Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Tip For You, Heathen

Here's part of a story from a blog called Prayer Pilgrimage:

My daughter, taking a break from her pursuit of a graduate degree, is a server at the Chili's a few miles down from our house. Like many others her age she is already pretty critical of the church and its obvious hypocrisies. Her cynicism, that to say, is neither atypcial nor incomprehensible. Nor does this kind of thing help--her or others.

A group of six church-goers came in last night after their evening services and sat down, not in her area but in another server's. When the girl came to greet them and take their drink order, one of them said, "We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because..."

Are you ready?

"...we do not believe in people working on Sunday."

The girl was taken full-aback, stammered out something that sounded like "I wouldn't have to work on Sunday if so many church people didn't come in," or some such. She was furious. So was the manager of the restaurant whom she summoned to deal with them. I think he should have tossed the people out on their...uh...Bibles. To his credit, and demonstrating something like agape all around, he did say to them, "Well, we don't believe in making our people work for nothing, so I will be serving you tonight." And he did. God bless him.


Before she was a nurse, Coffeewife's career was in foodservice, first as a server and eventually as a manager. I was amazed at some of the stories that she told when she came home. They were stories like this: people suffering from an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I can't recall many stories where the rude people in question self-identified as Christian; whether they used their faith as justification for rude behavior. I think she did share a story or two about people leaving one of those wonderful, worthless little tracts in lieu of a tip, and if it had been left with someone with already plenty to despise about religion in general and Christianity in particular she'd be privy to a rant in the kitchen after the fact.

As best as I can tell, Christians really have a horrible reputation among restaurant workers. I asked Coffeewife about this once and she confirmed it based on her own experiences. And as best as I can tell, they use their faith to justify it. Exhibit A: the explanation, contradictory as it is, given by the charming bunch above.

Which came first, the propensity for being a jerk, or the religion-based justification for it? There's no easy, clear-cut way to go about this. One could argue either way, I think. There are plenty who'd argue that religion causes or encourages idiocy, bigotry, and any number of other inhumane attitudes or behaviors. Others would argue that the people above were already jerks, and religion provided a convenient reason for it.

And a look at Jesus' teachings, for my own part, would stick these non-tippers in their place. See Jesus and his disciples picking grain on the sabbath in order to have their daily sustenance. This server most likely needed this daily wage in order to provide for herself. It's only the legalists who get upset at the disciples, the ones who follow the law so closely that they forego basic human need in favor of keeping rules and chastising others for not keeping them.

This is to say nothing of firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, sewage and power plant workers, and many other professions that can't afford to take a sabbath, at least not all at the same time. And why? Because plenty of people need them to work. Basic human need (something that Jesus cared a lot about) declares that they need to work.

I'd love for one of these non-tippers to approach someone in one of those professions and tell them that they shouldn't be working. I'd love to hear the response.