Thursday, October 4, 2007

radiohead and the church

Radiohead has a new "pay what you want" price for their soon to be released album, "in rainbows." The pricing policy is being hailed as revolutionary in the music industry. I suppose it is, for them, but in the church we've been conducting the offertory on the same policy for centuries. The annual pledge drive in our church is also a "pay what you want" policy. The amount of annual pledge or the money thrown into the collection plate is entirely up to a conversation between the church-goer and their own conscience.

I try to emphasize that the conversation my church members need to have with themselves is not about calculating "what is the church worth to me?" but rather, "how much do I want to be involved in my church?" I try to steer the conversation away from the premise that the church is a commodity that you buy (adding up the worth of the sermons and the RE and one share of the rent on the building) and ask people to consider instead the personal identity statement they are making with their donation: "I'm a generous person," or "I'm fully invested in this organization." Giving to organizations that embody our values is a reflection of our own spiritual selves. Generosity is important to spiritual health regardless of how much the recipient of our generosity gives back to us.

Radiohead is also for me an organization that embodies my values. I admire their politics, their spirituality (or rather their critique of the lack of spirituality in contemporary society) and perhaps most of all their impressive musicality. All of that is worth supporting. I could get their new album for free, but I'm not that kind of person. And when I receive the new album I want to listen to it knowing that I involved myself in the experience, not merely listening from a place off to one side.

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