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Posts tagged charity


Altruism and charity are distinct if not in the acts themselves at least in the surrounding atmosphere: altruism reaches across with a sense of solidarity and empathy; charity hands down from above. The latter always runs the risk of belittling, patronizing, or otherwise diminishing its recipients in underscoring the difference between those who have and those who need. It takes away a sense of self while giving material aid. Giving and receiving can have strange reciprocities. ... Giving itself is a gift, and there can be a deep mutuality between giver and recipient in the horizontality of altruism rather than the verticality of charity. More complex exchanges take place in the arts: is it the writer or singer who is giving the work, or the reader or listener who brings the gift of attention, or are they knit together in a mutuality whose give-and-take is complicated? Seen in a larger context, continual exchanges knit together a society, form the conversation of which it is made.

from "Always in the Season," by Pomplamoose, 2009 :: via Boing Boing
excerpt Look at the one
from "How to Save the World," by Nicholas Kristof, Outside Magazine, December 2009

A classic experiment involved asking people to donate to help hungry children in West Africa. One group was asked to help a seven-year-old girl named Rokia, in the country of Mali. A second was asked to donate to help millions of hungry children. A third was asked to help Rokia but was provided with statistical information that gave them a larger context for her hunger. Not surprisingly, people donated more than twice as much to help Rokia as to help millions of children. But it turned out that even providing background information on African hunger diminished empathy, so people were much less willing to help Rokia when she represented a broader problem. Donors didn’t want to help ease a crisis personi fied by a child; they just wanted to help one person—and to hell with the crisis.

As we all vaguely know, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. As Mother Teresa said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Professor Slovic calls the first reaction “psychic numbing.” But Slovic wanted to know at what point the number of victims triggers psychic numbing. He set out to find out, and his findings were deeply depressing.

In one of Slovic’s experiments, people were asked to donate to Rokia or, in other cases, to a similar hungry boy, Moussa. In each case, research subjects were quite willing to help and donated generously either to Rokia or to Moussa. But when people were asked to donate to Rokia and Moussa together, with their photographs side by side, donations decreased. Slovic found that our empathy begins to fade when the number of victims reaches just two. As he puts it: “The more who die, the less we care.”

A practical application of these concepts came during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The white government there had imprisoned many brave activists, and there was a global campaign focusing on freeing these political prisoners. It never gained traction, however, until the organizers had the idea of refocusing it on an individual and came up with the slogan “Free Mandela!” Once there was a face on the movement, it resonated far more widely—and, ultimately, helped topple apartheid.

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

When you start seriously studying the ways American give money, as Christian Smith and his colleagues did for his recent book Passing the Plate, one of the first things you realize is that they give very little.

One of the next things you realize is that they give money mostly to people like themselves, who lead organizations that benefit people like themselves, for causes that matter to people like themselves. And when they do escape from such self-referential giving, it is largely in response to crisis and sentimentality rather than an intentional approach to lasting investment.

Catherine and I have tried over the years to make sure that our giving doesn’t just end up being a tax-deductible subsidy of organizations that serve people like us. We think of it very much like investing. We want to have a “balanced portfolio” in three important dimensions.

1. We want to balance our giving between organizations based in the United States and those based outside (mostly in the developing world, where a dollar often goes incredibly far).

2. We want to give equally to organizations that have non-white-Westerners in major leadership roles and to organizations that are led by people who look like us.

3. And we want to support some organizations where the gift we can afford to make is greater than 1% of their budget (so that we’re making a noticeable impact on their total need) and others where our gift is a smaller portion (but is likely to be used efficiently).

As this snapshot shows, we missed our target this year on domestic versus international giving, but did well on the other two categories. We’ll try to make up the difference in 2009.

Having disciplines like this in place helps us to make good choices among the many opportunities we have to give. And it’s fun to make the little pie charts, too.

from "Following Christ 2008 Theme: Human Flourishing," InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 8 March 2008

Are there universal elements of human flourishing, things that every person needs to flourish? If so, which of these are immediate gifts of God and which can be created, shaped, or nourished by the practice of the academic and professional disciplines?

Why do men and women fail to flourish? To what extent does sin, both personal and systemic, account for this failure?

In the face of such failure, how is the gospel good news and how does it help us flourish ourselves within our vocations and beyond?

Is it really true that to fully flourish one must be a follower of Jesus? How can such an outrageous claim be presented compellingly in our culture?

Must our bodies be doing well for us to flourish? In what ways does our embodiment affect our flourishing?

What does pursuing excellence have to do with human flourishing? Is elitism inherent in excellence, and does it impede human flourishing in a diverse society?

