Re: The Obama's Charitable Giving

I know I promised to get off of this theme (and by the grace of God I will soon!), but commenter Darren expressed some mild vexation about my post which pointed out the Obama’s charitable giving trends, and I think a few words of clarification might be in order.

First, I think I understand why a fair-minded reader might view a post such as that as petty or holier-then-thou. But those readers who know what I do for a day job, are aware that charitable giving trends and behavior are of particular interest to me. I help non-profit organizations connect with donors to raise the scarce funds they need to do the great work they do. Now that this blog is reaching a readership wider than just friends, family and colleagues, I need to be more diligent to present context and orientation.

I actually engaged in a brief wrestling match with myself before I published that post. “Log in your own eye first. . .”; “judge not lest ye be judged. . .” and all that.

In all honesty, over 20 years of marriage, the reality of our charitable giving hasn’t always lived up to our values and intentions. But the fact is, the wife and I strove to make 10% the starting point of our giving back in the day when our combined income was $25k/yr and we had to save for months just to purchase a vacuum cleaner. And it remains our baseline minimum goal now. We’re not special in that regard–it’s the value of almost every Christian I know. Their giving starts at 10% an climbs upward from there.

Thus, I don’t think it’s out of bounds to take note of the giving behavior of a presidential candidate that has made his faith a central focus in two autobiographical books and throughout the campaign on the stump.

Furthermore, liberals (or Democrats) who frequently castigate conservatives (or Republicans) for greed, heartlessness and a lack of compassion for the poor shouldn’t be exempt from evaluation of how their walk matches up with their talk (just as politicians who advocate traditional family values and decency are routinely and rightly scorned if they are caught dealing in porn or hanging out with hookers.)

Finally, I think there is fundamental value in asking American voters (particularly voters of faith) to think through the difference between actively helping the poor and oppressed and outsourcing our compassion to the government on (mostly) someone else’s dime.

Nevertheless, I’m grateful for Darren’s feedback and hope to hear more from him and many of the other regular readers who never or rarely comment. My blog stats show a much higher readership than the number of comments suggests. I attribute that to the fact that most of my blog posts leave people dazed, stunned, or mortified.