Tag archives: Charity

Charity: Who Does It Best?

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Jeremy Pilz

July 7, 2020

One of the most well-known passages in the Bible is Matthew 25 where Jesus teaches his followers about charity. In this text, Jesus distinguishes between “sheep” and “goats.” On one hand are the sheep who are commended for selflessly serving those in need while on the other hand are the goats, those who are condemned for not caring for the naked, thirsty, or hungry. In a shocking statement, Jesus tells his disciples that how one treats the needy reflects their love for him.

Taking Jesus’ admonitions to heart, the Christian church has historically been on the front lines of performing charitable acts. However, recently the government continues to encroach on this space, expanding its role in providing a social safety net consisting of mostly large, impersonal programs. But instead of overtaking the important role of the church when it comes to practicing charity, the government should work to supplement and not supplant this vital calling of charitable organizations. 

Within the pages of the Bible, one can see many other references to the practice of charity. In fact, the word “charity” that is found in the Bible text is a translation of the Greek word “agape,” also meaning “love.” 1 Corinthians 13 suggests that charity is love when Paul writes: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” The direct command to love and be charitable can be found in Matthew 22:39 when Jesus states that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Practicing charity by loving our neighbor is not only the responsibility of individual Christians, but of the church as a whole. Recently, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) echoed these thoughts on the Senate floor by stating that “as religious believers we know that serving our fellow citizens, of whatever their religious faith…aiding them, working for them, is one of the signature ways that we show a love of neighbor.”

This calling from Scripture has also been voiced by Christian leaders on Capitol Hill. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) recently spoke about how non-profit organizations are a crucial part of our society during a Joint Economic Committee hearing on charitable giving. Churches and non-profits are the initial components of our social safety nets. Since churches and non-profits are often on the front lines of serving needy communities, they must take the lead when it comes to formulating public policy to address many of our nation’s social ills.

So why should the government allow the faith-based community and nonprofit sector to take the lead in this area?

First, the church and other non-profits have already proven that they can make significant contributions to society. Using a national survey of religious congregations in the United States, Duke Divinity School professor Mark Chaves found that 83 percent of congregations have some sort of program to help needy people in their communities. Religious organizations also provide approximately 35 percent of the country’s volunteer hours. Furthermore, Catholic nonprofits provide between 17 and 34 percent of all private social services, and, according to recent research by Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, religious institutions contribute $1.2 trillion to society and the United States economy every year, more than the top 10 tech companies’ contributions combined.

Even during the current coronavirus pandemic, the church and non-profits have stepped up. As Rev. Steve Woolley recently explained, “The important work of being Christ in the community, of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and healing the spiritually broken has continued through alternate pathways. Congregations have been able to funnel resources and time toward organizations like the Christian Aid Center, Homeless Alliance, Catholic Charities, United Way and others to see that needs continue to be met as best as can be done under the circumstances.”

Second, churches and non-profits can provide more well-rounded assistance for the people of the United States than the government at all levels. Churches and non-profits have the ability and means to provide more personal, one-on-one social services. As Pastor Gilford T. Monrose noted, “Each church can provide effective ministries and outreach services…” [filling] “a void only the church can.” Unlike many government programs that seem to just throw money at individuals or families, churches and non-profits invest physically, emotionally, and often spiritually in the lives of the people they minister to.

The government needs to supplement the charity work of churches and other non-profits, not supplant them. This is because of the church’s historic track record, the well-rounded services they provide, and out of respect for the call and command that Christians in particular have to practice charity. In the words of social welfare policy expert Michael Tanner, “We do have a responsibility to help the poor and those in need. That means taking care of them yourself—giving money yourself, giving your time, your efforts, not someone else’s.”

Connor Semelsberger, MPP is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Jeremy Pilz is a Policy & Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council.

Families and Charitable Organizations: The Foundation of American Society

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

June 17, 2020

This piece was originally published at NRB.org.

Churches and other charitable organizations have been on the front lines of the coronavirus response. A few examples are Samaritan’s Purse building a field hospital in New York City’s Central Park and churches hosting food drives and conducting coronavirus testing. One Alabama church tested 1,000 people in two days! Despite the active role these nonprofits have taken in meeting the health and economic needs of our country, they still rely on donations—at a time when many Americans face financial hardship due to job loss, limited working hours, or increased medical costs. Such hardships may lead to a decline in charitable donations. Thankfully, some leaders on Capitol Hill are championing the important role churches and charitable organizations play in helping local communities.

One way the tax code helps charitable organizations is through the charitable deduction. However when the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified and raised the standard deduction to $12,000, it caused many tax filers to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their charitable contributions. Realizing this problem in the tax code, Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which allows charitable contributions up to $300 to be deducted above and beyond the standard deduction on annual tax returns. This new policy is a great first step in promoting charitable giving during the pandemic. But congressional leaders believe there is much more to be done.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) has been the most vocal voice advocating for direct changes to the tax law to support both families and nonprofits. He summed this need up perfectly in a Joint Economic Committee hearing on charitable giving. “We have three safety nets in America. The family is the first safety net. Nonprofits are our second safety net and government is our third…The first two are essential and if the family collapses, nonprofits struggle to keep up and governments struggle to keep up.”

In May, Senator Lankford and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) co-authored a letter to Senate leaders, advocating for nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship in any future coronavirus relief bills. One of the specific proposals Lankford and King offered is raising the $300 charitable deduction limit in the CARES Act to one-third of the standard deduction. This would equate to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has taken a similar approach in the House of Representatives. His bill, the Coronavirus Help and Response Initiative Through the Year 2022 (CHARITY) Act, would expand the charitable deduction to one-third of the standard deduction until 2022.