Will the career and personal path I’m on lead to my flourishing and that of others? Are my vocation and occupation in sync? Should I perhaps change paths, and how can I know?

What kinds of suffering stifle human flourishing, and what kinds can contribute to it?

How can we prepare to flourish and help others flourish in the face of an uncertain future and rapid social, cultural, economic, and technological change?


In 1982, the neighborhood surrounding Harambee Center had the highest daytime crime rate in Southern California. The corner of Howard and Navarro, where we are located, was called “blood corner” because it was where the most drive-by shootings and failed drug deals occurred. Residents were held captive in their homes and there was little hope for change.

We believed the only legitimate way to become change-agents in this community was to become a part of it. Led by our founder, Dr. John Perkins, we moved into the community and became neighbors. For 20+ years we have served a 12-block target area, working with African American and Latino children and families.

“Harambee” means “Let’s get together and push” in Swahili. We seek to nurture and equip leadership that will wholistically minister to the community by sharing Biblical truths, in order to achieve the re-building of urban neighborhoods through relocation, reconciliation and redistribution.

excerpt Goat, $75

The early-morning bleating of a dairy goat is a happy sound for children in countries like Haiti and Kenya — they know it’s ready to be milked. A goat nourishes a family with protein-rich milk, cheese, and yogurt, and can offer a much-needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products for sale at the market. It even provides fertilizer that can dramatically increase crop yields!

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Every three months—in March, June, September, and December—the Crouches do something absolutely essential to our spiritual health as a family. We give away a substantial amount of money.

I am not reticent about disclosing the exact amounts that we make, save, spend, and give. In fact I believe that no church or Christian community can be healthy without talking about real dollars rather than the absurdly vague hand-waving that often passes for discussion of financial stewardship. Several times over the past few years I have handed out a complete Crouch family income and expense statement to fellow members of our church. Not so much because we are models of stewardship—we are by many standards absurdly wealthy and absurdly stingy—but because I am convinced that our spiritual health requires transparency and vulnerability in this area. And believe me, distributing a complete statement of how you have handled your money (or, more precisely, the money God has entrusted to you) is transparent and vulnerable!

Disclosing these details online is a different matter. Somehow our culture has gotten things exactly upside down. We are vulnerable and transparent online in ways we never would be in person. This is cheap transparency, based on virtual intimacy, and I won’t indulge in it here.

But at this time when the whole world is reeling from the effects of an economic crisis brought on, among other things, by a series of extraordinary conspiracies of silence about the truth of money—including millions of Americans taking on debts they could not reasonably expect to repay, thousands of companies taking risks they could not calculate using financial instruments no one could understand, and most recently hundreds of investors entrusting their wealth to a man who refused to tell them what he did to make it grow—it seems worth saying that by far the best thing Catherine and I have done with our money, in fat years and lean years, was to give some of it away, and to try to order our lives so that we could give away more and more.

So during these last days of the year, I want to celebrate the cultural goods created by the amazing non-profit organizations Catherine and I have the privilege of supporting. I’ll also post a few thoughts about how we give, and why—in the hope that as all of us prepare for whatever 2009 may bring, we will enter it with the joy of people who have entrusted everything to the one who gave everything for us. Merry Christmas.

from "Jury bars auction of Mary Pickford's Oscar," by Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times, 16 December 2008

And the Oscar for best Hollywood courtroom drama goes to . . . the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The golden statuette was awarded Monday by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, which ruled that if Mary Pickford’s heirs want to sell it, they have to offer it to academy officials for $10 instead of auctioning it off for as much as $800,000. Academy leaders took a Rancho Mirage woman, her daughter and a cousin to court after the women announced plans to sell the Oscar presented in 1930 to the silent-movie star known as “America’s sweetheart” and donate the proceeds to charity.

from "Partying for Charity," by Allison Schrager, More Intelligent Life, 12 November 2008 :: via Ideas blog

Nonetheless, a few months ago I became a ”Young Fellow” at the Frick museum ($500 per year; “all but $340 is tax deductible”). I’ll admit I felt slightly ambivalent about it. As much as I enjoy going to museums and sincerely believe they help to make the world a better place, giving to them is not quite on a par with giving to a cancer hospital. Cultural institutions are a luxury in our society. Surely there are more pressing concerns.

My agenda was to join an organisation that promotes community. In my research, I found that cultural institutions have a monopoly on providing frequent, affordable events that also, frankly, seem fun. My hard-earned, limited income could instead go toward feeding starving children in Africa, which is surely a worthier cause than maintaining the art collection of an old mansion on Fifth Avenue. But starving children do not provide fun parties. Point: museum.