Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tazi's Corner #31 - Giving To God Does Not Excuse You From Tipping Others

Dear Readers: 

A few weeks ago, a Unitarian pastor named Alois Bell went to dinner at Applebee’s with some friends. Rather than leave a tip for the server, she left a note asking why she had to give 18% to the server (the automatically generated charge on parties larger than 8); she already gives 10% to God. I know about this – and you probably do, too – because the server decided to post a picture of the receipt (on which the note was written) to her social networking account. The picture went viral, and the pastor – now embarrassed by her behavior – complained to the restaurant manager. The waitress was summarily fired.

My question is this: why was the waitress fired? She was not fired for wrongly removing the receipt (or a facsimile of it) from the restaurant; she was fired for violating Bell's right to privacy; the waitress claims she was fired for embarrassing the customer. Yet, it was not the waitress who embarrassed the pastor; it was the pastor who not only embarrassed herself but threw off her cloak of privacy by self-identifying as a pastor.

Nothing like signing your title to offer some street cred

I am not buying the pastor’s comment that leaving the rude note was “a lapse in [her] character and judgment”, as reported on Yahoo! News. Such snark does not come naturally to most people; usually, it is the thing we wished we said/wrote after the fact. Something tells me that Alois Bell – Pastor Alois Bell – is not embarrassed at leaving the note, but rather is embarrassed at getting caught.

We live in a world where, thanks to the Internet, everyone can be famous for 15 minutes. Perhaps the opportunity for – or threat of – such should teach us to be more civil to our fellow man. The night of their dining experience, Pastor Bell and her party claimed no issue with the service received, yet chose to leave a rude note in return for pleasant service, rather than take up the issue of an automatic tip with the restaurant manager. Why was this so? Was it easier to act the part of the bully when she thought she would remain a nameless, faceless entity? The pastor’s congregation should not feel embarrassment over their pastor’s behavior; rather, they should feel anger that one so disrespectful to their fellow man is allowed to represent their ministry. It is the pastor who should be relieved of her duties, not the waitress; however, I doubt that is going to happen.

Right here, right now, I am calling for Pastor Bell to do the right thing and apologize to the waitress who lost her job after Pastor Bell complained of being offended. It is written in the Bible that Christ said, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). As a pastor, Alois Bell should not only know this sentiment, but work to live the sentiment as well. It was Pastor Bell who threw the first stone; it is she who must now prove that she is worthy of her ministry by extending the olive branch and not a limb from a burning bush.

I offer further criticism of Pastor Bell's cruel comments by examining her claim that she “gives 10% to God”. Unless Pastor Bell does not bother to keep receipts for her giving, she can deduct that 10% from her taxable income on her end-of-year tax return which means that, in the end, the government gives some of that 10% back because the pastor is not taxed on this income. PolitiFact might  rate this claim "mostly true", but the lack of humility surrounding it makes me question the piety behind the action. It is the meek and the humble who shall inherit the Earth, not the self-righteous, no matter how much they give.

Please, Pastor Bell, explain to me how your giving to the Lord's ministries makes it okay to bully a waitress and refuse her a tip? From where I sit, the math is a bit fuzzy. Did you know that the waitress you stiffed is taxed a set percentage on every dinner tab she serves – whether she receives a tip or not?  I am reminded of another passage from the Book of Matthew (19:24), “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Pastor Bell, unless you preach from a different Bible, you should be familiar with the parable from which this quote comes; I think it is time you start to practice what you preach.

Unlike leading a religious congregation, waitressing is not a job that yields a lot of respect. The religious faithful of the world tend to accord their leaders a great deal of respect and awe, often times putting these leaders upon a figurative pedestal and offering praise and gifts to these leaders as a way of showing their faithfulness to their Lord. Perhaps it is human nature to do this, to seek approval and favor from those we put in positions of power (how often do we kiss up to cops, doctors, and politicians?), but it is also human behavior to allow such preferential treatments to go to our head. If you tell a person they are stupid and ugly, enough times over the course of their life, they will believe it and feel themselves worthless in a society that values intelligence and beauty. The same can be said for telling someone that they are special and deserve to be revered. It sounds as though Pastor Bell has started to believe her figurative pedestal to be real, and she above the mere mortals that serve her. Jesus wept.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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