“So, this weird thing happened,” says my friend Charlotte, who has literally been living in Germany since, I dunno, sharks evolved.
“What?” I say.
“I was looking at my pay slip and I noticed all this money was gone. It was just being like, taken off of me. I phoned up my tax guy. It was church tax!” She wails desperately and I collapse into hysterical laughter. I try to stop laughing as tears of pure schadenfreude literally cascade down my face and then I whisper.
“Charlotte, why the fuck did you tell the Finanzamt you were Christian, you fucking idiot? You didn’t even know what Ascension Day was until I told you.”
“I didn’t, they just decided I was for some reason.”
“How much money was it?” I whisper.
“Like over the years? Thousands.”
“What is it? Nine percent or something?”
“What are they spending all their fucking church tax on anyway,” she says crossly. “Every time I’m on holiday and I go in a fucking cathedral it’s costing me a euro to light a fucking candle?”
I stop laughing long enough to feel guilty for having laughed at my friend’s situation so badly. She is right, this is why people hate me so much. I breathe in empathy and kindness and stuff like that. “I think, to be fair, the money does go to good causes,” I say, seriously. “I know loads of white Germans who don’t leave the church because they think they owe all the good causes that money?”
“You know who I think grassed me up?” Charlotte says. “When I first arrived here and got angemeldet, the lady in the Meldeamt asked if I was Christian. I thought she was making smalltalk. I told her I wasn’t christened but I went to a Catholic high school. I thought she was making conversation.”
My personal opinion is that church tax, or Kirchensteuer, is a fucking travesty, and if you’re going to do it, at least be upfront about it.
As you guys know, I am a SJW extraordinaire and as such I’m fully signed up to the belief that you can’t be racist towards white people (I do try my hardest, though). But I gotta say: church tax is one example of non-white privilege. Apparently there are non-Christian communities/parishes in Germany that can claim church tax, but it seems to me like it is mainly a Christian thing, and it seems to me like it’s very, very unusual for a PoC-expat (seems like an oxymoron, lol) to get sneakily hit with the dreaded church tax, just because they went to Brownies for three years in the 1980s. But I have loads of white friends who have suffered in this way, and once I stop laughing at them, I think it’s terrible.
My personal opinion is that church tax, or Kirchensteuer, is a fucking travesty, and if you’re going to do it, at least be upfront about it – and believe people when they say they aren’t officially Christian. And, whilst it is nice that Christians seem to have accepted that nobody believes in God anymore and have decided to spend their time doing nice Christian deeds involving soup kitchens, it’s a bit weird that Germans are so judgy about Muslim countries when Christian churches are so involved in daily German life.
Whatever you do, don’t make smalltalk with the Meldamnt lady when you arrive in Germany.
And I also find it super-weird that Germans spend so much time of every day wittering on about what a Sozialparadies Germany is, when basically if every single Christian in the country woke up and admitted to themselves that God probably doesn’t exist, this country would be totally fucked? I think there should be state-run, atheist women’s refuges, homeless shelters and soup kitchens – maybe a few Christian and Muslim ones as decoration – but the basic infrastructure should be provided by the state and atheist AF. Also I’d ban religious schools and make Religionsunterricht neutral. But this is all just my personal opinion, and to be honest, I don’t really care that much.
However, whatever you do, don’t make smalltalk with the Meldamnt lady when you arrive in Germany. Do not tell her about singing Sing Hosanna in assembly or the time you had hallucinatory sex with Jesus on magic mushrooms. Tell her your high school was basically North Korea mixed with Sweden, tell her every wedding you’ve ever been to took place in a school cafeteria/gym, tell her you’re a pagan, tell her nothing. You think she is a sweet German Beamte trying to make smalltalk, but actually she wants to rob you blind.