Study reveals church-goers give more to churches than people who don’t go to church give to those churches

Here’s a headline from Christianity Today:Religious States Donate More to Charity Than Secular States.”

It’s about a new report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The problem with that headline is that, well, that’s not actually what the study says.

From CT’s Melissa Steffan:

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Americans in Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina gave the highest percentages of their discretionary income to charity. Of these, only Utah averaged more than 10 percent.

The correlation between the religious preferences of Americans in those states — high density of Mormons in Utah and Protestant Christians in the Bible Belt South — is notable. The report concludes that donors in the most generous region, the South, “give roughly 5.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity — both to religious and to secular groups — compared with donors in the Northeast, who give 4.0 percent.”

Ah, so then giving to “charity” includes giving “both to religious and secular groups.” Like, say, to your church.

So, did the Chronicle also look at such “charitable” giving if donations to churches are not included? Yes, actually, they did.

However, the data also indicate that “the generosity ranking changes when religion is taken out of the picture. People in the Northeast give the most, providing 1.4 percent of their discretionary income to secular charities, compared with those in the South, who give 0.9 percent.”

In other words, pretty much the opposite of Christianity Today’s triumphalist headline. The study actually shows that the religious are much more likely to give to religion. Church members, apparently, are likelier to donate to their churches than non-church members are.

What a remarkable finding. How surprising. How newsworthy.

Set aside those “charitable” donations to local churches, and the study shows that the churchier regions are generally stingier toward “secular” charities. You know, like those secular categories of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.

Speaking of that passage from Matthew 25, I learned today — also via Steffan at CT’s blog — that Mitt Romney cites Matthew 25:35-36 as a favorite Bible verse:

He quoted Matthew 25:35-36 in the King James Version, which states, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me.”

That’s … unexpected. I’d have guessed Romney’s favorite was something more like 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

For the record, President Barack Obama mentioned Isaiah 40:31, which was always the senior yearbook quote for at least three students every year at my Christian school:

But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

And Obama also cheated by sneaking in a second favorite passage, Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah, Selah, Selah.

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