Wednesday, February 19, 2020
I don't consider myself a Christian, but I grew up going to church because my mom made me. Since I'm Korean-American, I mostly attended Korean churches during that time, and if there's one thing almost all Korean churches have in common, it's drama. Korean churches have been forking and splitting off from one another long before Bitcoin was ever invented, and just about every time, the root cause is related to money.
Recently I've been giving some thought to the many parallels between a church community and the Bitcoin Cash community. This analogy is far from perfect, but here's how I see it. The pastors of a church (most large churches have several pastors, including a head pastor) would be the protocol developers. The congregation constitutes the users or hodlers of BCH, as well as entrepreneurs and application developers who choose to build on top of BCH. Finally, we have the elders who are kind of like the board members of a church that guide its future. We'll think of the elders as the miners or mining pool operators in this scenario.
Any church that wants to grow requires a certain amount of infrastructure in order to succeed. Mostly this means the facilities where people can gather to worship, where kids can attend bible study classes, where the praise team can meet during the week to practice. As the church grows, their facilities will need to grow, as will the cost of maintenance. In addition to this, there is the cost of the pastors' salaries, supplies, the cost of sending people on missions trips, and any other activities they do to evangelize and bring in new members.
So how does all this get paid for? With donations of course.
In addition to an offering basket that gets passed around each Sunday, many members of the congregation donate 10% of their income to the church. This is what's known as tithing. They do this because God tells them to in the Bible. They believe that if they tithe, God will bestow blessings upon them both on earth and in heaven.
The foundations of Bitcoin are quite different obviously. We don't believe in some omnipotent being that created life. We don't invest our time, energy, and talent into Bitcoin Cash because we think that such behavior will lead to a more comfortable afterlife. We do these things because we want a better life here on earth.
Up until now, my understanding is that BCH infrastructure has been mostly paid for by a small number of miners. These miners have now grown tired of paying Bitcoin ABC themselves, and have proposed a plan that would force all miners to pay. If a miner doesn't want to abide by these new rules, their only option is to mine another chain, or stop mining altogether.
If we apply this to our church analogy, this would be like a handful of elders telling the rest of the elders that the congregation's donations haven't met the needs of the church, so it's up to us, the elders, to pay for this by forcing all elders to tithe for a period of six months to start, at the end of which the plan will be reconsidered.
I know the analogy is imperfect, but I thought thinking of the IFP in this way might help me see the situation from a different perspective. This is what I've come up with.
Once upon a time, there was a church. This church was an offshoot of a much larger church, and was formed by a small group of individuals who thought the big church had lost its way.
The individuals that started this church were made up of a head pastor, some assistant pastors, along with a handful of prominent elders that were willing to put up the money to build a new chapel where people could gather and worship.
Little by little, the church began to grow as more and more people came to believe in its mission. The pastors were innovative, and reliable, and the elders supported them by providing the necessary resources to make sure the church could survive.
But the fact was the church wasn't growing as fast as it needed to. Time was of the essence as the elders only had a finite amount of resources, and eventually, they would no longer be able to subsidize the church.
"We need more money," the pastor announced one Sunday. "We're not growing fast enough, and if we're going to become self-sufficient, we need the infrastructure in place to bring in more people. Like a new youth pastor, and an outreach pastor, as well as someone to handle the administrative work, another to handle the maintenance work, and so on. If we don't get this money, the future of our church is at risk."
Though the congregation agreed with the pastor's message, nothing really changed. A fundraiser was held but the amount of money that was raised was barely enough to cover the cost of hiring one more assistant pastor for six months.
Despite this, the church marched forward. With the help of volunteers and passionate members of the congregation, they built a new annex to the main chapel where children could have Bible study on Sundays, and a fellowship hall where members could eat and chat after service each week.
But the head pastor said this wasn't enough.
"We still need more money," he announced again. "Our church is progressing, our community is becoming smarter and more resilient, but we still have a funding problem."
Some people wondered why the head pastor complained so much. Some asked the pastors for a budget laying out exactly how much was needed and for what purpose. The vast majority of the congregation agreed that some funding was required. They understood that the pastors shouldn't work for free, that they needed to make money to survive. But at the same time, the churchgoers didn't feel comfortable handing over their hard earned money just because it was being asked of them.
So the elders that helped start the church got together and came up with a plan. They understood the situation and realized something had to be done. They were also tired of certain elders coming around only every so often to eat up all the food after worship and disappear when there wasn't enough food to go around.
"We need to stop the freeriders," one elder said. "So what we're going to do is force all the elders to pay 12.5% tithe over the next six months if they're going to come and eat our food. If they don't agree, they will no longer be allowed to attend our church. After six months, we'll reassess the situation."
When this elder announced this new plan to the congregation one Sunday, there was quite a strong reaction from many of the churchgoers. You can't do this, they said. Some called the plan unholy, an abomination even. Meanwhile, there were those who thought it was a reasonable plan to help the church grow until such plans were no longer necessary. The community was clearly divided.
