Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I've been stuck on this ABC News program I watched a couple of weeks ago.

They talked about wealth, charity, greed and generosity. They talked about the philosophy of charitible giving and then the hard, cold statistics of who gives.

Turns out that 24 of the 25 most generous states (in giving to charity) are red states. I wasn't shocked by this, but they pointed out that the general perception is that the more liberal you are, the more likely it is that you'll give to charity...and that just isn't statistically true.

They pointed to the average head of household that was liberal and compared them to the average head of household that was conservative. They both made about the same amount of money (the liberal's made slightly more) yet the conservatives gave, on average, 30% more to charity. I wasn't shocked by this - but the reason this was newsworthy is there's the very real misperception that all republicans are hoarding their money so they can buy racist t-shirts that 4 year old children in Mongolia are making.

The facts are that in America - if you're a conservative - statistically it's more likely that you'll give more to charity than your neighbor that's liberal.

Some of you might shocked by this. "How could this be!!???" It must have been skewed somehow! I just know we're more concerned with problems than they are!"

Some of you might be thinking, "Sure, conservatives are more likely involved in a church and are just giving it to them"

They answered this by saying that obviously a lot of money was going to churches but that didn't change the numbers. The conservatives were still giving more of their income.

In fact, they gave more of their time and resources as well. If they voted for a Republican in the last election, there was over a 30% greater chance that they'd donated blood in the last year. It's not just money they're throwing at problems...they literally bled for the cause.

They came to the conclusion that these charities were seen as way more efficient than the government in meeting problems...so the conservatives gave to them, while the liberals believe the government is better at solving problems, so they didn't give nearly as much to charities (or necessarily give more in their taxes)

I just thought it was interesting...


  1. Anonymous9:32 AM

    that is quite interesting.

  2. well, I guess I need to change my political party vote in order to be a better citizen. I mean Christian. I mean, wait....

    Yeah. I pay consumer taxes for what I use. I pay federal taxes to make the government run. I pay local taxes to make sure the fire department shows up at my house when Fuller cooks dinner once a month. I pay once so that the government takes care of the people who are making the government work. I like that idea.

    The fact that crooked politicians use their power to find trips to St. Andrews for a couple rounds of golf each month have no bearing on whether I believe the government can do the job well.

    I guess I'm just an idealist. Or not a very good Christian. Or wait...what the hell am I again?

  3. Anonymous10:18 AM

    You conveniently forgot the second part of the same study. It is a myth that people with the most money are the most generous. "The most charitable people in America today are the working poor."

  4. I'm not sure that that was all that convenient. It wasn't part of my point - sure the richest and poorest were pointed out as the two groups that gave the largest portion of their income (the middle class was the group that gave the least)

    my point wasn't about that...or three of the five points that were made

    I was talking about conservative/liberal not rich/poor.

    I can't help but think of the judgmental church lady from SNL everytime I read, "isn't that convenient?"

  5. Murph,

    So you're saying liberals are selfish bastards?

    When will the hatred stop?

  6. now why would you read into the negative Steve?

    I'm saying that there is the possibility that "compassionate conservative" is a decent description of many.

  7. Anonymous8:40 AM

    I try to be careful not to read too much into that study. It would be easy to conclude that, since conservatives tend to do and give more, that they are more compassionate. But that's not really the case.

    Conservatives and Liberals are just compassionate in different ways:

    Conservatives are compassionate with their own time and money.

    Liberals are compassionate with other people's time and money.

    It's just a different approach - but I wouldn't say that one approach is more compassionate than the other.

  8. Well played, Brown.

  9. you didn't catch the 'wink wink' tone of Brown's comment?

  10. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Oh, yeah, I forgot:

    And these are honorable men.

  11. I like what Yancey wrote regarding the poor in The Jesus I never Knew,

    I do not believe the poor to be more virtuous than anyone else (though I have found them more compassionate and often more generous), but they are less likely to pretend to be virtuous. They have not the arrogance of the middle class, who can skillfully disguise their problems under a facade of self-righteousness. They are more naturally dependent, because they have no choice; they must depend on others simply to survive.

    I know this isn't has nothing to do with giving, but how would your thinking be influenced if it was you who has experienced poverty. I'm wondering when the last time you had to depend on someone else simply to survive.

