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Passing the PlateWhy American Christians Don't Give Away More Money$
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Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337112

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337112.001.0001

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Toward Explaining Ungenerous Giving

Toward Explaining Ungenerous Giving

(p.57) Chapter 3 Toward Explaining Ungenerous Giving
Passing the Plate

Christian Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Michael O. Emerson (Contributor Webpage)

Patricia Snell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers nine hypotheses potentially explaining the low levels of financial giving by American Christians. It argues that Most American Christians do not give generously for a combination of reasons. The first is that many have not seriously confronted and grappled with the theological and moral teachings of their traditions to give generously — they are only vaguely aware of or perhaps even avoid those teachings. Second, most American Christians do not give generously because many of their churches settle for low expectations of financial giving. Third, some American Christians do not give generously in part because they lack a complete confidence in the trustworthiness of the churches and charitable organizations to which they do or would give money. Fourth, most American Christians do not give generously because, due to the total privatization and lack of accountability of such issues, there are few or no real consequences or costs to stingy, intermittent, or no giving. Fifth, most American Christians do not give generously because most tend to practice giving on an occasional and situational basis, not as a disciplined, structured, routine practice.

Keywords:   American Christians, donations, low expectations, no giving, trustworthiness

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