Charitable Giving Habits of Americans

Living abroad for many years, one of the things which I came to realize and be impressed with, is how much American citizens give to charitable causes.

I was living in Hungary when the monster earthquake hit Haiti, and Hungarians were blown away to hear that average people in the United States were giving generously to help provide aid and relief for people they had never met in some faraway country. They were used to governments giving aid to regions with humanitarian crises, but for regular people to do such a thing was surprising to them.

It could be because people in the United States have more expendable income than people in most parts of the world, and that our currency is strong and goes further than other currencies. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that there is a culture here in the United States of using what we have to do good for other people.

Perhaps it comes from our history: having been a nation of immigrants, whose ancestors moved here to seek a better life or to escape poverty, and so it is built into our collective psyche, to use what we have to help others, knowing that we have experienced divine providential fortune to live in this country.

It also can’t be ignored, that a great number of Americans identify as ‘religious’. Part of the Judeo-Christian ethic is that, like Abraham, if we have been blessed, it is so we might be a blessing to others – that God wants to bless other people through us (Genesis 12:2).

The Sacramento Bee published an article last month, showing the Adjusted Gross Income of every county in the US compared to how much was given in that county to charitable causes, non-profits and churches.

Interestingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, it was the poorer counties which gave more per capita than the richer ones. One of the major factors in how much people in a given county gave to charity seems to be religious affiliation; places with more people who attend religious services saw higher rates of charitable giving.

The idea that people who have less tend to give more may not be surprising to everyone. Jesus drew the attention of his disciples to a woman in the temple who gave her last 2 mites – all that she had, whereas other people who had more gave less of what they had. Preachers have long cited statistics which show the same thing: ironically, the more one accrues, the more miserly they tend to become with it.

How about Boulder County, Colorado, where yours truly is located? 2.6% of income was given to charity. That’s pretty low, and pretty ironic, because people in Boulder County, in my experience, talk a lot about being “locally minded and globally conscious” and caring about the well-being of other people, even if most of them are not Christian or attend religious services of any kind.

Neighboring Weld County was not much better at 2.7%, Larimer County came in at 3.2% (there are quite a few more church-going folks up there).

Here is the map with each county’s income versus charitable giving:

http://public.tableau.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js

Dashboard 1

 
Do you give charitably? The Bible recommends 10% of one’s income. The only places that came close to that number were the heavily Mormon populated counties of Utah.

Where do you direct your giving towards?

 

The American Religion of Parenting

A few days ago I was scanning Twitter and was intrigued by the title of an article: How American parenting is killing the American marriage

The article is a very insightful critique of the culture of parenting – or “religion of parenting”, as the author calls it – in our society, and the results of it.

Of particular interest to me was how the author points out that there is an unspoken understanding in our society that the value of a human life peaks out at birth and diminishes from there.

The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid-1980s. Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, “Middle-aged accountant on board.”

Today I talked with a great lady from our church who heads up an outreach called “Project Greatest Gift”, in which we provide Christmas gifts for children in foster care. Weld County told us that many of the children in foster care are living with elderly people, and they asked if we might be willing to provide gifts for the caretakers this year as well.
This seems like a great opportunity for us to show that we value all human life, both young and old.

Another important insight of the article is how this religion of parenting has led to a quickly rising divorce rate among empty nesters:

In the 21st century, most Americans marry for love. We choose partners who we hope will be our soulmates for life. When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soulmate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion. We raise our children as best we can, and we know that we have succeeded if they leave us, going out into the world to find partners and have children of their own. Once our gods have left us, we try to pick up the pieces of our long neglected marriages and find new purpose. Is it surprising that divorce rates are rising fastest for new empty nesters?

I think that one of the things the Christian church has done well is championing marriage. The writer to the Hebrews says: “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭13‬:‭4‬ ESV) I have had the privilege to see successful Christians marriages that thrived even after the kids left the house, because they made their marriage and not their children the center of their family.

Scientists flying over Colorado oil boom find worse air pollution

Scientists flying over Colorado oil boom find worse air pollution

This article from the Denver Post claims that “scientists have found that Colorado’s Front Range oil and gas boom has been emitting three times more methane than previously believed — 19.3 tons an hour.”