  12. it's interesting that I wrote about conservatives giving time, energy and resources

    and people heard, "rich vs. poor"

    according to the government - someone with my income with a wife and three children all living off that income - is pretty darn poor

    but that isn't the point - I talked about helping a poor guy with his broken down car about an hour ago - with a group of folks about feeding folks who are homeless about an hour and a half ago - but this wasn't what I was writing about

    people get so mad when I point out that conservatives can be generous or care about the poor because that's not what they were told by NPR

    Somehow pointing out the generosity of one group brings out the defensiveness or offends the group that hates/dislikes those crazy conservatives

    sorry about that?

    I'm just trying to break a stereotype that I find silly

  13. I just tend to get defensive when I'm told that I do well spending other people's money before giving of my own resources.

    I find that stereotype silly.

    I'm not debating whether the report was right or wrong. I believe that you are one of the most clear, challenging communicators on the planet.

    I believe that conservatives are compassionate, but when I'm told that I'm no longer credible because I say that I'm a liberal, it just rubs me the wrong way.

  14. Anonymous12:42 PM

    It's an interesting question to consider: Why rely on private charity instead of the government? If it is true (and it's debatable) that government isn't effective in caring for the poor, why is that?

    I think it comes down to access. If we consider that there are two kinds of poor people - those who are poor due to sloth and laziness and those who are poor due to poor circumstances, oppressive situations, or previous bad decisions, I think we can see some things.

    Those who are slothful and lazy are generally able to do quite a bit, and therefore have quick access to government programs and resources (be it welfare, food stamps, etc).

    Those who are poor due to circumstance, poor previous decisions, disability, addiction (which I'll chalk up as a previous bad decision, as long as they're at a point where they desire to get out of addiction), etc. will generally have a more difficult time accessing government resources.

    So, with the government, it becomes first-come-first-served, and the resources go first to those who need them the least, and second to those who need them the most.

    Private charity, though, tends to have much more of a missional focus, and tends to go TO the people who need the most help, and are generally better-equipped to discern who needs the help and who will waste it. This isn't perfect, as there's no way to be sure that private charities will serve all those in need, but I tend to think that it generally works out better this way.

    That's why I generally prefer to have resources concentrated in private charities.

    It's not perfect, and it's debatable, for sure. But that's kind of what I'm thinking about it.

  15. [This has almost nothing to do with Sean's original post and more to do with what the dialogue has morphed into.]
    Given that most of the people who read this are freely giving, Jesus loving, God fearing souls I don't know that we can have a viable debate over the pros and cons of government programs vs. private charities. Because if all social programs were eliminated by the government tomorrow and they gave you a check for a fifth of your taxes back we would all run out as soon as possible and give it to a charity on top of the minimum 10% we already tithe to our churches, para-church organizations and charitable ministries. We would also continue to do that in the future, right? (Well Jimmy does need braces this year, we'll call that charity.) But do we really think the rest of the citizens of the USA would be as charitable. I mean the church has been so good at taking care of the poor in the past I'm sure they would pick up the slack left by the government. Obviously poverty would be eliminated within a decade, we're not doing that now because we don't want the government to get the credit?
    [Editors note: This post is almost entirely sarcastic.]

    I did find it interesting though that when the OneCity organization (a conglomeration of churches committed to giving their own money without any government assistance) tried to build a facility that would take care of the needs of thousands of poor and disadvantaged people in the middle of one of the most crime-ridden areas of our city, the mostly democratic city government essentially said "No, you can't. because it will devalue the property of the small minority of middle class people who have moved into this area to gentrify it." I guess the abandoned slaughterhouse cum squatters crack den that it was going to replace is really spiking the property values around there. Cincinnat has always been where the world is turned upside down.
    The way I see it, you can't eliminate government social programs because we live in a fallen world and the "center does not hold" but you also must not hinder the growth of healthy private charity unless you like living in a life size re-enactment of "Escape From New York".

  16. Anonymous2:56 PM

    I work down in that area (about 2 blocks from the proposed site), and I was conflicted about the OneCity project.

    On the one hand, it had the potential to provide really great services and opportunities to needy folks, all in one spot. Also, would provide tremendously improved facilities for several non-profits.

    On the other hand, there were several significant problems with it, as well, that ultimately doomed the project.

