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Philippa Taylor

Christians: inherently generous?

Philippa Taylor is Head of Public Policy at CMF. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

New research shows that Christians are more generous than the general population when it comes to donation, but not just of money and time.  Christians, especially evangelicals, are also more generous when it comes to donation of their blood and organs.

Previous research has shown that religious people donate more money to charity then those who are not: Religious people donate more than twice as much to charity as those who are not, according to a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation. CAF found that those who said they had religious beliefs gave an average of £576 to a charity over the previous year, compared with £235 by people with no religious faith.

A survey of Christians by the Evangelical Alliance a few years ago found that 6 out of 10 had given at least 10% of their household income to their church and charities in the previous month and 96% had given money to their church in the past year.

Equally encouraging is the EA finding that 57% of evangelicals who have given money gave some to non-Christian charities. The Church of England reports that their churchgoers contribute 23.2 million hours of voluntary service each month in their local communities outside the church. And Church of England congregations give more than £51.7 million each year to other charities – which is far more than the BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal!

This is surely a great illustration of Christians generously showing love to their brothers, sisters and neighbours.

Now, added to this, research this month by the new Flesh and Blood campaign shows that Christians are not just generous with their money and time.

Their survey of 3,171 regular UK churchgoers, attending church at least 2 – 3 times per month, found that approximately 1 in 10 Christians have given blood in the last year. This may not be many donors, but it is more than the 4% of the general population who have given blood in the last two years.  Moreover, 1 in 3 Christians (33%) has registered as a blood donor.

Also, half of all Christians (48%) are registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register compared with 31% of the general population.

There are some interesting differences between the various denominations (although caution is needed in interpreting these figures as the numbers are small and therefore not necessarily statistically significant):

Anglicans are the most generous with 35% registered as blood donors, compared to 33% of all Christians.

Anglican and URC members are also the most generous organ donors (just). 51% of Anglicans are on the organ donor register, and 52% of URC members, compared to 48% of all Christians).

Catholics are also generous donors with 29% registered as blood donors and 46% signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.  Catholics are most likely to regard blood and organ donation as part of their ‘Christian giving’ with 80% of them open to the idea (compared to 72% of Anglicans).

There are several useful points to draw out of these findings on giving:

1.They illustrate the positive influence that Christians have in their communities and country through their generosity. We should be encouraged!

2. Blood and organ donation seems to accord with many Christian’s understanding of their stewardship responsibility and call for sacrificial giving and love. The grace of Jesus Christ who, though rich, became poor for our sake and sacrificed himself for us, is the reason that Christians show grace and generosity to others (2 Cor 8: 1-2, 9). The altruistic gift aspect of donation can contribute to the Christian obligation to love our neighbour as ourself (Mark 12: 31).

3. Despite the opposition to legalising presumed consent (when it has not been given) by a number of mainstream religious organisations, this research shows that Christians are actually more supportive of organ donation than the general population, as long as it is with fully informed consent.  The act of self-sacrifice and giving must be a voluntary, unpressured one.

4. The survey on blood and organ donation was carried out by ‘Flesh and Blood’ as part of a new campaign to encourage even more Christians to sign up as blood and organ donors, and to consider including it as part of their Christian giving, because there is still a great shortage of potential donors whether living or dead. Adrian Warnock reminds us that those with two cloaks are encouraged to share with those who have none (Luke 3:11) and he asks if it would be possible to extend this to ‘let he who has two kidneys share with him who has none’? 

At the very least, this CMF paper by consultant transplant surgeon, Keith Rigg, encourages us to consider what we would like to happen to our organs and tissues after death, and to consider whether this might be part of, or in addition to, our already generous giving of both money and time to our neighbours.

Posted by Philippa Taylor
CMF Head of Public Policy

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