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Michael Gerson (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/biographies/michael-gerson.html) mentioned on Facebook this week that he is re-reading Graham Greene's "The Power and The Glory." It's the story of a failed priest on the run from the police. He is friendless, homeless and searching for some sense of purpose in his life. Hiding from his calling and decisions he has made in the past he is, ironically, incapable of not being a priest and ministering to people - even at the risk of his life. Tormented by his own sense of guilt, he spends the whole of the novel both in flight and in pursuit.
It is so much like the life of Jonah. I don't know if Graham Greene had him in mind as he wrote, but how similar their stories are. I've been thinking about Jonah for a couple of reasons. First, I taught on the Book of Jonah this week. Second, I've had similar experiences over the years and have come to believe we all have had at least one “Nineveh” in our lives.
Mine are not cities or nation states. They are people. There are people in our lives who we deserve our anger and God's, and we have built a small but growing dark area of our lives around our anger. We nurse and feed it. There are people I consider hypocrites - but they are successful in ministry and life.
There are people about whom I enjoy hearing bad news. When I see articles about their failures, I read and re-read them. I don't skim. I absorb the details. I linger.
There are people I have met along the way who do not meet my standards or God's. I have become an expert in their hypocrisy and their being unqualified for success. I know their flaws and failures and, honestly, I don't want to see them humbled. I want to see them exposed.
I think that is why Jonah ran. He ran from grace he could not understand. He ran from the chance to be free of his own anger. He ran from love. Greene writes:
"... God is love. I don't say the heart doesn't feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn't recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us - God's love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around.”
It's true, isn't it? For some people their being humbled or saved is not enough for us. First, we want to see them exposed for who we know them to be - and then they can repent afterwards. Then God can save them.
I read somewhere that "resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." It's true, and only the kind of love that is enough to scare us and from which we long to run can save us. I would have headed to Spain myself and suppose I still do when God’s love for my Nineveh’s exposes me – not them – for who I am.
Jonah’s story is ours.Comments
Last month, the latest report by the Johnson Center on Millennial Giving (http://www.nextgendonors.org/) was released and is both interesting and helpful. However, while there are clearly significant differences in the generations, I think it is a mistake to assume that generational differences are the most important or determinative in describing donors. There are too many other factors.
In my opinion, the best book written on what seems obvious is “The Seven Faces of Philanthropy" by Russ Alan Prince and Karen Maru File. First published in 2004, it remains one of the clearest explanations for the differences in donors and, more importantly, it shows that the differences are cross generational. In other words, these differences remain relatively the same because people in every generation tend to fall into these categories.
While the book was written for development professionals, the insights are invaluable in helping gain a better understanding of your own giving as a donor and how to be more effective in your own unique style.
Here is the list of the seven distinct types of donors, according to the book. See where you fit and think about whether or not you've been trying to fit into another style that is not yours, or fit others to your style:
Communitarians: 26% of givers
Doing Good Makes Sense. Communitarians give because it makes good sense to do so. They give because they want to give something back to their community for all the advantages they have received. Typically, they are sharp and successful business people and are well aware of the business benefits of philanthropic involvement. Communitarians want tokens of appreciation, frequent updates on events, invitations to be honored, people to call with questions or suggestions. They value responsiveness and relationships.
Devout: 21% of givers
Doing Good is God's Will. Devouts are motivated to give because they believe it is God's will to help others and to channel almost all of their giving to religious institutions and organizations. Because honesty and trust are valued so highly, they generally take the claims of the charitable cause on faith and are less likely to conduct an extensive investigation of the organization. They are the least likely to scrutinize a giving decision. For them, the act of giving itself is a sign of spiritual development and maturity and they are generally indifferent to recognition and honors.
Investors: 15% of givers
Doing Good is Good Business. Investors give because they are financially able to do so, because they have a personal desire to do good works, and because they possess enough business acumen to give in a business-like way. They give with one eye on the cause and one eye on personal tax and estate consequences. Investors are results oriented and define philanthropy in the same way. They are careful, rigorous, well-informed, and looking for "returns" on their investments. Investors do not need recognition as much as they value well prepared financial and management information.
Socialites: 11% of givers
Doing Good is Fun. Socialites desire to help through being active in charity work, and they find social functions benefiting nonprofits to be especially appealing. Socialites have highly developed networks in their local communities and are extremely careful in choosing which nonprofits to support. They appreciate being recognized and honored for their work and being seen as part of a network of givers. They want to be kept informed as part of a continuing relationship.
