The church in general, and evangelical Christians in particular, has been helping people in poverty. But you wouldn’t know that if you attended a roundtable discussion of poverty at Georgetown University. President Obama made lots of critical comments, but I wanted to focus on just one of his statements.
The president was critical of churches focusing so much time on social issues and so little time on poverty. He wanted “faith-based organizations to speak out on” the issue of poverty and stop being obsessed with what he called “reproductive issues” or same-sex marriage.
Evangelical Christians do have concerns about abortion and same-sex marriage, but that hasn’t kept them from also doing a great deal to help the poor. In fact, Christians are the most generous with their time, treasure, and talents. Also, conservative people are more generous than liberal people. In previous commentaries, I have quoted from the extensive research done by Arthur Brooks in his book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism.
What about the institutional church? In term of disaster relief, the Southern Baptist Convention spent more than $6 million. It was the third largest provider behind the Red Cross and Salvation Army. And that is just one Protestant denomination.
An op-ed in the Washington Post by Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan concluded that: “the evangelical relief group World Vision spent roughly $2.8 billion annually to care for the poor.” They added: “That would rank World Vision about 12th within the G-20 nations in terms of overseas development assistance.” And I might mention that World Vision is just one evangelical ministry. “Groups such as Samaritan’s Purse, Food for the Hungry, World Relief and many others provide hundreds of millions of dollars in anti-poverty programs at home and abroad.”
The church has been one of the most effective social outreach programs in history, even if the president doesn’t think so.