Seeing this, the elder went back and came back with a modified plan, one that only required elders to pay 5% of their income for six months, and also gave the elders the option to select from a handful of pastors they wished their donations to go to. He also said he does not want to see the church undergo yet another split, so perhaps we'll take some additional time to consider all options.
The congregation was more accepting of this plan, but for some members, it was still unacceptable and a group was formed to come up with an alternative funding mechanism. On the surface it appeared as if everything was fine again. Everyone waited to see how the alternative funding plan would work. But then suddenly the head pastor announced that the bylaws of the church were being changed so that in three months time, the elders would have the option to move forward with the new 5% funding plan.
Chaos ensued. The group who had been working on an alternative felt this was a slap in the face. They saw the head pastor as someone who couldn't be trusted to lead the church. Many who had previously been in support of the plan also saw this as a problem. The last thing they wanted was to see the community split yet again. But there remained a handful of people who were still loyal to the head pastor and the elders that had come up with the plan.
"These were the people who got us this far. We need to trust them. We need money to expand, or the church is going to die, and this is the only way possible. We tried fundraising and look how little that got us. Besides, this will mostly be paid for by elders who aren't really part of our community and have been taking advantage of our situation," they argued.
"If we implement forced tithing, our church will have no foundation to stand on. What if next time it's something else? What if instead of forced tithing, we tell people go ahead and sin as much as you want because no one cares?"
People were angry. Friendships were tested or cast aside. Many were afraid of what the future would hold, and some decided they didn’t want to stick around to find out. So what happened next? Your guess is as good as mine, but here are a handful I tapped out for entertainment purposes only:
The anti-tithers were done with the head pastor. His changing the bylaws of the church was the final straw. No matter what happened, they were determined to move on without him. They talked to all the elders and found those who were sympathetic to their cause and decided to split off to a new church of their own.
“But who will be our new head pastor?” someone asked.
“Well, we don’t need one. We’ll just watch videos of the previous week’s sermon at the pro-tithers church given by our old head pastor.”
“But isn’t that lame?”
“Yeah, but at least we won’t be forced to tithe.”
“I guess, but it makes our church look like a joke.”
The anti-tithers were done with the head pastor. His changing the bylaws of the church was the final straw. They no longer wanted him as their leader, but they also didn’t want to give up the church that they helped build.
“We’re going to war,” one of the anti-tither elders said, and each week, the pro-tithers and anti-tithers come to church on Sunday and fought for the right to inhabit the church. Both sides spent enormous amounts of money waging this war, money that could have been spent on voluntarily funding the church to begin with. Nothing was being built because everyone was too busy fighting. In the end, the group that won was left with a church in shambles. The congregation had shrunk to almost nothing, and the building was destroyed to rubble.
The anti-tithers were done with the head pastor. They were determined to go to war if necessary, or split off and form a new church as a last resort. Seeing this, the elders decided not to go forward with the forced tithing plan and called the whole thing off. But that meant the funding problem remained. The head pastor resigned as he had no choice but to find another job in order to feed his family. One of the assistant pastors was promoted to replace him, and a new fundraiser was held. But the elders who had been supporting the church from the start were no longer interested in funding the church going forward and not nearly enough money was raised. This pastor also had to go find other work. The church moved on but with only a few part time pastors, the congregation started to dwindle.
The head pastor sees the situation as dire and gives a sermon on forgiveness. He admits he made a mistake in changing the bylaws and asks that the congregation give him one last chance. The people forgive. A fundraiser is held and enough money is raised to grow the church the way the head pastor has always wanted. The church grows and grows and saves humanity.
The funding plan is killed, the head pastor resigns, a new pastor takes his place, a fundraiser is held and raises sufficient money. But the new pastor doesn’t know what he’s doing and drives the church into the ground.
The funding plan is killed, the head pastor resigns, a new pastor takes his place, a fundraiser is held and raises enough money, and the new pastor thrives and the church grows and grows and saves humanity.
The funding plan goes through, the head pastor stays on, half the congregation leaves for a new church with a new pastor and their own set of elders. The new church doesn’t have the forced tithing so elders drop in to get the free food on Sundays and the freeriding problem continues to haunt them. They consider changing the Sunday lunch schedule to see if that might help. Meanwhile, the church with the forced tithing continues to follow the head pastor’s roadmap. The church grows and grows and saves humanity.
The funding plan goes through, the head pastor stays on, half the congregation leaves and become atheists. Now with plenty of money, the head pastor and his friends don't feel motivated to do any work. They go on lavish vacations and buy lambos. The churchgoers feel duped and the church dies.
I don't know what the point of this was, but I hope you enjoyed reading. Comment below with which of the scenarios above you think is most likely, or describe a new scenario that isn't listed.
As usual, thanks for reading.