С Рождеством Христовым
Last night I realized with a pang of guilt that I had forgotten to return the form that Reedwood Friends Church was using to find out the congregation's giving plans for 2010. That pang happened about the same time I read an article, "Help That Makes a Difference: Change our Worldview," by Brian Fikkert. He's the co-author of a book that Nancy Thomas mentioned on her blog a few weeks ago, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Ourselves. I'm just now starting to read the book myself.
In typical rabbit-chase pattern, the Fikkert article sent me back to something I posted back in 2006, "On giving and receiving," based on a document of the same name issued by the Quaker Peace Network--East Africa. In return, that reminded me of Justo Gonzalez's important article "Of Fishes and Wishes."
With such a chain of reminders about the importance of financial discipleship, I don't think I can put off thinking about it any longer. But what are others thinking and doing about all this--what about you? How do you decide on amounts--and how do you decide where it goes?
About twenty years ago, Andrea Ayvazian spoke to staff and volunteers of Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas, on how to raise funds for FWCC. She spent some time talking about her own philanthropy, and described her personal guidelines at the time: She was earning $25,000 a year, from which she gave $2,500. She felt that it was important to make a few significant gifts rather than many tiny ones, so each year she decided on five destinations for the money, at $500 each.
This makes some sense to me. What about you? And if you adopt such an approach, what do you do with the blizzard of other appeals that will continue to descend?
Now: about how to deploy those resources.
Along with the titles mentioned above, including the book by Corbett and Fikkert which I've just started, I can list these helpful resources for reflection:
First, in the ambitiously titled Complete Book of Everyday Christianity from InterVarsity Press, a couple of relevant chapters are available online: "Financial Support" and "Stewardship." When considering specific organizations to support, some people have found these Web sites useful: Guidestar database of nonprofit organizations, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. And, for me, one of the ideal models for human-scale economic development help is the program I worked for between 1986 and 1993, Right Sharing of World Resources.
The book that has helped me think about financial discipleship more than any other, to date, is Charles M. Elliott's Comfortable Compassion, published in the USA by Paulist Press. Elliott's book is now probably out of date on some details (it was published in 1987, while I was at Right Sharing) and my copy is in storage thousands of miles away, but I remember his frank and useful ideas on the distorting influence of power on relationships between funders and recipients, and on the long-term cost of the split between the church's "mission" work and its "relief and development" work.
Who has helped shape your thinking on these themes? Is there a book or article or idea you can recommend?
Thinking only about money is something of an artificial distinction, since Quaker discipleship ("Gospel order" and our "testimonies") implies that our whole lives should reflect the Godward orientation of our hearts. But that's not an excuse to pull back on giving. The tricky part is that money does not transmit principles as efficiently as it transmits power. The discipline of giving includes thinking about the consequences of the transfer we're about to make. Strategic giving involves both prayer and research; sometimes it means investing in people rather than the (perhaps) more satisfying creation of new structures. Sometimes it may mean investing in lobbying along with direct aid. Sometimes it may even mean investing on oneself--perhaps giving up a job or taking a leave of absence to get personally involved.
Yet more links:
For students of Russian who caught the humor of the Medvedev-Putin cartoon wordplay on Medvedev's Internet presence, here's an interesting paper by Nina Mechkovskaya on the influence of Internet communication on everyday Russian language. (Thank you, russ-cyberspace.)
The book When Helping Hurts has an associated Web site here.
The International Development Exchange (IDEX) is a non-Quaker group that operates on a similar scale as Right Sharing and a participatory philosophy; I enjoyed collaborating with them when I was Right Sharing staff.
More development information than you'll ever need: ELDIS--a mixed bag with many gems. I'm glad this facility didn't exist when I was working for Right Sharing--I might not have gotten any work done!
What's wrong with this picture?
In Northwest Yearly Meeting, January is Peace Month.
Somebody wrote something nice about Americans! It actually seems true, too. I'm tempted to use this text in one of my classes.
Evangelicals and interfaith dialogue--a new paradigm. (My question: is it really new? Was Douglas Steere's concept of "mutual irradiation" actually relativistic?)
Another challenging gap to bridge: Joanna Quintrell and evangelism in the land of alternative spiritualities.
At last, a worthy appreciation of Marilynne Robinson.
John Lee Hooker with Muddy Water's band. In the words of YouTube poster mercydee, "Some historic, priceless footage here: The master Boogie Man backed in 1960 by the Muddy Waters Blues band (James Cotton, Otis Spann, etc). Watch out how Mr Spann knew how to raise the temperature up!" Priceless indeed.