Take up thy smartphone and tweet (Photo: Catholic News Service).

Preachers of many faiths wonder if anyone in their congregations ever pays attention to what they have to say. That complaint was common in clerical circles long before everybody had a direct line to the Internet, instead of God, right in their pocket or purse.

Could social media be about to force churchgoers to start paying attention to sermons?

UCP Candidate Michaela Glasgo (Photo: Twitter – where else?).

Highly unlikely. Some things really are eternal. Just the same, Michaela Glasgo certainly learned a lesson of Biblical proportions this week: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, pay attention to what your preacher is saying – at least if you’re going to snatch up thy smartphone and Tweet!

Ms. Glasgo is the United Conservative Party candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat. On Sunday, presumably while sitting in the pews at the Hillcrest Evangelical Missionary Church, she thought she heard her pastor say Alberta’s carbon tax was going to cost their church $50,000 this year.

I’m reasonably confident Ms. Glasgo Tweeted this not-so-good news immediately, without pausing for reflection or prayer, because the time stamp on her now infamous comment is 11:26 a.m. As any churchgoer knows, that’s just about the moment the preacher is getting up a head of steam for a sermon that could take God only knows how long.

“Unbelievable,” she tweeted, clearly outraged. “Today at church we learned that the Carbon Tax is going to cost our church $50 000 this year ALONE. …”

At least Jason Kenney had the excuse he wasn’t ignoring the same homily when the publicly pious UCP leader took up the cry at 11:31 a.m., presumably tweeting from his pew, given the hour. “We hear stories like this all the time, sadly,” he lamented.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney, looking particularly pious (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Holy smoke! This set off a storm of sarcastic protest from social media users, many of whom presumably were not in church at that hour. The first one in asked, “Do you worship in a coal plant?” Folks with sharp pencils – or perhaps calculators as well as Twitter apps on their smartphones – were soon reporting that something must be seriously wrong with the church’s furnace.

Caught out on the fact the carbon tax couldn’t possibly have been that high, Ms. Glasgo doubled down, insisting the $50,000 figure was true because her pastor’s church has many rooms.

Things kept up in this vein for hours until at some point on Monday the preacher himself weighed in: “In our service yesterday we spoke to our congregation about our overall church operating costs,” said Rev. Steve Pahl. “We stated that in recent years there has been an increase to our overall operating costs of about $50,000 per year. The carbon tax was used as one example of the kind of increases we have incurred.”

“Someone misunderstood that to mean the carbon tax was responsible for the entire $50,000 increase and tweeted about it,” he said. “The carbon tax portion of these increased costs is $5,443.00, which is about 10% of the overall increase.” (Emphasis added. As an aside, I must say I personally felt vindicated by this outcome.)

Rev. Steve Pahl (Photo: Hillcrest Evangelical Missionary Church).

“For us the carbon tax is not a political issue,” Rev. Pahl continued. “We are more than happy to pay our bills, whatever they are and need to be. Many people in our congregation are concerned about environmental issues.” (Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, in other words, which is a principle too seldom discussed in North American evangelical churches nowadays.)

“I sure would have loved to have her ask me some of these questions – ‘Did I hear you right?’ – and I would have discouraged her from sending that out,” the pastor rather plaintively told the Medicine Hat News.

If Rev. Pahl was unhappy that some of the 1,000-plus Tweeters were calling for an audit of his church’s books – on the obviously incorrect grounds he endorses Ms. Glasgo’s views – he can take comfort in the knowledge that he’s probably never had more people paying close attention to his sermon on a Sunday morning.

Having heard from her pastor, I guess, Ms. Glasgo yesterday published a grudging admission she got the numbers wrong, but she didn’t seem to feel the need to seek absolution.

As for Mr. Kenney, he never explained who else he’d heard this story from, and went merrily along with no acknowledgement he’d retweeted false information beyond a bland link to Ms. Glasgo’s non-apology. His spokespersons insisted he had nothing to apologize for. (“Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.”)

Late yesterday, former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk weighed in with some advice for Mr. Kenney: “I have it on good authority that if you pray to St. Rachel, parish Carbon Tax will go down to 1/50 of what you claim.”

My conclusions: Thou shalt do no tweeting from thy pew. And don’t believe everything you hear in church.

Here endeth the lesson.

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  1. What is so astounding about this is although the candidate is against the carbon tax she clearly does nor really understand what it and how it will impact Alberta’s

    The notion that the church would have their expenses increase by $50,000 is beyond the pale. As is Jason Kenney’s tweet about the situation.

    The sad part is that some people will only remember that ridiculous $50,000 number, not the revised number.

    Is this really the careless candidate that the voters in Brooks will elect? Scared.

