The Myth of the Ineffective Church and The Effective State
Many American Christians practice the biblical concept of tithing, which has traditionally been defined as the giving of ten percent of one’s income to the Church. Tithes generally go toward pastor salaries and other church expenses. Many Christians who tithe on a regular basis also give even more in the form of church offerings. Offerings go toward special projects that may or may not be directly related to the local church—all types of benevolence endeavors, for instance, including the fight against poverty at home and abroad.
Because the mainstream media seems to have it out for evangelical Christianity and therefore paints the Church in the most negative light possible, most people don’t realize how influential American Christians are with their financial offerings.
According to a recent report in The Amplifier, a publication of The Wesleyan Church, during the 2016 fiscal year people of The Wesleyan Church, a relatively small denomination compared to some in America, gave over $5.5 million for global missions work. According to the most recently published report on the Southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma’s website, in 2015 Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma alone gave almost $26 million to the SBC’s Cooperative Program, which funds missions work at home and abroad—and they gave an additional $301 million in undesignated gifts. Anecdotally, I know that in 2012 a small system of satellite churches in Kansas (10 or so churches that average approximately 75–150 attendees) raised $20,000 in just a few days for the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Last year, my own medium-sized church raised over $90,000 for global missions in just the month of December, and the church’s youth group raised enough money to buy over seventy-five (75) coats for children in the community.These are just a few stories that underscore the financial impact of the American Christian Church.
“Spread the wealth” tax plans like the one proposed by Bernie Sanders and other politicians would negatively impact the good work that the American Church does through its generous givers. If America embraces the idea of a “spread the wealth” economy, people will have less and less disposable income. And with less disposable income, American Church tithes and offerings will decrease more and more—and perhaps even be rendered ineffective in terms of helping the less fortunate. Even if all believers who tithe kept tithing, the American tithe would decrease by at least 10 percent under Bernie Sanders’s tax plan, for, as noted above, his plan would decrease taxpayers’ after-tax income by over 10 percent. And a ten-percent decrease in the American Church tithe would be devastating for the United States as well as the globe.
Socialist-leaning people sometimes respond by asking, “Wouldn’t it all balance out? Maybe the Church would lose some financial influence against poverty, but the government would gain revenue—in the form of higher taxes—to fight poverty, right?”
This line of thinking ignores the reality of the American government’s love for bureaucracy. Far too many levels of bureaucracy already exist in America, and each level costs. That is, each level of bureaucracy requires employees, and governments would surely create jobs and departments to oversee the supposed redistribution of wealth. To pay for these jobs and departments, the government would inevitably take from the tax revenue that was intended to go “to the people.”
Moreover, government employees belong to powerful unions, which demand employee salaries and benefits that are disproportionate to the salaries and benefits of many non-government workers. I am not trying demonize government employees; we need them, and I think it’s great that many government employees have great benefits. My point is only that unions representing government employees have a way of securing benefits that are superior to those of most non-government workers—and these excellent benefit packages cost taxpayers money.
On the other hand, missionaries and other people in Christian ministry often make just enough money to survive. They are willing to lower their standard of living in order to help others; they take less so the people they help can have more. Furthermore, when non-profit organizations such as churches raise money to help people, a larger percentage of the money intended to help people actually gets to those for whom it is intended.
Would we be able to say the same about government-run programs made possible by hefty tax increases? No, the government benevolence system would result in a far lower percentage of money actually getting to those who need it. There are simply too many levels of bureaucracy already.
So, I must challenge socialist-leaning Christians who with admirable intentions support a highly taxed society. Are we willing to take financial influence from the Church, where bureaucracy is minimal and a large percentage of charitable money actually gets to the people who need it, so that people in Washington, who are beholden to various levels of bureaucracy and must pay employee salaries and benefits at all of those levels, can decide how to divide the money they’ve taken from the people?
Editor’s Note: This is Part Two of a three-part series. Read Part One here, and check back soon for Part Three!
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