A recent study has found that religious people, in general, have less compassion than others who are not religious. NPR article This is odd, since it has already been shown that religious people tend to give more to charity than the non-religious. Study by Stanford
What does this mean? First of all, that the religious give more out of duty rather than compassion. It would be interesting to try to get the numbers that religious and secular people give to charities to the poor or give to political causes or one’s own religious community. It also means that duty is a more effective means of motivating giving rather than compassion.
For Christians, however, why should this be? There is something terribly wrong with this. Some Christians say, “The important thing is that we are giving, not the motivation for giving.” At least when I first posted the original study and concluded something was wrong, that was the response I got. Obedience to the command of giving is what is important, not the motivation behind it.
I strongly disagree. For a number of reasons.
First of all, to give out of duty means that giving is significant, not where we give. Most Christians feel that it is sufficient to give to their church and their church primarily gives that money to staff salaries and property maintenance and growth. Because there is little concern about compassion, little of the money actually goes where Jesus says it goes. He never said, “Sell your possessions and give to the church.” The apostles didn’t take the sacrifice of the people and give themselves good salaries, nor did they build any buildings. Rather, they used the far majority of their funds creating programs for the poor. (Acts 4-5) The poor is where the majority of Christian funds should be given. There is nothing wrong with salaries (“The worker is worth his hire”) or buildings necessarily, but if the staff and buildings aren’t used for the benefit of the poor, then we are disobeying Jesus command. Thus, neglecting our true duty.
Secondly, we are supposed to have the character of God. This isn’t taught much in Christian churches, (sadly), but there is a strong theme in the NT about having the character of God. “Be imitators of God and walk in love” (Eph 5:1) “Love your enemies so you may be sons of your Father in heaven for he is kind to the ungrateful.” (Matthew 5:42-43)
And most Christians do know that we are supposed to imitate Jesus. And one of the main characteristics of Jesus is compassion for those in need. “He had compassion on them.” (Just in Matthew: 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). Jesus spent all of his time teaching and meeting people’s needs. He really had no other ministry.
If the church of Jesus has rejected compassion as their main motivation, but duty, they are no longer sons of God, who is “gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in merciful faithfulness.” Instead, we are slaves. The slave does the duty of the Master because they must. It is the son of the Master that sees his duty as being like the Master.
We all have a certain amount of empathy. Without it, we cannot learn, we cannot live in societies or communities. And we have the ability to exercise our compassion. If we refuse to grow our compassion, we refuse to become like God, thus we are refusing to be children of God. Yes, we can give out of duty, but then we remain slaves.
God deliver us from our limited moral vision.
Anselm said that to know we must first have firm faith. Honestly, we can’t figure out anything until we first stand on something.
DesCartes experimented with what he could know if he doubted everything. However, he was an amateur cynic. That which he accepted, his own existence, was doubted by others given the same set of criteria. The fact is, if we stand on nothing, we are left floating, aimless, pointless, purposeless. If we refuse all faith, we end up being led by others’ knowledge and our contradictory desires.
If we must remain firm about something, what should we remain firm on?
Some choose religion, a system of thought that someone else created. That’s good to begin with as long as when religion finally fails us, we must be ready to stand on something else.
Some choose a self-improving government because even if it fails today, we can always work toward a better tomorrow. Or law because it creates justice and bad laws can be done away with. But even government and law cannot be aimless. They, too, must rest on something.
Some, without thought, rest upon fear. They uphold the structures they are used to and the family they care for and either avoid or attack those who threaten these personal institutions. The problem with relying on fear is someone elses’ fear will end up attacking us. Fear leads to destruction, every time.
I think Tolstoy had it right. Love– or the well being of all people– is the only faith worth establishing. We still need to clearly define what love is, and how to make sure that everyone has well being, but this we know: love needs freedom. And if we give love freedom, then fear must be limited. Or possibly thrown away completely.
Once we rest on love, it doesn’t take to long before we realize that love needs power if it is to accomplish anything.
