Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money

Smith, Christian; Emerson, Michael O; Snell, Patricia

Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 10: 0195337115 / ISBN 13: 9780195337112
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Synopsis: Passing the Plate shows that few American Christians donate generously to religious and charitable causes -- a parsimony that seriously undermines the work of churches and ministries. Far from the 10 percent of one's income that tithing requires, American Christians' financial giving typically amounts, by some measures, to less than one percent of annual earnings. And a startling one out of five self-identified Christians gives nothing at all.

This eye-opening book explores the reasons behind such ungenerous giving, the potential world-changing benefits of greater financial giving, and what can be done to improve matters. If American Christians gave more generously, say the authors, any number of worthy projects -- from the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS to the promotion of inter-religious understanding to the upgrading of world missions -- could be funded at astounding levels. Analyzing a wide range of social surveys and government and denominational statistical datasets and drawing on in-depth interviews with Christian pastors and church members in seven different states, the book identifies a crucial set of factors that appear to depress religious financial support -- among them the powerful allure of a mass-consumerist culture and its impact on Americans' priorities, parishioners' suspicions of waste and abuse by nonprofit administrators, clergy's hesitations to boldly ask for money, and the lack of structure and routine in the way most American Christians give away money. In their conclusion, the authors suggest practical steps that clergy and lay leaders might take to counteract these tendencies and better educate their congregations about the transformative effects of generous giving.

By illuminating the social and psychological forces that shape charitable giving, Passing the Plate is sure to spark a much-needed debate on a critical issue that is of much interest to church-goers, religious leaders, philanthropists, and social scientists.

About the Author:
Christian Smith is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. He is the coauthor, with Michael O. Emerson, of Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford, 2000), which was named the 2001 Distinguished Book of the Year by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, which won a Christianity Today Book Award in 2006.
Michael O. Emerson is the Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life at Rice University. In addition to Divided by Faith, his books include United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race, coauthored with Curtiss Paul DeYoung, George Yancey, and Karen Chai Kim.
Patricia Snell is Programs and Research Specialist for the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

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Title: Passing the Plate: Why American Christians ...
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: New

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