Should it be a surprise that people of faith in America are significantly more likely than religiously unaffiliated individuals to give to charitable institutions of all kinds, according to the latest longitudinal survey data-driven research? Should anybody care?
“People who are religiously affiliated are more likely to make a charitable donation of any kind, whether to a religious congregation or to another type of charitable organization,” said researchers for the Giving USA Foundation™ and the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at the University of Indiana.
“Sixty-two percent of religious households give to charity of any kind, compared with 46 percent of households with no religious affiliation,” the researchers said in a report released Wednesday and based on the Philanthropy Panel Study, which focuses on the giving habits of more than 9,000 individuals and families.
Nearly $123 billion was given by individuals and families to religious institutions in 2016, nearly double the $59.7 billion donated to educational institutions, the second-most generously supported category in the report.
Which brings us to the “so what” questions: Should we be surprised that people of faith — which in the U.S. overwhelmingly means those who claim to be Christians of one denomination or another – are the most generous and does it make any difference to American society?
When Jesus was asked by a lawyer what he must do to be saved, the Lord asked the man what the law required. The man quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
When the lawyer then asked Jesus who was his neighbor, the Lord told the parable of the Good Samaritan in which a man from Jerusalem was robbed, beaten and left for dead beside the road. A Jewish priest happened along, followed by a Levite (the Jewish tribe from which came priests and their assistants in worship and sacrifice), but both ignored the injured man.
Then came along a Samaritan who stopped, tended his wounds, tenderly cared for him at his own expense and delayed his trip. This was significant because Jews and Samaritans of the time prejudicially avoided all contact with each other.
Jesus’ point was that salvation requires putting others before self, as He did in giving Himself to be crucified for the sins of others. Christians ever since have led all kinds of charitable endeavors aimed at helping the needy, lifting the poor out of poverty and otherwise improving society.
So there should be no surprise in finding believers generally more generous than others in America. They’re doing what Christians do when their hearts are changed by faith in Christ – they put others’ needs, to a greater or lesser degree, before their own.
Does that make a difference in American society? You bet it does, as scholars like Dr. Patrick Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, have long been documenting with social science data.
Take for example marriage, defined as between a man and woman, which requires continuously putting the spouse’s needs first. According to MARRI, “married couples enjoy, on average, larger incomes, greater net worth, and greater year-to-year net worth growth.
“Examining the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Dr. Bradford Wilcox and Dr. Wendy Wang found that 97 percent of Millennials who follow the “success sequence”—receive at least a high school degree, work, marry, and lastly bear children—never experience poverty in their young adult years (ages 28-34).
“Married couples also create the best economic environment for children. Their children experience more economic mobility and less poverty in childhood and are more likely to earn a higher income and work more hours as an adult than those raised in alternative family structures.
“Marriage is also essential on the macroeconomic level. Married Americans spend more money than their cohabitating, divorced, single, and never-married counterparts. According to Pew analysis of IRS data, married couples pay roughly three-fourths of the nation’s income taxes, even despite the decline in marriage.”
Not all married couples are Christians, of course, not all Christians are married and few, if any, who are do it perfectly, but traditional matrimony receives its greatest support in cultures most closely identified with Judeo-Christian values, so the societal benefits of the institution should in great part be credited to faith’s influence.
So why are America’s elites — who claim to know what’s best for the country — running in the opposite direction?
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and chief of its Investigative Group. Follow Mark on Twitter.
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.