  2. Superb writing.

    One more indication that the right wing has zero grasp on reality, not even capable of a quick back of the envelope check. Dumb as two boards and proud of it. No wonder they want charter schools, like that one advertising above Gate 10 departure at Calgary Int’l. Give your child an Independant (sic) education. Right on, with quality like that Alberta will lead the world in the production of child prodigies.

  3. So I curious David, is a $5400 dollar increase in operating costs for this church just for the carbon tax not significant? Government’s in general constantly add incremental costs thinking that each one is insignificant but when added together they are. I was quite surprised the other night when I went to my local Boston Pizza to celebrate a relatives birthday. I ordered an 8 inch individual pizza, it was $13. 2-3 years ago this same pizza in the same Boston Pizza was less than $10. Why would the price of a pizza have gone up over 30% in the last 3 years? This lead to a discussion between my wife and I and how much more expensive raising kids now was compared to when we did it in the early 90’s. Sorry a bit off topic. Anyway Ms. Glasgo certainly was guilty of taking what the Pastor said literally without doing a fact check and putting it on Twitter, something many are guilty of but I am right there with my dislike of the carbon tax. Let’s be honest, has the carbon lowered emissions in the last 3 years? I doubt it. Has it changed the minds of the many Indigenous groups on the west coast that are against pipeline construction? Does Tzeporah Berman now back pipeline construction? Of course not. The carbon tax is nothing but a tax increase that won’t change behavior, won’t buy social licence and will increase my cost of living! Enjoy your day.

    1. Taxes are significant because the public weal is significant. What else would they be?
      Don’t you suppose the increase in the price of pizza has a number of components, probably the least of them being tax?
      “This lead [sic] to a discussion between my wife and I [sic]…” that also got a bit off topic when somehow conflating West Coast Aboriginal nations and Tzeporah Berman. (Let’s be honest: you’re not quite clear about what West Coast Aboriginal nations are complaining about, are you! Of course not.)
      Maybe the carbon tax won’t change your behaviour (although if you go broke because of it I’ll wager you put less CO2 into the atmosphere) but it is, I agree “nothing but a tax”—did anyone say it was anything other? Yes it will help pay for the cost of supplying you and your compatriots with a decent, livable society.

    2. If the church won’t change their behavior to reduce an admittedly high carbon bill (energy efficient furnace, better insulation) then isn’t it on them? Indeed, the pastor himself said they don’t mind paying their taxes and that many parishioners were concerned about the environment. Anyway, you can buy steak everyday for lunch or save money by bringing a sandwich from home…your choice. Just don’t complain if the steak drains the old bank account.

    3. Hello Farmer Brian…I am from BC and our carbon tax was promoted as the market solution to the climate change problem back in 2008. Your comments regarding Indigenous people, Ms Berman and social licence reflect the nonsense from our politicians attempting to rationalize the ridiculous. Pricing carbon is a market based solution advanced by free market theorists.

      I personally favoured a rationing system similar to that employed during the world wars as being a more fair and equitable approach but that view never gained traction. I think your query “has the carbon (tax) lowered emissions in the last 3 years?” can best be answered by looking at the latest data from the Mauna Loa Observation Facility…it is clear that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is going higher in bigger increments….but very few jurisdictions have actually implemented a carbon tax. Locally, there is evidence that it is having the desired affect but I am skeptical. I personally think the carbon tax/trading systems etc are one very small part of what will have to be done to address this problem. And more to the point, we do not have time too dick around any longer so I have accepted it.

      I am the exception to your view that the carbon tax “is nothing but a tax increase that won’t change behaviour” and I think there are others who share my views. My wife and I have changed our behaviours. Our household emissions were 5.7 tonnes CO2 in 2018; disappointing as we have flatlined after we picked the low hanging fruit so to speak but I am going to try to bring my transportation (3.5 t) down in 2019 with an “electron” drive vehicle….and then I will not have to pay the carbon tax. Have a good evening.

    4. “So I (sic) curious David, is a $5400 dollar increase in operating costs for this church just for the carbon tax not significant?”

      Farmer Brian, you’re looking at this the wrong way. The church is a country club for members who get charitable status for their donations so they can tell each other interesting stories that have no basis in reality, put on fun events for each other, and hold mission trips to tropical countries etc. Their charitable status confers on them an obligation to scrupulously obey the remainder of the laws and taxes they are beholden to. The missing point of both your reply and the complainant’s Tweet was that Alberta families of four who earn less than $95,000 a year will receive $540 in credits to offset those rates – which should also be tithed if these atteners act the way most churches seem to want them to. A hundred families tithing their carbon credits equals….. $5400!