    The project had a strong potential to concentrate poverty, which is generally a bad thing.

    It put the center right in the middle of several grade schools, with the people who would frequent the facility moving in and out of its facilities at the same times that kids would be going to/from school.

    3CDC was a little too excited about it, potentially because it helped their pet-project: developing OTR into an entertainment district. That made me nervous, as well.

    It punished the West-End community that had been doing some good work to improve their area, while rewarding OTR, which had not made the same kinds of effort.

    The local residents weren't really open to rich white suburbanites coming into their community, bringing in lots of homeless and drug-addicted folks and folks with criminal records into their community. Most of the people supporting the project would probably not be excited about putting it next-door to their house and their kids' school.

    Like I said, though, I was conflicted - it's just worth noting that there were good arguments on both sides.

  17. Anonymous7:43 PM

    It seems like you have provoked some competition here...and when you say you are just trying to "break a stereotype that you find silly, in the same breath (or line of type in this case) you say that bringing out the generosity of one group brings out the "defensiveness or offends the group who hates/dislikes those crazy conservatives"
    wow...can't someone disagree with your premise without hating/disliking?
    It seems someone else here has THAT issue in trying so hard to "defend your title of conservative"...and as I thought, this whole subject is only dividing people, which is really "loving", eh? MY group is more living than your group, HA!

  18. Can we all get back to the original point:

    Sean Michael Murphy hates poor people!

    (I wish I knew the anonymous person who wrote that original comment a few weeks ago, so I could kiss him/her.)

  19. that's sort of my point - someone can disagree with my point, but that's not what's happening here.

    I say the Steeler's are great and automatically people start talking about the Bengals. I wasn't talking about the Bengals- it's off topic...it's something you do when you want to take the focus off of a point

    I like eggs

    Conservatives can be generous and care for the poor

    I'm not sure what "defend your title of conservative" even means...

    I also don't see people disagreeing with the premise (that statistically the conservatives are putting their time, energy and money out there...and not just talking about it) I don't see people arguing the stats - I just keep seeing them turn this into rich vs poor or bring something up that was never a part of my blog

    I'm sorry that red states give more than blue... I know that bugs people. I know that people want to believe the opposite is true, but it's not...that was newsworthy because the perception is the opposite...and I was pointing that out.

    It's sad that pointing out the strength of one group brings out the defensiveness of another, but that's an entirely diffent post

  20. I apologize for hijacking the thread and taking it to a "rich v. poor" discussion. I see that my comments contributed to that discussion and I take the responsibility.

    Stream of Consciousness now ensues:

    My original intent was to bring up a different perspective. You recently made the comment (not in this forum but an actual group setting), that you could place a guess on where everyone stood regarding annual income. And you would have most likely been correct with everyone in that room. So what if we did ask the question, "how would this report look if we were coming from the other side of the fence?"

    And by that I mean to ask, how would our view of giving change, whether expecting it to flow from private organization or government, whether we consider ourselves liberal or conservative, whether we have families or not, etc., had we actually spent a large enough portion of our lives genuinely needing someone else to make the necessary ends meet? Because I know that we can talk about red states and blue states and compassion/generosity flowing from each one individually, but again, how would we allow our labels to influence what we do had we actually been in the shoes of the other side.

    Mike Brown once made the statement that poor people are most likely to be poor because of decisions in their lives and a lack of education, which again is a decision in their life. But when was the last time he was actually in need of something he couldn't readily obtain? I on the other hand have just narrowly fended off another month of asking for food stamps so I could put a peanut butter sandwich in my stomach. We both have a four year degree, but we choose to spend our lives in completely different manors. It's okay for him to judge me differently because I feel more should be done to help people in my position? It's okay for me to side with the blue states in thinking that more responsibility should be in the hands of government to help the people?

    Regardless, I might ask how many in the red states AND blue states consider themselves "Christian". Maybe the numbers are skewed because in the state of Texas, there just happen to be a lot more church goers v. the population of Massachusetts. what does that do to the possibility of thinking who is compassionate and generous?

  21. good stuff Bragg

    it's been my experience that how your mom and dad voted is the biggest indicator to how you'll vote - bigger than religion, income or any other

    of course it's not uncommon to have an income and religion relatively close to your parents, so who knows?

