I have just spent the last hour turning on and off light switches, standing in front of heater vents, and opening faucets. After four days without power in freezing weather, I do not take any of these things for granted. There should be a service in the prayer book for occasions such as these: “O God of the burning bush, we praise you for the return of heat and light.
Ever since I was a child, my mother has observed the season of Christmas in the same way. Some time around Thanksgiving she begins shaking her head, looking disgusted and sighing, “Oh Lordy, Lordy; it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t done a thing!” Then come four intense weeks of shopping, baking and Christmas card writing.
For some time now I have been both attracted to and troubled by the story of Abraham’s journey to present his son Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah. I was moved by Abraham’s extraordinary devotion to God but repelled by the thought that it made him willing to sacrifice his only child.
Two of the most powerful intellectual and social forces in our culture are the hard sciences and capitalist economics. Together they have conspired to produce images of personhood that undermine Christian understandings. According to these images, persons are defined by their rational capacities and their productive contributions.
When adjusted for inflation, the dollar amount for charitable giving in 2013 nearly reached the peak for charitable giving before the Great Recession. For 2013, giving in current dollars increased by 4.4 percent. However, giving to religion in the same year was flat and even down slightly when adjusted for inflation. Giving to the arts, health, the environment, and education has been increasing the last three years. During the Great Recession, people tended to give more to organizations that were addressing immediate needs, such as food pantries and homeless shelters. All sectors of giving were up in 2013, except for corporations, with giving by individuals up the most (Giving USA 2014: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2013, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy).