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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

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