Century Marks

Century Marks

Vision needed

Americans continue to give the majority of their donations to the church and other religious organizations, according to a study by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle. In 2009, the most recent year studied, Americans gave 74 percent of their donations to religious institutions. Charities and other organizations received 21 percent and educational institutions received 3 percent. Per member giving, however, declined from 2008 to 2009 in constant dollars. The Ronsvalles believe that church members are not likely to increase giving toward institutional maintenance. To stimulate increased giving, church leaders need to convey a vision that engages people both inside and outside the congregation (The State of Church Giving through 2009, empty tomb, inc.).

Beyond tribalism

The world was stunned by the Rwandan genocide in 1994 in which the majority Hutu population tried to wipe out the Tutsis. Three years after the genocide a militia group attacked a secondary school at Nyange and ordered  Tutsis and Hutus to form separate lines. The students refused, saying they were all Rwandans. The rebels responded by shooting indiscriminately, killing 13 students for their refusal to be divided along tribal lines (Emmanuel M. Katongole in Witness of the Body, edited by Michael L. Budde and Karen Scott, Eerdmans).

No exit

The popular uprisings that deposed autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt were initiated by people whose lives were so desperate that they felt they had nothing to lose. Before the revolts, many in North Africa thought their only hope was to immigrate to Europe. In 2007 a cobbler in Tunisia said to David Cook, a scholar from Rice University: "Do you think that any of us would be here if we could move to France? Everyone would be gone in a week if they would let us in!" (Hedgehog Review, Fall).

Tax free

A comprehensive study of the 280 most profitable Fortune 500 companies shows that 78 of them paid no income tax in one out of the past three years and 30 of them had a negative income tax rate during that three-year period. In the 1950s a quarter of federal outlays were paid by corporate taxes; in fiscal year 2010 corporate taxes paid only 6 percent of federal government expenses. The report, done by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, notes: "Most Americans can rightfully complain, 'I pay more federal income taxes than General Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., etc., all put together'" (Salon, November 3).

Church too big to fail?

Megachurches in South Korea have become big business. The Yoido Full Gospel Church is the largest congregation in the world with over a million members. Cho Yong-gi, its founder and leader since 1958, has family enterprises that include newspapers and private universities. In late September an investigation was launched into Cho's finances on the basis of allegations from 29 church elders that he embezzled $20 million of church funds. A TV documentary claims that the money was used to buy real estate in the U.S. Cho also made a controversial statement following the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami, saying it was God's warning to a country known for "idol worship, atheism and materialism" (Economist, October 15).