Practices, Reflections

Generosity in America

Martin Marty’s Context always brings (at least) a note worth paying attention to in a fresh way.  Today I received January’s issue with this quote from Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money by Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell:

“We think most American Christians do possess the financial resources to give generously–say, 10 percent of after-tax income–if they were committed to doing so, although for many such giving would come at a real lifestyle cost to consumer spending. Such generous financial giving by American Christians would require an intentional, principled, upfront decision to give faithfully, consistently, and systematically and would require the support of local church cultures in which generous financial giving is collectively expected and honored. “Most American Christians, we think, do not give generously for a combination of reasons. [All italics are in original.] The first reason is that many have, for various reasons, simply not seriously confronted and grappled with the theological and moral teachings of their traditions to give generously–they are only vaguely aware of or perhaps even avoid those teachings. Second, we think most American Christians do not give generously because many of their churches settle for low expectations of financial giving–there is a simple cultural lack of strong community norms encouraging and celebrating generous giving.  Third, some American Christians do not give generously in part because they lack a complete confidence in the trustworthiness of the churches and charitable organizations to which they would give money. Fourth, most American Christians do not give generously because, due to the total privatization and lack of accountability of such issues, there
are few or no real consequences or costs to stingy, intermittent, or no giving. Fifth, most American Christians do not give generously because most tend to practice giving on an occasional and situational basis, not as a disciplined, structured, routine practice.— Passing the Plate, Oxford University Press, pp. 97-98.

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