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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sweet Land of Generosity

Americans are the most generous people on the earth. WORLD Magazine recently reported that, “A new study by the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Prosperity says that Americans account for 45 percent of all philanthropic giving worldwide. Not only is that significantly more than any other nation on earth, it's also dramatically more on a per capita basis. One example: The average American gives 14 times more to charity than the average Italian.”

The Hudson Institute also revealed that the U.S. government gives more than any other nation on earth. According to their study, in 2006 the United States gave out $23.53 billion in aid, almost twice as much as No. 2 Great Britain ($12.46 billion). However, when private giving is included in the numbers, the U.S. total rises to $192 billion.

These numbers should not be surprising. Along with being the world’s lone military superpower and lone food superpower, the United States is the world’s lone economic superpower as well. Although we account for only about 4.5% of the world’s population, we account for more than 25% of worldwide economic activity.

WORLD Magazine also reported that the results of the Hudson Institute study came as no surprise to Arthur C. Brooks, a fellow at the Hudson Institute. “Americans give at least twice as much as anyone else,” Brooks said. “And we're giving now more than ever before.” WORLD adds that, “Brooks said the myth of the ‘ugly American’ has persisted in part because ‘it’s in the interest of a lot of people’—those who want to see the size and role of government enlarge, for example—‘to portray Americans as callous and uncaring.’”

“Callous” and “uncaring,” along with “hypocrite,” are favorite labels that many “big government” liberals try to attach to conservatives—especially Christian conservatives. Too often, they claim, Christians are driven politically by the issues of abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring the plight of the poor, the sick, those suffering from racism, etc. I submit that it is the Christians who are most concerned with the suffering of others, and part of the evidence is in their “social activism.”

When it comes to social involvement, recent George Barna research (www.barna.org) showed a significant difference between what he describes as “active-faith” Americans, [the vast majority of whom are Christians] who tend to be more conservative in their politics, and “no-faith” Americans, who tend to be more liberal. Barna reports that, “One of the most significant differences between active-faith and no-faith Americans is the cultural disengagement and sense of independence exhibited by [no-faith Americans] in many areas of life. They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as ‘active in the community’ (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%).”

There is also a significant difference between active-faith Americans and no-faith Americans when it comes to the amount of money donated to charitable causes. On this, Barna notes that, “The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is over seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500).” Furthermore, as of 2005, according to the Christian Science Monitor, of the top 10 U.S. charities that are categorized as social services or relief/development, nine are Christian charities.

When it comes to domestic charity, total U.S. giving in 2006 was just over $295 billion according to The Giving USA Foundation. Of this amount, 83.4% was given by individuals, which far outpaces the giving by U.S. corporations, whose total giving came in at 4.3%. [Giving by foundations made up the other 12.3%.] According to Generous Giving Inc., “religious observers, which are those who attend weekly services [again, the vast majority are Christian], while only about 38% of all Americans, donate two-thirds of all charitable dollars in the United States.”

Now, I am not saying that all Christians are conservative in their politics, and neither am I implying that all Christians are generous while all non-Christians are not. In fact, I would suggest that while Christians do most of the charitable giving (as they should) in the U.S., they could (and should) be doing quite a bit more. For example, Generous Giving also reported that, while religious observers give significantly more than the non-religious, their giving still only amounts to 3.4% of their annual income.

If Christians want to give less of their money to government, while at the same time having more control over how what they give is spent, I suggest that they give more to the churches and the charities that are “loving their neighbors as themselves.” Also, Christians should invest not only their money, but also their time in caring for those in need. In this way we can show our fellow Americans what should have been clear all along: the Church is better at charity than the government is.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Sweet Land of Generosity

Americans are the most generous people on the earth. WORLD Magazine recently reported that, “A new study by the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Prosperity says that Americans account for 45 percent of all philanthropic giving worldwide. Not only is that significantly more than any other nation on earth, it's also dramatically more on a per capita basis. One example: The average American gives 14 times more to charity than the average Italian.”

The Hudson Institute also revealed that the U.S. government gives more than any other nation on earth. According to their study, in 2006 the United States gave out $23.53 billion in aid, almost twice as much as No. 2 Great Britain ($12.46 billion). However, when private giving is included in the numbers, the U.S. total rises to $192 billion.

These numbers should not be surprising. Along with being the world’s lone military superpower and lone food superpower, the United States is the world’s lone economic superpower as well. Although we account for only about 4.5% of the world’s population, we account for more than 25% of worldwide economic activity.

WORLD Magazine also reported that the results of the Hudson Institute study came as no surprise to Arthur C. Brooks, a fellow at the Hudson Institute. “Americans give at least twice as much as anyone else,” Brooks said. “And we're giving now more than ever before.” WORLD adds that, “Brooks said the myth of the ‘ugly American’ has persisted in part because ‘it’s in the interest of a lot of people’—those who want to see the size and role of government enlarge, for example—‘to portray Americans as callous and uncaring.’”

“Callous” and “uncaring,” along with “hypocrite,” are favorite labels that many “big government” liberals try to attach to conservatives—especially Christian conservatives. Too often, they claim, Christians are driven politically by the issues of abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring the plight of the poor, the sick, those suffering from racism, etc. I submit that it is the Christians who are most concerned with the suffering of others, and part of the evidence is in their “social activism.”