Families and churches are the foundation of our society. They are, therefore, the societal institutions best-equipped to provide stability when America faces many health and safety challenges. When families and churches struggle, so does the rest of America. That is why the government needs to recognize and support these institutions and charitable organizations. As Sen. Lankford said, “it’s beneficial for us in our official policy and what we choose to do in the tax code to be able to create a tax code that is encouraging to families and that is encouraging to nonprofits.

Better a Meal of Vegetables Where There is Love

by Family Research Council

November 28, 2012

Holiday season is upon us. Salvation Army ringers with their donation kettles stand outside our stores and entice generous holiday shoppers to think about those who are less fortunate. Charitable actions occur around this country every day in myriad different ways. But, at least for residents of New York City this holiday season, charity will no longer look like food donations.

In March of this year, Mayor Bloomberg banned food donations to the city’s shelters that serve New York City’s large homeless population. This ban has gotten attention again, after New York City resources have been stretched thin by the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.

The reason for this ban was not prompted by instances of food poisoning or culinary foul play, but rather because Mayor Bloomberg says that the City can’t properly assess salt, fiber and fat content in the donated food, so they don’t know if the homeless are getting optimal levels of nutrition.

No exceptions to the strict ban are given, not even for donation centers with a healthy track record such as Ohab Zedek, an Upper West Side Orthodox congregation which has donated freshly cooked, nutrient rich foods left over from synagogue events for over ten years, a practice common among houses of worship in the city.

Leaving aside the question of whether we really need the government to require labeling to assess the content of our foods, we face the following question: should government regulation not only discourage, but in fact prohibit individual (or collective) charity?

What is especially offensive is the subtext here: that only the government is able to adequately know and then provide for the needs within a community. But who is closer to the needs of the homeless in a city? Is it possible that someone sitting behind a desk issuing food regulations can better know their needs than an individual who wants to help—and indeed walks past the homeless on the street every day?

This policy by Mayor Bloomberg is another brush stroke in the picture being painted of a world in which people are not even permitted to take responsibility for their food choices, either in how they give, or in what they take (see, ban on super size sodas). And as with many government policies, it may be the poor that will be hurt by the very policies that are intended to help.

When charitable actions are banned, how much interaction between the homeless and the other residents of New York City will occur? If people are not allowed to give, they have less incentive to pay attention to those in need. And the homeless will no longer have the chance to feel known and cared about by specific individuals or groups. As government over-regulates, it squelches the desire to give. It, additionally, removes the opportunity to love one’s less fortunate neighbor. Even if the government steps in and takes up the slack so an absence of food may be filled, that doesn’t solve the whole problem because government cannot love. When you replace human charity and altruism with rules, society becomes even more fragmented and government dependent.

Of course this isn’t the end of the world. There are other forms of charity that haven’t yet been banned. But it is another step taken by the government protectors that hinder something as basic as human relationship and fellowship.Turkeyon an unlabeled plate, with green beans with a sodium content has not been measured, but has been handed out with love… well, it sounds pretty good to me.

Charity and Pornography: Can They Coexist?

by Sharon Barrett

October 26, 2012

Princeton professor Robert P. George writes in a piece for The Public Discourse, Theorists of public moralityfrom the ancient Greek philosophers and Roman jurists onhave noticed that apparently private acts of vice, when they multiply and become widespread, can imperil important public interests.

Pornography, especially internet pornography, is this kind of private vice in our generation. Even though pornographys devastating effects are well-documented (for instance, in publications released by MARRI and the Witherspoon Institute), some in the industry try to make pornography look acceptable by uniting it with socially respected activities. MARRI intern Sarah Robinson reported on Charitable Pornography: a non-profit pornography organization has created a website where users can upload videos along with links to their charity of choice, so that every hit on a video sends a donation to that charity.

While the organizers of the website win points for creativity, their score on social responsibility is zero. As Sarah Robinson says,

This idea crosses the threshold of moral relativity into dangerous territory that debases the value of human beings and sexuality. How do you place a price tag on sexuality? No charitable organization should receive money made by degrading human beings who were created in the image of God.

The idea of charitable giving depends on the ability to value others needs above ones own immediate gratification. Charitable organizations, inspired by Biblical commands to consider the poor, have long been a prominent part of Judeo-Christian society (and came into their own in 19th-century America, thanks to the energy of social reformers). Is charity at home, however, in a culture of sensuality that permits the degradation of human beings?

Robert P. George argues that acceptance of pornography affects society deeply, cheating children of not only a healthy sexuality, but a healthy view of the human person:

Parents efforts to bring up their children as respecters of themselves and others will be helped or hinderedperhaps profoundlyby the cultural structure in which children are reared….It is the attitudes, habits, dispositions, imagination, ideology, values, and choices shaped by a culture in which pornography flourishes that will, in the end, deprive many children of what can without logical or moral strain be characterized as their right to a healthy sexuality. In a society in which sex is depersonalized, and thus degraded, even conscientious parents will have enormous difficulty transmitting to their children the capacity to view themselves and others as persons, rather than as objects of sexual desire and satisfaction.

Pornography is the last thing we need as we seek to raise a generation with humane values. If the authors of this porn website truly care about charity, they should shut down the site and start producing informational videos. There are plenty of causes, like raising awareness of human sex trafficking, that they can benefit with charitable donations.

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