The LA Times is irked about the 2006 book “Who Really Cares,” by Arthur C. Brooks, in which Brooks reported on a DECADE of research, both within the United States and overseas, into the single question of how one’s political beliefs affect one’s personal charitable behavior.
Brooks wrote in his preface that he was raised liberal and went into this field specifically to prove to conservatives that liberals were more charitable. After ten years of finding out he was wrong, wrong and wrong (even abroad), he gave it up and admitted that right-wingers give a larger percentage of their money and more of their time and blood than left-wingers, even when donations to churches are removed.
Two points here are really important, because this LA Times article is very sneering about Brooks’ findings. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-conservatives-or-liberals-20140331-story.html. (Methinks the writer never actually read the book, but is merely reporting on what he kinda sorta heard was reported about it by others.)
Point One: Brooks’ research was his dedicated field of study for a decade. He was TRYING to prove liberals were more generous. He failed. The LA Times article supposedly trashes all that with ONE study slapped together by two guys at MIT? Riiiiiiiiight.
Point Two: The MIT and LA Times both stressed that conservatives only give more because they’re generous personally AND to their churches. There are two problems with this. The major one is that Brooks addressed that and found it to be incorrect. There’s a whole bunch of stuff about that in his book … which I read. In fact, I own it. He found that conservatives give more overall AND give a larger percentage of their income and more volunteer hours to both church and to non-church charities; heck we even give more blood!
Also, the attitude expressed in the article is that church donations are inherently “not generous”, because churches only use the money to benefit their own wealthy members. Obviously, these people actually believe that churches are just really boring country clubs, which makes me suspect they have (a) not read Brooks’ book and (b) never spent any time in a real church. Where I live, the kitchen cupboard, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, thrift shop, and “second chance” housing project (for convicts who have served their time) are all church-backed projects. The churches in my area also provide low cost space for non-church activities like day care and aerobics classes.
I can’t speak to other congregations, but my parish never refuses a family the use of our beautiful facility for weddings or funerals just because they have never darkened the doorstep before. And I know for a fact that my diocese continued to fund an inner city school long after the Catholic kids had moved to the burbs. All the students were black Baptists; even the principal was a black Baptist. And no, it wasn’t about proselytizing; it was about providing the ONLY quality educational opportunity that neighborhood had after the public school had become a wasteland of politically correct mediocrity and violence.
Point Three: The LA Times article seems to assume (or totally ignores … probably didn’t read the book) the over-arching point of Brooks’ book, which was that big government welfare is bad for human beings in a way that is rarely or never acknowledged. In short, it makes people selfish and selfishness makes people unhappy. If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to do so. It’s enlightening and uplifting, unlike the LA Times article which is sneering and left me wanting to take a bath.