Archive for Monday, November 15, 2010

How should faith and holidaytime charity mix?

November 15, 2010


Judy Roitman, guiding teacher, Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.:

When you breathe, you take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. We give to plants. Plants give to us. Over and over. Whether we want to or not, with every breath we’re already giving. And taking. It’s called reciprocity.

But it’s not one-on-one reciprocity. I send something out, something comes in. From who? From where? You can’t really trace it. This is called interdependence. Charity is simply an extension of this.

Every religion emphasizes charity. In Christianity, it is one of the three theological virtues. In Judaism, one of the major religious obligations. In Buddhism, the first of the six perfections. In Islam, one of the five major practices. In Hinduism, the third of the ten virtuous acts. And so on. Not optional. Not just for the rich. Everyone has something they can give.

Despite all the appeals coming to your mailbox right now, charity has no season. It may be convenient to save all of our check-writing until the end of the year, but that’s just convenience. The world is small and getting smaller. Nobody lives in a bubble. We can always be alert to need when it presents itself, and do a little more than we think we can.

Finally, forget the idea that the one who gives is better than the one who receives. We are all giving and we are all receiving, all of the time. The only question is: what.

— Send e-mail to Judy Roitman at

The Rev. Jill Jarvis, Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:

Our religious and cultural holidays honor the most sacred and foundational stories of human communities. Told and re-told through the ages, these stories take on mythological significance as they uplift the wisdom and validate the lived experience of past and present generations. Celebrated as the beloved holidays of human history, they connect us to our past and remind us of our most cherished values.

Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas are fast approaching, the predominate winter holidays in our American, Judeo-Christian culture. They remind us of our obligations as people of faith: to resist the voices of oppression that would demonize some among us; to bring our full humanity to create peace and build a fairer world for all our brothers, sisters, and friends; and to live always with a sense of gratitude. True gratitude is a profound awareness of our utter dependence on the people and world around us, and their utter dependence on us. We are called to co-create a world that will justify an increasing sense of gratitude for the generations that follow.

But there is a danger, an irony, in this annual celebration of our holidays. The extended period of feasting, partying, shopping, over-consumption, and yes, even charitable giving, has the effect of focusing our attention on ourselves, our friends and family, and our stuff. Reminded that there are others less fortunate, our holiday-inspired generosity is often expressed in charitable giving: the privileged donating to the poor. It's all too easy to forget that we're all members of one human family, of equal inherent worth, born into unequal and unmerited circumstances. Rather than being givers of charity, we are called to use the privileges we inherit to stand in solidarity with all people, throughout all the seasons of our lives.

— Send e-mail to Jill Jarvis at


yourworstnightmare 6 years, 8 months ago

Because GOD has nothing to do with morality.

booyalab 6 years, 8 months ago

If you were a religious person, you would donate an average of 4 times more to charities (including secular ones) and volunteer twice as much a year. I suppose after reading this, you'll tell me that charity and volunteering also have nothing to do with morality. Well, you brought it up first.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 8 months ago

I want to see your source for this statistic.

Also, this statistic includes donations to churches themselves as offerings, so it is a little skewed.

Yes it is true. Religious people do indeed give more to churches in the form of charity. Shocker.

Charity and volunteering absolutely do have to do with morality. GOD and religion do not.

booyalab 6 years, 8 months ago That wasn't my original source, but it cites the same study.

You contradicted yourself when you said that religious people give more to church, in the form of charity, and that that somehow precludes religious people from being considered more charitable. Though you said that charity has to do with morality

Even if all of a Christian's charitable donating is to their church, the point remains that athiests don't have equivalent vehicles for donating so while they would probably consider charitable donations to be moral, they don't live up to their own standards as much.

Finally, let me paint a broader, more historical picture for you to illustrate my point. Western morality, including yours (unless you're a sociopath), developed in a strongly judeo-christian context. Something as obvious to you as the fact that you consider murder and rape to be wrong can't just be attributed to your own opinion, when there are cultures that exist today that are tolerant of both.

Stuart Evans 6 years, 8 months ago

there actually is no purpose. if your reproduce, you've done your part to continue the evolution of species. if you do not reproduce, you are just part of the waste that makes up the bulk of all life.

Just_as_if 6 years, 8 months ago

Reproduction is NOT evoulution. God told Adam and Eve, and then Noah his wife and sons and their wifes to "Be fruitful and multiply" He did not tell them to go and evolve. And just because a person does not reproduce, it does not make them 'waste'!

geekin_topekan 6 years, 8 months ago

Who cares how they mix? Jus show me da money!!

Kris_H 6 years, 8 months ago

This seems like a completely pointless subject to me. If you are a giving person, you are going to do that whether you do it through a faith-based charity or just do it. Sometimes it seems like people are more interested in tooting their own horns, like "Oh, my faith group gives X number of dollars every year, what does yours do?" Uh..I give what I can give and no amount of religious arm-twisting can change that. And I chosse what and how I give, not depending on someone else making that choice for me.

It is true that people have needs all year long. Thus I try NOT to concentrate my giving only in the holiday season. I may not go through any kind of organization at all to do it, and I never ask for recognition. And it is absolutely the truth that religion has no exclusive connection with morality. I live that proof every single day.

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but there are a lot of atheists out there who donate time and money and a lot of allegedly good church going people who never donate time and only put money in the plate when they go to church. Believing, or not believing, in God does not automatically mark a person as good or bad. It depends on how they believe in themselves.

booyalab 6 years, 8 months ago

So how exactly does believing in oneself result in better morals? I ask because criminals are known to have awesome self-esteem.

anneht 6 years, 8 months ago

Who is surprised that these two groups would leave God out of the discussion????

Stuart Evans 6 years, 8 months ago

why would God need to be included in the discussion. So the story goes, that God created everything; people, food, good & bad. If good people are having to point out bad people, who may or may not be taking care of other people, who can't seem to come up with food, then I think God isn't really participating, and we shouldn't invite him to the meeting.

Just_as_if 6 years, 8 months ago

Because since God DID create everything, we should be thankful for the things that we have. That is the WHOLE and COMPLETE reason for the holiday of Thanksgiving. To give Thanks to God for what he has blessed and given to us!

MrRighty 6 years, 8 months ago

There are good people and bad people. Intermixed in and overlapping those two groups are believers in God and atheists in both camps. Good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things; regardless of their beliefs. Everyone is just waiting for someone to type the word God or leave it out so they can pounce and rail about their agenda. You want to worry about a church, worry about the Church of Political Correctness or the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Lots of Kool-Aid being drunk in both of those denomintions. Put your poison pens away, go out in public, and just smile at someone. It may be the only smile they see today. Go out to eat tonight and leave your hard-up waitress a $50 tip...just because. Spend 8 hours in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless. Buy a coat and take it to the rescue mission. Do something besides whine on here.

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