• David P. King discusses the the impact of Evangelical humanitarianism on the history of “world vision.”
• How does social engagement and religion intersect in modern philanthropy?
• Read more about religious impact on politics.
In twentieth-century histories of philanthropy, religion rarely makes a major appearance. Of course, almost all histories of early American philanthropy since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville point to the rise of voluntary associations. Through the nineteenth century, many of the most prominent were Christian agencies. By the early twentieth century, most histories of philanthropy turn to focus on the Robber Barons, like Carnegie and Rockefeller.
The tendency to overlook religion is also notable in histories of humanitarianism. In many ways emerging out of the same rise in scientific philanthropy and the development of professional fields such as social work, the narrative arc of international humanitarianism most often appears as an evolution from foreign missions to relief and development.
The absence of religion from many of our histories of philanthropy and humanitarianism leads us to overlook an important factor motivating the giving and service of many donors, humanitarians, and activists. For as long as scholars have tracked giving trends, giving to religion(even when defined narrowly as giving almost exclusively to congregations) has been the largest philanthropic sub-sector (29 percent of all giving in 2018). When asked to categorize their own giving, U.S. donors report 73% of overall giving goes to a congregation or a religiously-identified organization (including many schools, social service agencies, and international NGOs).
Read the full article about religion’s role in international relief and development by David P. King at HistPhil.
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