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December 19, 2006

May the Force be with you

I've been reading Arthur Brooks's new book, Who Really Cares: Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters (Chuck will be talking about this in an upcoming BreakPoint).

Much of this book's subject matter has been discussed in the news, but here is a point that has not: The effect of welfare reform on charitable giving. Brooks cites evidence that people, when they get off welfare, tend to give more to charity and volunteer their time. But, Brooks asks, "Is leaving welfare the reason these people gave and volunteered more? Perhaps the people most likely to give time and money to charity are the people most likely to get off welfare in the first place. In other words, there might be a force out there that makes needy people both charitable and resistant to long-term welfare dependency. A good candidate for such a force is religion."

As Brooks notes, "We already know that [religion] makes people more generous than they otherwise would be. It might make them more self-reliant as well . . ..This evidence would come as no surprise to many religious social service organizations" that apply "religious faith in the rehabilitation of criminals and drug abusers."

Take, for instance, Prison Fellowship's InnerChange Freedom Initiative. Brooks does. Although he doesn't mention IFI by name in the body of the book, he does in his notes. As he writes in Chapter 4:

One typical organization that uses Christian faith in providing job and life skills to prison inmates describes its programs as "anchored in biblical teaching that stresses personal responsibility, the value of education and work, care of persons and property and the reality of a new life in Christ." Just as faith helps former criminals become productive citizens, it might help resolve the problems leading some people to need welfare in the first place.

Which brings to mind the Americans United lawsuit against PF's IFI program. Perhaps we could get Mr. Brooks to write an amicus brief in support of allowing InnerChange to continue to do its good work in Iowa prisons: transforming the lives of hardened criminals. Oh, wait, I forgot: For secular liberals, it's not about what works; it's not about what's good for society; it's about shutting down the Church--and then accusing Christ's followers of being selfish and greedy.

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Anecdotally, I can say that observed connection between leaving welfare and other social support and becoming more charitable/generous makes all the sense in the world. You become more aware, more empathetic.


I'm reminded of a few lines in a Steven Curtis Chapman song from a few years ago:

"There's no one more thankful to sit at the table
than the one who best remembers hunger's pain"

- "Remember Your Chains"

...that song still gives me chills thinking about it...


Exactly, you've been there, you know how real it is, you no longer believe that anyone can be successful if they'd just try, and therefore condemn, rather than help, the invisible destitute in the land.

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