A friend of mine had this to say about it: “Maybe if these companies spent as much money on being ‘clean’ as they did on advertisements telling us ‘it’s safe,’ it would actually be safe.”

I certainly have noticed a huge push in media advertisements from oil companies claiming that fracking is safe – radio and television ads, not to mention internet marketing and mass mailers.

What are your thoughts on fracking? Do you think that environmentalists are making a big deal about something which could potentially be a great thing for our nation?

I like the idea of energy independence; I think the US should pursue it.  At the same time, I’m glad to live in Longmont, where fracking has been banned. I like clean air and clean water and the whole fracking experiment seems risky to me.

It seems hard to get truly objective information on the risks of fracking. Even the information that is put out about how safe and environmentally friendly it is seems to be from those who stand to benefit from it financially.

Please let me know your thoughts on fracking below in the comments section.

The Best Place to Own a Home in Colorado

Firestone, CO

According to NerdWallet, Firestone, CO is the best place to own a home in Colorado.

This article on the Firestone town website boasts that Firestone is 30 minutes from Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. Curiously, they don’t mention that Firestone is also a short 30 min drive from everyone’s favorite Northern Colorado city: Greeley 🙂 However, Firestone clearly has closer ties to Longmont than to Greeley, even though Greeley is their county seat.

My wife and I considered a home in Firestone when we were looking for a place to live in Longmont. We could have bought a nicer house for less money in Firestone than in Longmont, but in the end, my wife doesn’t like rural areas and we were afraid that if we lived in Firestone we wouldn’t have many visitors because people wouldn’t be willing to make the drive out. For some people that might be part of the appeal! Whether it’s true or not, we may never know.

However, with Firestone being right in the middle of everything in Northern Colorado, it would go to figure that living there you spend a lot of time in the car no matter where you want to go.

Another factor in why we moved to Longmont rather than Firestone is because I wanted to be as close to the mountains as I could afford – so we specifically wanted to live in Northwest Longmont, near to MacIntosh Lake, Rabbit Mountain, Lyons and Estes Park.

What do you think?  Any Firestone residents out there who want to chime in and let us know the joys and/or difficulties of living in “the best place to own a home in Colorado”?

Project Greatest Gift – A Longmont Initiative to Help Children in Foster Care

One of the great outreaches we do here at White Fields church in Longmont is a home-grown initiative called Project Greatest Gift, which is our ministry at Christmastime to children in foster care.

Project Greatest Gift has been a tradition at White Fields since the beginning of our church, but in the past it was limited in the number of families we were able bless. After looking at ways to broaden its impact on the community and considering alternative programs such as Operation Christmas Child, we decided to attempt to bless the “orphans” of Northern Colorado. Since no orphanages existed in this area, God led us to reach out to local foster families. A couple in the church was heavily involved in the foster system and they offered to make contacts within that system to find families in need. Beginning in 2009, as a result of God’s provision and their efforts, we were able to begin blessing the foster families in Weld and Adams counties through the generous gifts of the congregation at White Fields.  Over the years, we have continued to see God’s great provision for us so we are able to continue to share His abundance with others.

In past years, our church family has provided gifts for around 40 to 60 kids. This year we have had a great outpouring of generosity, and people from our congregation have signed up to provide gifts for 90 children in Adams and Weld counties!

For those of you unfamiliar with the purpose of foster care, it is safe homes, loving caregivers and other family members who take in and provide for children whose living situation is unsafe.  Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, many children live in homes with parents addicted to drugs, who are neglectful or abusive, or who do not know how to care for children appropriately.  So foster homes are critical to meet the needs of these children while birth parents work to recover and learn to parent.  Sometimes, foster homes are also where children’s needs are met while they await a forever home through adoption.  Children in foster care experience grief and loss.  Even when their living situation was unsafe, children mourn its loss, as that is all they had ever known.  Foster parents serve not only as loving caretakers, but often also as counselors as they help the children in their care through this grief and loss.  We are so thankful that we can in some way bless these foster families too by helping provide gifts at Christmastime.

In addition to the blessing of Christmas gifts, please pray for these children that they would soon have a forever family, and more importantly, that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their savior, and God as their Heavenly Daddy.