SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks is
about to become the darling of the religious right in America — and
it’s making him nervous.
The child of academics, raised in a liberal household and educated in
the liberal arts, Brooks has written a book that concludes religious
conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts
of charitable activities, irrespective of income.
In the book, he cites extensive data analysis to demonstrate that
values advocated by conservatives — from church attendance and
two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for
government-funded social services — make conservatives more generous
That is one thing. Here is another:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before
men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your
Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as
the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored
by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what
your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then
your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
I have no idea what the specifics are of the findings in Brooks’ study
are. I do know that not all charity is truly charitable.
Much is actually coercive, or at least contingent upon
conformity, or given in response to peer pressure, or given as an act
of self-aggrandizement, not compassion.
So let’s all put our trumpets away for a bit.