      I see no change in operating costs for this church. I see only a benefit to society, as finally carbon-consuming corporations are having to pay something approaching the true cost of their fuel use. Consumers, of course, are getting a freebie. I mean, can you seriously imagine using up $540 in carbon taxes on gas for your vehicles and home heating in a year? You’d have to spend $18,000 a year to do that! I mean, I bet even Murray Edwards doesn’t spend $18,000 on heating all his homes plus driving all his cars and perhaps not even running his corporate jet (the times when he’s actually in it, and not lending it to someone else for “business purposes”).

  4. The previous two commenters make good points. The important things to remember are these: First, that Glasgo’s fairy tale has the quality of truthiness – that is, if you’re really not paying attention, it could be true. Therefore, in the minds of UCP supporters, it was, is now, and ever shall be. Second, that Mr. Kenney, who is a practiced deceiver, compounded the deceit with his uninformative and mealy mouthed acknowledgement that his candidate had issued a revised statement, without saying what the revision consisted of. Note that Glasgo’s original $50,000 misinformation – which Mr. Kenney must have known was false when he retweeted it – was retweeted 575 times. Her tweet linking to her clarification (which didn’t say what the clarification was) was retweeted only 45 times. As intended, I suspect.

  5. In a Calgary Herald article, it is noted that this church includes a number of facilities along with the “main chamber”. So before accepting even the $5400 number maybe a listing of all the facilities included would be in order?

    1. The chamber? I saw that and wondered, whatever did they have in mind? The sanctuary? The nave? The presbytery? Some combination thereof, less the gym, the narthex, the kitchen, the reception hall and the bathrooms? “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.” DJC

  6. If parishioners are concerned about paying their share of carbon levy, they should just close the church. It’s not like it’s essential. From a purely environmental perspective heating a big space that serves no purpose is a waste fossil fuel.

    What would Jesus do to save his big beautiful blue planet?

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong but, to my understanding, these weren’t “moneylenders” but, rather, money-changers, that is, they changed money into ritually clean sacrificial animals the petitioner did not find convenient to pilgrimage all the way to Jerusalem with, or to handle foreign currency and votive exchange.
        Jesus was all about rendering unto Caesar, and a faithful Jew, thus much less declined to rendering unto YHWH. That attention-getting upset at the temple plaza was probably a well-planned provocation of the Sadducee establishment and, as we know, he was a ham his entire life and, I dare say, moreso in eternity.

        1. No, no, you are right, Scotty, and you have rightly corrected me. It must be the era we live in, but whenever I write off the cuff on this topic, which seems to be frequently, “moneylenders” is the word that always pops from my mind to the page. I’m sure if the money changers came back, they’d let us use our Visa cards, though, and we would have the perfect melding of two imperial eras. I agree with you, too, that the protest in the plaza was probably planned. Nor do I disagree with your characterization of You Know Who in life and afterlife. If I had any quibble with this comment it would only be that, perhaps, “ham” is not the politically correct way to express this thought. DJC

          1. Forgive me, but my tiny quantum of Desert People blood cannot resist an opportunity to practice pilpul, the analytical technique colloquially known as ‘hair-splitting,’ my credentials partly inherited from my great grandmother Rebecca who emigrated from Liechester to Lethbridge a few years before Alberta’s confederation (Halachic riddle: her son, my grandfather was Jewish—although he mightn’t have known it— his daughter, my mother, is not and she knows it), and partly homiletic through personal experience.

            The story is: thirty years ago when my then-new squeeze and I had gotten to know each other enough to cook breakfast together, I asked her over bacon and eggs what her family’s policy was about eating pork since it looked imminent I’d be meeting them soon. She explained that they observed the traditional pork prohibition culturally or ethnically, not religiously, and only for high-holiday dinners, and had otherwise been expressly secular, sometimes-Communist, Prairie Jews longer than she could remember, she representing the third generation (there are five, now).

            So the bacon was okay and we’ve since relished the delicious hams and pork roasts my sweetie cooks for Christian occasions celebrated culturally in our mixed, wholly secular family. But, she reminded, back when our love was new, that by the uncanny powers of rabbinical logic a loophole had been found by which pork could be sanctified as kosher. I guess she was covering all the bases.