In that moment, may we fully understand that God is love.
In the early part of 1969 my non white, re-education about the issue of race began.I was stationed in Fort Jackson South Carolina, for General supply school. I was a White 18 year old male from an upper Middle class family. My first day there I discovered that I was the only white person in the entire company.Almost didn’t make it through the first couple of days. If it weren’t for Marvin and Phillip two black guys, who took me under wing and decided to educate me. Part of the education was a trip to their home in the heart of Mississippi. Those were the days when whites went in one door and coloreds went into another. Where a Black man in uniform was not allowed to stand on the same side walk as a white man and had to look down when a white man passed.
Fast forward 4 years. I am being rescued by a Mr. Cleavland Harrison Brooks, who took pity on me, when a protest in Oakland California for Peace, went suddenly wrong. The police were swinging clubs and Mr. Brooks grabbed my arm and pulled me towards an open door which was his house. I didn’t know the man and he didn’t know me. I thanked him and asked why he had saved me? He said the strangest thing, You have the smell of one who’s seen the truth.
Then we had some coffee and chatted. He was in his 70s and he told me many things but the one thing he repeated over and over again is “why there will never be peace in this world til the Lord comes back”. Fear and Hate. The parents pass it on to their kids. White, Blacks, Indians and Asians and Mexicans they all do it and so nothin’ changes. Then he took me by the shoulders and said “if we don’t start forgiven and lettin’ go we’ll never be free. Ya understand” he yelled and with a shake he let me go…..and then apologized and I forgave him.
Mr. Brooks and I became good friends and when he introduced me to his son and daughter or to friends he’d always say, He’s got the smell of one who’s seen the truth….and they would all nod and smile.
The first stage of the game, the students are placed in groups (with some of the players being computer players, unknown to the humans). The goal of the game is to be one of three participants that end up with the most points, and they get an Amazon gift card. Each individual is given 100 points. These points can be kept or put into a group fund. If all the points in a group go into the fund, everyone gets double the points.
After that, everyone sees the other’s points. If you don’t like what someone did, you can take points away from them. But for every three points you take away from someone else, you get one point deducted from your own kitty.
After that, each participant ranks the other players from 1 (hated them) to 9 (loved them).
The researchers had one computer player which was the “stingy” player. This player gave 10 percent or less of their points. Needless to say, they were punished heavily. 70 percent of human players punished the stingy computer player at least one point and he was ranked low.
The strange thing is this: they also created an overly generous player who placed at least 90 percent or more of his points in the group fund. This player was also punished severely! Not only did more than 50 percent of the players take away points from the generous, but they also only ranked him a 3 (firm dislike)!
What does this mean? That generally, we don’t like people to be too nice, even as we don’t like them to be mean. If we are too generous, then we are likely to be dissuaded or even mildly punished by people around us.
However, Jesus warned us that if we acted in love, we would be hurt by those around us. Jesus wants us to surrender ourselves to love. But he also wants us to be realistic. If we pour ourselves out for those in need, then we will be punished, occasionally by those whom we help! That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act selflessly, but we shouldn’t expect rewards for it.
I step outside some guy has a girl cowering into the fence with her arm over her head and his arm raised for another blow.
In my soft voice I command him to stop. I am now walking towards him my cell phone primed for the send button to call in help. I order him to step away from the girl and he complies and the girl makes a dash for the street following the fence line and I have moved into a position between her attacker and her path of escape.
The attacker is telling me how I am going to pay for my interfering. It is then that I hear a sound I have not heard in a long time: the sliding of a Bolt on a semi auto rifle and the words, “I got your back, Pastor.”
Then the place lit up like a Christmas tree with reds and blues and whites and a county mounty behind the fence with a M16 and a Gresham cop coming through the basket ball courts. Apparently the neighbors were busy on the phones.
Bad guy is no longer homeless, the girl is safely in custody also, and I am having an adrenalin rush…….