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Some interesting fish wrap found in one of this week's Beacon commentary sections. This fish wrap was authored by that bowtied bruiser of brilliance, George Will. George, always the condescending little pr*ck with a wide vocabulary, decided to write a column telling us liberals how uncharitable we are. Reporting on a book he has read, "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism" by Arthur Brooks, the bowtied bore recites the charitable giving numbers according to conservative or liberal persuasion and then states that the numbers mean that conservatives really are compassionate....more compassionate than progressives. The reason for such a conclusion?
"The single biggest predictor of someone's altruism, (Texas State Supreme Court Justice)Willett says, is religion."
"America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one — secular conservatives." Link
First....I'm not doubting that the numbers in Will's column are correct. But the boring bowtied boy fails to expand upon why it is that religious conservatives give more to charitable organizations than their liberal counterparts. Judge Willett, Will reports, can predict a person's altruistic tendencies simply by finding out how religious the person is.
Unsurprisingly, I disagree.....completely.
Tax exemption is the key. All religious groups and organizations, or almost all, have gratuitously been granted tax exempt status in the good old U.S.A. Where the donation envelope hits the road of tax exempt reality is found the motivation of these compassionate conservatives in giving to charitable organizations in larger numbers than liberals.
But far from being a predictor of altruism (the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others).....it is instead, a predictor of self-centeredness. I know about this charitable church donations stuff. When a compassionate conservative gives oh-so-charitably to his local church, he is giving to himself. Far and away the majority of charitable donations given to local tax exempt status churches go for those local churches' operational costs. Salaries, building maintenance, building funds, utilities, Sunday School materials, radio/teevee time, etc.
How giving to defray the operational costs of your local church is a predictor of "devotion to the welfare of others".....well.....I suppose a bowtie is required to comprehend. To apply Willett's, and therefore Will's, thinking......one might come away with the impression that when church goers place their offering envelopes in the plate that they are giving from their hearts to help complete strangers in need. When what they are really doing is helping themselves by financing their own church's budget.
Sure, there are exceptions to what I'm saying. But the rule still stands.
Second....how can giving, altruistically according to Will, really be motivated by "unselfish concern" when the giver benefits by giving? Isn't the tax deduction motivation present in the minds of conservatives? Or does the altruistic minded conservative giver refuse to allow earthly motivations to enter their Spirit filled brain? Not only does the conservative giver benefit directly from his donation by keeping his church open for business.....but in addition.....the conservative giver benefits directly from the tax deduction he receives, often resulting in a tax refund. If that's altruism....I'm Michael the ArchAngel.
No....none of what Will is seeking to convey comes out clean after washing. Instead the opposite dynamic is actually closer to truth.
Conservatives give to their local churches to primarily help themselves and those who belong to their group.....and to get that tax deduction. Those are selfish reasons. Conservative donors, and I know this from experience, also donate out of fear of an angry God. Religious donors also charitably donate for reasons of pride. Many conservative tax exempt religious groups promote an ego-bloating campaign by giving special recognition, special status to the larger donors. Tithing, in many situations, is a test of faith.
None of this can pass for altruism.....or even come close.
The truth is this: Religious conservatives serve themselves and there immediate groups while simultaneously receiving tax deductions from the state and/or credits filed in heaven.
Not altruistic....but inward looking. Conservatives, at the same time, do not want the government to be charitable unless there's something in it for them.....see Faith Based Initiatives. All this should never be mistaken for being charitable, compassionate or altruistic.
Liberals, not as religious as conservatives I admit, are actually being more altruistic, more compassionate than conservatives by supporting truly charitable assistance programs by the federal government to help people they don't know or will never meet. Government programs that conservative Christians, in the majority of cases, simply detest.
My suggestion for George Will? Instead of reading so many new books, tighten up that chic-hip bowtie a bit, go out amongst the unwashed, and try to find reality. Compassionate conservatism has been on display for at least 7 1/2 years now. We know what it looks like.