            Recall the collapse of the Soviet Union which was happening when she and I first met: a wave of Soviet Jews quickly took the opportunity emigrate to Israel under the rule of aliyah, a fundamental Israeli right available to any Jew, anywhere in the world. But this “Right of Return” came with problems: racist discrimination against Falashas—Ethiopian Jews immigranted to the Promised Land—because of their black skin and African customs, and concerted opposition to extending aliyah to Kai Feng applicants—Chinese and Burmese Jews seeking refuge from persecution —on the lame ground their rites had become too contaminated in the seven centuries of separation since Jewish proselytizers accompanied Marco Polo to the Empire of the Great Kublai Khan. Particularly conspicuous, though, was the contrasting accommodation of Jewish immigrants who, under seventy years of enforced Soviet state atheism, had taken to eating pork and expected to retain the custom and the right to butcher and sell it in the ethnic food sections of local bazaars in their new, Israeli home (remember most Arab Israelis—‘Palestinians’—are also prohibited from eating pork under Islamic Law).

            Specifically, the rabbis had worked very hard on Soviet immigrants’ behalf —like they wouldn’t for non-white applicants—to find a Halachic way to skirt the prohibition against eating pork; and they had, my dove assured me, by way of placing little paper booties on the little feet of newborn piglets so their tiny, cloven hoofs never touched the ground, the critical element of this loophole; as I recall, there were other Kosher means for doing this, too, including suspending the pig in a sling during its entire fattening so its feet never touched the ground. Any cursory perusal of the Talmud quickly reveals the exceedingly complex nature of pilpul and Halachic argument; I’m afraid I can’t cite the relevant sections of Torah.

            Episodes in the New Testamant characterize Jesus as well-versed in Halachic law—in fact calling him a rabbi, which certainly qualified him to find loopholes in the Law—maybe even by pilpul debate with rabbinical colleagues. That might explain how, during the Jewish Seder known famously as the Last Supper, he could have proposed a toast over the traditional meal of wine and bread wherein the wine ritually symbolized blood to wash down the bread which ritually symbolized flesh, when consuming any blood or any flesh from which the blood has not been completely drained is expressly condemned and forbidden in Jewish Law.

            Forgive me this. I’ll get my feet back on the ground now because, as Zeno noted, if one hair-split kept deserving another there’d be no end of it. Kinda like that old V-0-5 hair-conditioner TV commercial: “And she told two friends, and they told two more, and so on, and so on, and so on…” et cetera.

            I just couldn’t resist—Jeez! What a ham!

  7. Left out of this calculation is the amount of carbon used for each soul in this congregation dispatched to eternal damnation. Stoking the flames of hell like this will eat up $50,000 in carbon tax in no time.

    1. Sorry, Ronmac, no eternal damnation for the evangelicals. The non believers, lost souls, will suffer hell’s fiery torment. With the world’s population exploding so fast, the future size of the carbon footprint cannot be measured.

  8. This “misunderstanding” does not reflect well either on the candidate or UCP leader Kenney who seemed eager to spread this misinformation.

    While churches do not have to pay income taxes, they are subject to other taxes such as GST, although as a charity they get a partial rebate, payroll taxes, if they have employees (many do) and of course sales taxes in jurisdictions that have them, so this is not so new or unusual. All of these taxes provide social benefits and in the case of Alberta’s carbon tax some of the benefits include: rebates for lower income people, programs for energy efficiency, transit funding for Calgary, Edmonton and elsewhere in Alberta and grants/incentives for green energy projects.

    I get the sense from other comments that Kenney prefers the Federal version of the carbon tax, where almost all the money raised is just rebated back to individuals. However, I think Alberta actually already has a more effective plan because of the various incentives and funding for energy conservation and green energy projects will allow us to reduce carbon consumption more for the same amount of tax.

    In any event as noted, it seems many in that church and others already do understand the rationale for a carbon tax and are wiling to do their part to make our province more environmentally sustainable.

  9. It occurs to me that perhaps the church attenders at Hillcrest need a lesson on tithing.

    Alberta families (let’s take the mythical family of 4 as an example) making less than $95,000 a year receive carbon tax rebates of $540 a year. Alberta families making more receive proportionally less until it’s phased out somewhere around $108,000. As that rebate is “unearned”, it’s considered a gift of God and normally subject to the guidelines on tithing** most churches seem to subscribe to. Were that mythical family to tithe their rebate, the church would receive $54 to help pay its carbon taxes. A hundred such families …. pays for its total carbon tax bill of $5400. One wonders if Pastor Pahl even knows this himself?

    I had a look on Google Maps at the church – about 75,000 square feet of building with 3 acres of parking encouraging people to drive from a long way away to attend their country-club events. I think it’s only responsible of Christians who care for the creator God’s creation to pay their fair share of the spoilage their facility’s use causes that creation as defined by the carbon tax.

    (**Now to be perfectly accurate, tithing is not actually a church or religious requirement – it’s a holdover from old Jewish days and was only for farmers to supporting the priesthood in certain circumstances – businessmen would naturally be exempted, as would nearly everyone else. But as Christianity seems to have adopted it as part of its financial gospel…..)

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