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American Christians stingy?

The American church is extremely wealthy. In fact, Christian Smith et al. have estimated that American Christians collectively earn more than 2 trillion USD a year.  This, Smith points out, “is more than the total Gross Domestic Products of every nation in the world except, at most, the six wealthiest—United States, Japan, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, and France” (Passing the Plate, 12)

Smith says:

“Let us imagine, then, that, from their abundance, American Christians began to give an average of 10 percent of their after-tax income to causes of their choosing.  To sustain the average, let us assume for now that Christians in more fortunate financial circumstances would give more than 10 percent in order to compensate for others in truly difficult financial circumstances who genuinely could not afford, at least during tight spells, to give 10 percent.  What specifically might American Christians accomplish with their shared resources?  The short answer is: enough to transform the world” (12).

The longer answer occupies the bulk of chapter one.  Smith decides to only factor in committed Christians (those identify themselves as “strong” or “very strong” Christians) because many so-called Christians may not be serious practitioners of their faith.  If only these committed Christians gave only 10 percent of their after-tax income, they would collect 46 billion USD with which they could serve the world.

But the reality is that American Christians do not give much of their money.  In fact, according to Smith, “At least one out of five American Christians—20 percent of all U.S. Christians—gives literally nothing to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities” (29).

Author: Casey Shutt

View more articles by Casey Shutt.

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