Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sarah Palin's Giving to Charity

The Hill reports that Sarah Palin gave considerably more money to charity than Joe Biden. It says:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made considerably less money than rival Sen. Joe Biden, but the Palin family gave more to charity in the last two years than Biden has in the last eight combined, according to Palin's tax records released Friday afternoon. . . .

I am not surprised. This is generally true of conservatives.


David Cho said...

Dr. Groothuis,

I corresponded with you via email asking for your elaboration on how "conservatives give four times more to charity than liberals."

This is what I said in the email:
I am genuinely interested in finding out more about the studies which substantiate the claim. According to generousgiving.org, you are correct that conservatives do give more than liberals, but most of their givings go to churches, which technically is "charity" according to the IRS.

But I think it is a huge leap to say that giving to church amounts to caring for the poor more than liberals (just as giving to the government does not) The same website says churches spend 97% of their financial resources on themselves. If you want to make an argument that churches spend a lion share of that on the poor in the church, that is a stretch too. It says between $1.54 trillion and $6.72 trillion (what a range!) in assets are in the hands of Evangelicals.

You responded by saying that you had gotten a book on this. I am still awaiting your substantiation of the claim.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

The book is by Arthur C. Brooks, "Who Really Cares?" I have not had time to read it yet.

I do take giving to the church to be giving to charity, since the church serves various kinds of people in many ways.

David Cho said...

Dr. Groothuis,

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this. Evangelical churches I have been involved in spend most of their budgets on salaries, buildings, music equipment, and other operations.

Whether how they allocate their financial resources amounts to serving "various kinds of" people is highly debatable, and at the very least generousgiving.org does not appear to support your conclusion.

If this means anything to you, I don't believe that liberal politicians fighting for social programs necessarily equates to "serving" people. It can be very self-serving, and I am sure you agree with me on that. They think they have cornered the market on compassion just because they raise taxes to serve their political ambitions.

You won't get any argument from me on that.

It's just that conservatives don't seem all that better.

Daniel said...

Regardless of political leaning Christians of both stripes need to give more.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Christians need to give more to their churches and to solid works outside their churches:

1. Dalit Freedom Network.
2. Christian Blind Mission
3. CenterPoint Ministries
4. National Right to Life
5. Proposition 48 in Colorado
6. Food for the Hungry.

Heath Countryman said...

I am not sure we should really lift up Palin as a champion of charitable giving, seeing how she only gave 1.5% of her income to her church last year, a level well below the prescribed 10% that most of us agree is biblically correct...

Comparing her with Biden is much less important to me than comparing her Christian claims with actual practice... I have an inheirent distrust of politicians, particularly when they use their faith as a credential.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

I didn't say she was a champion! I said she gave much more than Biden.

jim_l said...

David Cho does raise an interesting question, albeit a tengential one to this post. Are churches consuming all of their donations internally and not "caring" for others (poor, disadvantaged, etc.)? That may be hard to calculate, as it is not always reflected in the amount of financial outflow. The church is often an enabler of mission (via facilities and organization) that may not require large expenditures. For example, many churches use their kitchens and members to support Meals on Wheels. The food cost may not be significant (I am not sure on this), but the church facility and members are used to prepare and distribute meals on a regualr basis throughout the year. Church staff (or members) may organize hands on mission outreach (e.g. tutoring, work days, etc.) which do not require cash, but do require an existing structure to organize. So, you can't measure a church's "caring for the poor" by just looking at the budget, any more than you can measure an individual's level of care by looking at their tax return. I read that Biden's wife and son spent time working on Katrina relief without fanfare ( Credit where it is due at Bayou Christian). I don't know how Joe Biden spends his time, but it is apparent he does not claim much charitable giving on his return. We need to be careful to not read too much into that, or we become the pharisee at the temple who gives with great fanfare (Look at what I give, look at how little he gives Luke 18:9-14). Dangerous territory Doug - and I confess I have fallen into it until I just thought of this.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

There is no Pharisee danger here; I am simply pointing out ideological and behavior differences. Liberals often claims to care so deeply about the poor, but give next to nothing to them, expecting government to do all the work.

Of course, Christians should give more, spend less on entertainment, be more responsible with their money. But that is not the main point here. Of course, blogs are always getting off point. It gets old.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Moreover, I am saying nothing about how much I give or don't give, so your point is doubly irrelevant.

jim_l said...

Doug -

I did not mean to imply that you were saying you were better than he was - I apologize if it came across that way. I do agree with you in principle and research appears to back up the fact that conservatives give more than liberals, but liberals make the most noise on "caring for the poor" and expect the government to pay for it. I am disappointed in Biden's level of giving (as well as Obama's and Palin's). However, I still stand by the point that we need to be careful to not think of ourselves better than others because we may give more (you did not say of imply this, I am just bringing it up).

Jeff Burton said...

David Cho: If you want to get into those weeds, then let's subtract out liberal charitable contributions to the arts and PBS.

David Cho said...

Jim, your point is well taken. The church budget does not tell the whole story.

However, from what I have seen, church facilities (particularly here in Orange County, California) are of the middle class people, for the middle class people and by the middle class people. In the middle class neighborhood a world away from sketchy areas.

Moreover, in my 20 years in various conservative Evangelical churches, I don't remember hearing a single sermon on how to care for the poor. Certainly I have heard a lot about the grave dangers of caring for the poor without preaching the gospel and calling them to repentance, but not once about caring for the poor. People like Mother Teresa often take the brunt of our criticism for filling the tummies of the poor while they go to hell.

Baby steps first anybody? We teach toddlers how to walk first before teaching them about where not to walk to. Most of us have no clues on caring for the poor, but yet we obsess about the perils of it.

Claude said...

I have my doubt that this is important. It's not even charitable to scrutinize other people's generosity. Does any of you ever give cash with no record keeping and income tax receipts? It's been done often. Directly. To people in need. Children have been equipped for school. A house has been garnished with a Christmas Tree and toys. Children have been sent to Summer Camps. My parents always found an extra dollar to give. In the budget it was called "normal expenses."

Claude said...

You're a bit late, Sir, to post my comment. After 2 days, I went somewhere else and received an excellent reply. I learned a lot. May God bless you and sustain you. You're in my prayers.