NEW YORK, March 9, 2013 — As much as various religions ask their parishioners to be generous to them, why aren’t they asking us to be generous to one another? Whether it’s via annual giving, a donation box by the door, or baskets passed between pews, houses of worship rely heavily on the donations from the congregation to stay afloat.
But what’s keeping society afloat? We’re reminded that such donations are in the name of God, but why then can’t churches instill in their members this same enthusiasm for charity for the rest of the world outside the church, synagogue, mosque, or celebrity center?
It’s old news that the economy has been in a nosedive since 2008, and though it seems hard for most of us to comprehend, most economic indicators point to an ever-expanding class divide. (This short video provided by Upworthy is an excellent example.) That seeing a child begging for money on the subway in the same city that has a 100 million-dollar apartment for sale doesn’t make our collective society bat an eye is beyond coo-coo; it’s ludicrous.
But perhaps the question isn’t just how can we stomach it, but how can God? And I’m talking about all of them.
Is asking us to be charitable outside of the church the church’s business? I think it is. If you disagree, keep in mind that many churches and religious leaders have no problem spouting opinions on just about any other matter, nor do most seem to shy away from getting political. So why do they shrink in the face of addressing class inequality?
If we believe in the Golden Rule, we should realize that a collective lack of concern for the weakest citizens is entirely inconsistent with that belief. There are many great people, religious and otherwise, who give what they can where they can without fanfare or acknowledgement, but how much good could be done if the various religions became more vocal about repairing the frightening and expanding income divide?
There are two resources that we can share with others: our time and our money. Most of us have at least one of them. You may not have them both in abundance, or even much of either, but even if you have only an hour or a dollar to give, why not give it? If your church can use it, so can a shelter. Churches are grateful for donations of time or money, and other charitable organizations are just as grateful. No charity will turn down your donation because it’s too small.
Christianity asks of us that we take care of each other, and so do other religious traditions. Why can’t our churches go one step further and literally ask us to share our resources outside of the church in a more direct way than a parable? I’m not proposing that people stop giving to their churches, but if we can find the time and money to support places of worship and to save souls, what else can we give to save families and lives?
Can religions help solve the inequality that is spreading through our country? That remains to be seen, but religion has played a central role in the development of western civilization, and it appeals to those parts of human nature that we like to represent the best of us, so why not give it a try? If religion can’t be used to make our society better and to improve the lives of the most impoverished and oppressed of us, what good is it?
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