Why fundraising and faith make me squemish

macro of us quarters“Remind me to talk to you about money, okay?” I blurt in the middle of our conversation. She had asked me about how things were going with the new book. I was learning about her summer trip to Africa. And I had been meaning to ask her for so long, meaning to say something before I ever wrote this post because I never want to write a post that blindsides someone: “How do you feel about fundraising and faith?”

I went to a Presbyterian college, except it didn’t feel like a Presbyterian college because I didn’t really know what Presbyterianism felt like. I was a Catholic. From the Midwest.

But this was North Carolina. And everyone in North Carolina had something to say about God and why they weren’t going to their grandma’s church anymore or why they were going to be a preacher just like their daddy. Even at a school where over 50% of the student body wasn’t from the South, many of us eased into an environment where devoting your life to Christ was something  you had to reckon with, just like bow ties and Bojangles.

When we graduated we went on to do all manner of altruistic things from teaching to pastoring to nursing to mothering to public interest law. Two of my good friends went on to work for mission-minded organizations.

As part of their job responsibilities, they raised support for things like a salary, living expenses, travel costs, etc. I loved these girls, and I wanted them to feel love – “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It didn’t matter if I knew what they were doing exactly or if I agreed with their theology exactly. I gave, sometimes regularly as a “ministry partner” and sometimes one-off gifts to let them know I was still here, still loving, still supporting hundreds of miles away. It wasn’t until our late twenties that I began to wonder, “Isn’t it time for your organization to pay your salary? To afford your benefits? To show you it can sustain your job and appreciate your value as a woman in the workplace?”

I tell my friend this over the phone. I tell her I have been skeptical. I tell her that the rest of us are doing good things with our lives, too, and so what was stopping us from raising our own support for things like having a baby or taking a pay cut or working as a part-time writer, ahem? I also tell her I can be a hypocrite.

Because here’s the thing. In the last two weeks, I have been asking my family and friends to support a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to help start a conversation around the globe sparked by Talking Taboo. What was stopping me from funding the whole thing myself with savings and Roth IRAs and money squirreled away in the change bowl? Then we could do all the things we hope to do with the money raised: set-up events and sponsor conferences and gather groups of women in churches, prisons, and community centers around the country to get frank about their faith and feel oh-so-less-alone.

But this would leave me oh-so-more-alone in the end, driven by my own ideas and efforts rather than the swell of people who might not agree with me but agree that we have a problem with closeted beliefs of all sorts in the church and that we’re all the worse for it if we don’t come up with a solution.

“How do you do it each time, ask for money? Aren’t you so nervous and nauseous?” I ask her.

She laughs. “I try not to take it personally. Whether people give or don’t, it’s not about me. It’s about the vision, a vision that’s so much bigger than I.”

She can’t see me but I’m nodding to myself. I take a deep breath and exhale anxiousness – that we won’t meet our goal, that I could be doing more, that the book will be a flop – and inhale gratitude, taking her advice to not let the petty “thought police” arrest my best efforts to follow a vision and a God who was and is and is to come.

After all, the world is only big enough for one savior complex.

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