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handful moneyHow good are we without God? Apparently not as good.  

Several studies have shown that American liberals—namely, those most likely to have little or no God, are least likely to give to charity. Hurts, doesn’t it?  Where’s the proof, you say?

Robert Brooks, who recently wrote a book, Who Really Cares, about charitable donors discovered the following (as reported by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof):

“When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

Although liberals advocate on behalf of those who are hungry and homeless, Brooks’ data shows that conservative households give 30% more to charity.  A Google poll puts these numbers even higher—at nearly 50% more.  Conservatives even beat out liberals when it comes to nonfinancial contributions.  People in the conservative states in the center of the country are more likely to volunteer and to give blood. 

But what about the relationship between having a God and being generous?

Based on a Google poll (again, as reported by columnist Kristof), religion is the essential reason conservatives give more.  And although secular liberals tend to keep their wallets closed, it turns out that religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives.

According to Google’s figures, if donations to religious organizations are excluded, the total amount liberals give to charity is slightly higher than that given by conservatives. But according to Mr. Brooks, if the contributed amount is tied to percentage of income, then conservatives are more generous than liberals—even to secular causes.  Ouch.

All of the world’s religions promote charitable giving.  Christians, for example, speak of giving in terms of a tithe required by God.  2 Corinthians 9:7 applauds giving cheerfully, Acts 11:29 advocates feeding the hungry, and James 1:27 exhorts the faithful to help widows and orphans.  Although the New Testament doesn’t discuss tithing per se, congregations generally set at tithing at 10 percent of gross income.  Some congregations don’t ask that the entire tithe be given to support them, but they do ask that moneys given to other charities bring their members’ total contribution to (at least) 10%.  And really–10% of one’s income to feed the hungry, help the destitute, and care for the orphan–is that so much to ask?

Can we agree on the following:

       IF         ‘being good’ = charitable giving

       THEN    ‘being 100% good’ = giving 10% of all gross income from all sources 

Unfortunately a couple of famous liberals—religious liberals at that, illustrate only too well the accuracy of Brooks and Google’s dismal findings.

How about our Vice-President, Mr. Biden (a Roman Catholic), for starters.  The New York Times reported that, according to his 2008 income-tax return, Joe Biden earned $269,000 and claimed—are you ready for this–$1,900 in charitable deductions.  That comes to 0.71% of gross income!  Let’s be charitable ourselves and round that figure to 1%.  Maybe Mr. Biden thought no one would care although he surely knew people would notice, since he’s a public figure and all.  But even more shocking is the fact that he showed no contrition for the sad example he set for his fellow citizens.  His lame response to the numbers cited?  Merely that his total donations were not reflected on his income tax.  He had, he argued, given donations to his church (failing to mention that these are tax-deductible) and donated some of his time!  Hmmmm.  Whatever.  Using the IF-THEN equation above, 1% charitable giving makes Biden 10% good.  A recommendation?  He needs to boost God by 90%.

The President, Mr. Obama (a Congregationalist), fared better in 2008, but even he fell short of the 10% mark.  He donated about 6.5% of his gross income making him 65% good.  A recommendation? He needs to boost God by 35%.

Now, if you turn the microscope to look at your own 2008 income-tax return, will you discover a log in your own eye?  You get a pass if you’ve lost your job or earn less than middle middle-class wages.  The rest of you, please adjust your charitable deduction for donations of time and blood.  Do you need to boost God?  By how much?

Reference:  Nicholas Kristoff, “Bleeding Heart Tightwads,” the electronic version of The New York Times, 21 December 2008;  John McKinnon, “First Couple Reports Income of $2.7 Million,” The Wall Street Journal, 16 April 2009, p. A3.