Sunday, December 24, 2006

Book Review: Who Really Cares

The Wall Street Journal recently ran Wilfred McClay's review by of the new book, Who Really Cares, by Arthur Brooks. (Dec. 22, '06).

Misters Brooks and McClay confirmed what I've known for years--religious people give more than political liberals who talk a lot about giving, but would prefer that the government empty its pockets first.

I don't usually talk politics in this blog because I know it's a quaqmire from which there is no escape. But it's so refreshing to hear this news, I couldn't resist.

The following is from the review:

"Mr. Brooks speaks here with the authority of a liberal who has been mugged by the data. 'These are not the sorts of conclusions I ever thought I would reach,' . . . He fully expected to find confirmation at every turn that political liberals 'cared more about others than conservatives did.' But his empirical findings simply refused to comply with his expectations . . . Mr. Brooks concludes that four distinct forces appear to have primary responsibility for making people behave charitably: religion, skepticism about the government's role in economic life, strong famlies and personal entrepreneurship. Those Americans who have all four, or at least three, are much more likely to behave charitably than those who do not."

  • people who attend houses of worship regularly are 25 percent more likely to give and 23 percent more likely to volunteer, and the religious give away four times the amounts of money than the secular do.

  • Conservative households give thirty percent more to charity than liberal households.

  • Redistributionist liberals give about a fourth of what redistributionist skeptics give.

Mr. McClay, author of the review, says, "One can hope that this debate will refresh our patterns of social thought by reintroducing some very old ideas: the importance of giving as one of the central activities of a free people and the profoundly spiritual paradox that giving is itself the ultimate source of our greatest wealth and happiness."

Can it be that one reason the country assumes that conservatives are stingy and liberals are generous is because liberals talk about giving to the poor while conservatives are mindful of the admonition to "let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing?" Some of the greatest gifts are given quietly, anonymously, without any fanfare. And those are the givers, I think, who enjoy the greatest reward.

Perhaps religious people give more because they recognize that what they have comes from God. And, mindful of their blessedness and unworthiness, they are quick to pass God's bounty on to the less fortunate. Or perhaps they are simply obeying the admonitions we find over and over in Scripture: blessed is the man who gives.

A friend of mine tells the story of Christ's advent something like this: Gabriel was planning a huge to-do for the son of God's arrival on earth--a display of shooting stars, a parade of angelic choirs, a heavenly procession through the clouds.

But God said, "No, I had something different in mind. He will come to earth as a baby, be entrusted to poor parents, and be born in a humble animal pen."

Gabriel was crestfallen. All his fantastic plans . . . would he not be allowed to do anything?

Not wanting to hurt the angel's feelings, God the Father relented. "Okay," he said, "I'll let you do something. You can use one angel choir . . . and one star."

This Christmas, let us not forget that we live . . . because God gave.

A blessed Christmas to you and yours!


1 comment:

eileen said...

How real that one angel one star is after seeing The Nativity last night. Wow.

Merry Christmas!