AP_Tipping_0702.html

    and here is a link to Michael Lynn’s research. http://cupeople.sanmita.com/pages/wml3/working_papers.htm

    I know in my case I leave around 20% because the math is so easy.

  • Polly

    Ed,
    Thanks for the food for thought (heh heh).

    I tip 20%, too. I raised it from 15% for some unknown reason about 3 years ago.

    Interesting articles. I guess restaurant-goers aren’t any better at giving feedback. We only have ourselves to blame for that. I tend to be loathe to reduce a tip below 15% even for bad service.

    It does seem unfair that the same amount of work yields far less tip in a cheap restaurant compared to a posh place. But, then again, chances are the greasy local diner would have paid a lesser wage than Spago anyway. And small corporations and firms pay white-collar workers less than large firms.

    I don’t see why customers resent the tipping system. You’re going to pay for service one way or another, why complain that you get some discretion?

    I’m sure there are reasons to complain from the waiting side.

  • keddaw

    So we are discriminating against people who work for low price restaurants by giving them a percentage of the total bill, which is decided by the owner.

    Surely, as we are paying for service, we should have a flat fee for a tip regardless if the meal was $20 or $200?

    Am I the only one that sees the huge logical flaw in this automatic tipping?

  • Seedlet

    I didn’t see this mentioned, but you do know that in a lot of states, waitstaff are allowed to be paid below minimum wage due to tips? Therefore, when you don’t tip, you are depriving many of them of even making minimum wage. In other jobs, the cost of service IS included in the price, but not with waitstaff. I wish it wasn’t that way and that they would get their fair share automatically, but they don’t, so I always make sure to leave a nice tip. It’s not extra, it’s breaking even.

  • keddaw

    @Seedlet

    That their job pays minimum, or below minimum, wage is not my fault and neither is it my responsibility.

    I said it, albeit while arguing for the other side.

  • Flah

    @ Stoat100:

    Your mention of “rapture ready” intrigued me, so I checked their website. Harrowing experience? You’re too kind, I think.

  • Over here, service is included in the price. Much easier. Tipping is appreciated but not in any way expected or common.

    I used to work in a café, and one day we got a group of three American tourists. They had a few beers and whe it was time to pay, one of them asked me how much it was customary to tip in Iceland. I told him that we don’t really do that. They were surprised, and asked me how much minimum wage was, what the average prices were for groceries, rent, et.c. When they left, each tipped me around twenty bucks (20$ would buy two beers at the time, but beer is friggin expensive here). That was nice.
    I then made the mistake of telling my boss, who said I could keep it ‘this time’ and put up a tip jar on the counter. I never saw a dime out of that damn jar.

  • A Mile of Bad Road

    Like I said, selfishness.

    Where, exactly, do you spoiled brats think the money that pays the waitstaff’s wages comes from? You think it appears out of thin friggin’ air? No – it comes from customers. That means that, yes, you simpering child, you ARE responsible for their wages. Saying “well, it’s their fault for working in this job” doesn’t cut it – that’s a steaming load of elitist classist bull and you should be rightfully called out for saying it.

    You don’t like having to tip? GET THE LAWS CHANGED so they can’t be underpaid. Over tiome, nobody will expect it anymore.

    But until you get off your lasy, selfish ass and do so,

  • A Mile of Bad Road

    Like I said, selfishness.

    Where, exactly, do you spoiled brats think the money that pays the waitstaff’s wages comes from? You think it appears out of thin friggin’ air? No – it comes from customers. That means that, yes, you simpering child, you ARE responsible for their wages. Saying “well, it’s their fault for working in this job” doesn’t cut it – that’s a steaming load of elitist classist bull and you should be rightfully called out for saying it.

    You don’t like having to tip? GET THE LAWS CHANGED so they can’t be underpaid. Over tiome, nobody will expect it anymore.

    But until you get off your lasy, selfish ass and do so,

  • A Mile of Bad Road

    Lousy stupid form! I never said yes!

  • keddaw said…

    Am I the only one that sees the huge logical flaw in this automatic tipping?

    The flaw is in your reasoning.

    If you choose to patronize an establishment where you have a waiter, your minimum obligation is to inform the waiter that you will not be tipping and will not be using his services. Doing otherwise is to lie to him. He’s doing his job under the assumption that you will pay him.

    His assumption is reasonable because everyone knows waiters make their living through tips. That’s the nature of the job. Everyone, including you, knows that when you go to a restaurant that uses waiters, you are making the choice to use the waiter. That choice – on your part – obligates you to pay him.

    And you do seem to be the only one who doesn’t see that.

    The only reasonable option besides tipping is to tell the waiter ahead of time that you won’t be needing his services. That you will be placing the order yourself, getting the food yourself from the kitchen, and cleaning up after you are done.

    If you want the waiter to do it and you don’t pay him, you are stealing from him. And, again, you are the only one who doesn’t see that.