    I believe there are incredibly poor people that agree with you and incredibly poor people that agree with Mike. Their place in life doesn't make them right or wrong - it just gives them a different perspective.

    All Mike would have to do is find one person who is getting food stamps and have them say the same thing - I'm not sure that it's any more legit if it comes from them or him....does that make sense?

    I do agree that we all have different life experiences that lead us to different conclusions about how to find life, security, safety...
    I don't think Mike should judge you for how you think or you should judge him for how you think...but what the crap do I know?

    I know you're always welcome at the Murphy home for some re-heated leftovers and good conversation.

  22. Thanks Sean. I'm in need of that conversation; Fuller hardly even looks at me anymore ever since I gained those Christmas pounds.

    you're right, again. anyone can find someone to support their idea. I guess if I offered the crazy homeless guy here in clifton a bottle of Mad Dog he'd say whatever I wanted him to say.

    Anyway, I just wish Fuller would look at me the way he used to...

  23. Anonymous5:37 PM

    For the record, as far as I know, I said no such thing.

    If I said something close to that and it was construed as such, then I'd like to take the opportunity to clarify, because that's not what I think, and so I'm pretty sure that it's not what I meant when I said it.

    Do you know what it was that I said, so that I can better explain it? Cause that's definitely not what I meant...

  24. Anonymous5:40 PM

    ...and I'm always perplexed as to whether or not I am in need (I am not) or ever have been (I have not) has anything to do with the validity of my opinion regarding the best way to deal with poverty.

    We all agree that more should be done to help the poor. The question is: Who Should do It? and: Who Should be Forced to do It?

  25. I stand corrected. You just set up scenarios which seem to support the idea that Democrats (liberals) are poor and Republicans (conservatives) are rich. What with all stupidity being equal.

    forgive me for interpreting that you believe that to remain mostly true, even though you said they were scenarios...

    here's the discussion to which I am referring:


  26. oh, and i'm still waiting on the venn diagram...

  27. Anonymous8:07 PM

    I thought that's what you might be discussing.

    I thought that we had come to the conclusion that I was making no statements about poor people being any stupider than other economic classes? That's why I didn't bother with the Venn diagram.

    But, yes, there are many people who are poor because they are stupid and/or make stupid decisions. Is that up for debate? There are also many people who are poor in spite of being highly intelligent and making many good decisions. I would contend that the former equally deserving of mercy as the latter. So what is the point of this conversation?

  28. if I said something close to that and it was construed as such, then I'd like to take the opportunity to clarify, because that's not what I think, and so I'm pretty sure that it's not what I meant when I said it.

    so the clarification comes when?

    you tend to favor (in your tone, style, beliefs that come through in your writing, etc.) the notion that poor people and liberals are somewhat connected. at least that's what I read whenever you have something to say regarding this topic.

    but you're right, what's the point of this conversation? I made a comment to Sean's original point of red v. blue states and what correlation existed between the population and their political beliefs. Washington state is a blue state and Nebraska is a red state. Considering the historical context of these two states, it would make sense that Nebraska (being in the Bible belt) would hold more conservatives than liberals. So how do the individual state populations change the results of the poll and change the idea of charity among the populous? You came into my thought because I wonder how your views might change should you live a good portion of you adult life in constant need and dependence on someone else to make ends meet.

    How many times have you been dependent on someone else because that's all you have? Would your giving methods and beliefs of charity change if you were skirting the poverty line?

  29. Anonymous10:12 PM

    As I said before, I've never been dependant on others' support(at least not in a significant way that I can think of), other than that of my parents. I've been blessed, without a doubt.

    And I don't know if it would change my opinions. I haven't been in that situation. So it's just speculation. I would hope that being poor wouldn't keep me from being generous, but I imagine that it would be very difficult to be generous and give out of my poverty. But I'm commanded to be generous and give sacrificially, regardless of my financial situation. Also, I would hope that I would still try to think about what is ultimately the best for poor people on the whole - not what I feel like people should do.

  30. Did anyone read my post from Thursday? Just asking.

  31. Anonymous11:20 PM

    yup. i hate that passage, because every time i read it, i immediately am convicted by just how relevant it is to me.

    see how well i'm doing with it?

    ...and mike brown is an honorable man.

  32. Fuller,
    you have a blog?