When it comes to social involvement, recent George Barna research (www.barna.org) showed a significant difference between what he describes as “active-faith” Americans, [the vast majority of whom are Christians] who tend to be more conservative in their politics, and “no-faith” Americans, who tend to be more liberal. Barna reports that, “One of the most significant differences between active-faith and no-faith Americans is the cultural disengagement and sense of independence exhibited by [no-faith Americans] in many areas of life. They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as ‘active in the community’ (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%).”

There is also a significant difference between active-faith Americans and no-faith Americans when it comes to the amount of money donated to charitable causes. On this, Barna notes that, “The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is over seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500).” Furthermore, as of 2005, according to the Christian Science Monitor, of the top 10 U.S. charities that are categorized as social services or relief/development, nine are Christian charities.

When it comes to domestic charity, total U.S. giving in 2006 was just over $295 billion according to The Giving USA Foundation. Of this amount, 83.4% was given by individuals, which far outpaces the giving by U.S. corporations, whose total giving came in at 4.3%. [Giving by foundations made up the other 12.3%.] According to Generous Giving Inc., “religious observers, which are those who attend weekly services [again, the vast majority are Christian], while only about 38% of all Americans, donate two-thirds of all charitable dollars in the United States.”

Now, I am not saying that all Christians are conservative in their politics, and neither am I implying that all Christians are generous while all non-Christians are not. In fact, I would suggest that while Christians do most of the charitable giving (as they should) in the U.S., they could (and should) be doing quite a bit more. For example, Generous Giving also reported that, while religious observers give significantly more than the non-religious, their giving still only amounts to 3.4% of their annual income.

If Christians want to give less of their money to government, while at the same time having more control over how what they give is spent, I suggest that they give more to the churches and the charities thatare “loving their neighbors as themselves.” Also, Christians should invest not only their money, but also their time in caring for those in need. In this way we can show our fellow Americans what should have been clear all along: the Church is better at charity than the government is.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Born Again Vote

Recently, conservative Christian leaders gathered to discuss getting behind John McCain for president. Time magazine reported on this gathering that occurred July 1 in Denver. The Christian vote is an important bloc for conservative republicans (or any candidate). For decades now, born again Christians have been one of the largest and most likely to vote groups in the country.

According to researcher George Barna (barna.org), born again Christians constituted about 48% of the vote in the 2000 presidential election and 53% of the vote in the 2004 presidential election. Interestingly, Barna also points out that the 53% total in 2004 occurred while born again Christians made up only 38% of the U.S. population. Barna research in January of this year revealed 68 million U.S.voters who were born again Christians.

In the 2000 campaign, four out of five born again adults were registered to vote, compared to only two out of three non-born again adults. Also, Barna reported that in the 2000 election, born again Christians were much more likely actually to vote than those who were not born again, by a 59% to 46% margin. Furthermore, recent Barna research shows that born again Americans were more likely to follow an election closely and more likely to say that it is “very important” to vote.

Barna also reported that George Bush handily won the born again vote in both of his elections: by a 57% to 42% margin in 2000 and 62% to 38% in 2004. This compares to a closer 49% to 43% edge for Bob Dole over Bill Clinton in 1996 and an even tighter 39% to 35% for George H.W. Bush over Clinton in 1992. Given these numbers, it would appear that for John McCain to do well in 2008 against BarakObama, he should aim for at least 55% of the born again vote.

The power of the born again bloc was particularly evident in the republican primaries, with the significant wins achieved by Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee across the “Bible Belt.” It was most certainly the born again Christian vote that propelled Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, to victory in five key states on “Super Tuesday,” to go along with his other primary victories. For many of these voters, issues like abortion and gay marriage are more important than illegal immigration, the economy, and so on. It’s not that the other issues don’t matter, but the issues that carry more moral weight are going to be significant with born again Christians.

This begs the question, what drives born again Christians to the polls? Barna’s research showed that for George W. Bush, “The positions on issues that attracted the greatest number of born again voters to Bush were those related to abortion and taxes.” Also, the issue of gay marriage has been a big motivator for born again Christians in recent elections, especially in 2004. Thirteen states passed constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage in 2004. This almost certainly brought many born again Christians to the polls. Three states, including the swing state of Florida, have marriage amendments on the ballot in 2008.

Of course, issues change over time, and given the current state of the economy, it will almost certainly be the number one issue with every voting bloc in this election. The war and illegal immigration will also almost certainly be big issues for all voters in November. However, the Barna research from January of this year revealed that for born again Christians the top five issues were: personal indebtedness (mentioned by 79% of respondents), poverty (mentioned by 78%), HIV/AIDS (77%), illegal immigration (68%), and abortion (67%).

The top five issues for the 15 million registered evangelical Christians (22% of born again Christians) differed a bit from the born again list. (For purposes of his research, Barna regards evangelicals as a subset of born again Christians.) They were: abortion (94%), personal debt (81%), the content of television and movies (79%), homosexual activists (75%), and gay and lesbian lifestyles (75%). Interestingly, of all the voter groups identified by Barna, evangelicals were the most likely to be concerned about illegal immigration; however, as shown above, it did not make the top five in their list.

It will be interesting to watch the exit polling data following the November elections to see what was important to all voters and to see what groups supported whom. To see how Christians and other groups voted, be sure to check out www.barna.org.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com