Altruists: 9% of givers
Doing Good Feels Right. Altruists give because it gives their life a greater sense of purpose and they are the most likely to give anonymously. They are highly individualistic and not usually affiliated with other givers. To them, the essence of philanthropy is giving in a selfless manner, and they associate giving with spiritual development and personal growth. They pay more attention to the quality of the people in a nonprofit than to its track record or strategic plan. They believe that the person with wealth has a greater obligation to give but giving should be everyone's responsibility.
Repayers: 10% of givers
Doing Good in Return. Typically, a repayer has personally benefited from some institution, often a school or hospital, and now supports that institution out of a feeling of obligation or gratitude. They give because they have received and they generally focus their giving on just one or a few organizations. They are acutely aware of how others have helped them and feel a specific and particular obligation to repay and help in return. They do not usually seek recognition, status, connections, or benefits sought by other givers as they feel they have already benefited.
Dynasts: 8% of givers
Doing Good is a Family Tradition. Unlike other givers, dynasts usually inherit their wealth. Giving is something their family has always stood for, and they believe it is expected of them as well. While younger dynasts continue the family tradition of philanthropy, they often seek to be influential in a new area. They are among the most careful of givers in selecting organizations to support and are frequently inundated with requests to give. They research and evaluate - and are oriented to nonprofits that make a real difference. They want to understand in detail the mission and activities and want to be well informed about the distinctiveness and successes of the organizations they choose. They are the most likely to look to experts for advice and assistance. They want to do creative work and are not specifically interested in being honored for behavior they see as essential. Because their philanthropic behavior was acquired early in life, it feels natural and is not viewed as something that merits special recognition.
So...which are you and what difference does it make? As with anything, you are probably not completely one style but a mix. Still, it's good to know that from one generation to the next some common patterns and styles remain true.
Two nights ago I posted an article on Christian music that included this quote from Joe Bob Briggs: "Christian music is bad songs written about God by white people." My friend, Steven Garber, at the Washington Institute messaged me back with a piece he, Steve Turner and Charlie Peacock had done at the Art House in Nashville. It began with the question, “Can you sing songs shaped by the truest truths of the universe, but in a language that the whole world can understand?”
In the course of our back and forth, Steven passed along this observation from writer Walker Percy, "Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition, so that one never recognizes oneself, the deepest part of oneself, in a bad book."
There are bad songs about God and bad books about ourselves. All too often we teach them as true — and they are not. They are (in Steven's words) "cheating, insisting on a ‘Christian’ voice that does not belong in the story, or even worse perhaps, a revising of honest faith that does not allow for the breadth and depth of human existence, glories, and shames that we are."
In Romans 1, Paul describes a world where men have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The typical reading of that is to point out the wickedness of a society that has suppressed the truth of God and not thought it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of Him. The result is wickedness, violence, perversion and cruelty.
However, I think we can slip into the same exchange ourselves when we do not tell the whole truth of Scripture but only focus on those parts that give us comfort and encouragement. It would be easy to treat the hard sayings in the same way Thomas Jefferson treated the miracles; he simply excised them with a knife. His Bible was no longer fully true, and nor is ours when we lift verses out of context and make them into mottos and formulas for happiness and reassurance.
Through an internet search I learned the five most popular verses in the Bible for Christians are these:
Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 23:4; Philippians 4:13; John 3:16; Romans 8:28
They all have something in common in that they are encouraging and comforting. They are hopeful and assuring. They are inspirational. However, they are not the whole truth of Scripture because they do not reveal by themselves the deepest things about God or our human condition when we take them out of context and make them stand alone.
Lies grow best in the soil of partial truth, and it is a good thing to be careful that we do not exchange the full truth of Scripture for a partial lie that makes eventually for a bad book and cheating songs.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “…I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world.”
By picking and choosing the verses that help us gloss over the complexities and suffering that are so much a part of this world, we will cheat ourselves and others of a life fully lived.Comments
There has probably never been a time like today in our country for both the creation of wealth and non-profits and social entrepreneurs.We sometimes think this trend is new, but it is an ancient pattern.Often you see this pattern go together,and at other times one follows the other.
One of the reasons for the founding of monastic communities was that a generation of young people was turning away from the excesses of their wealthy parents.During the 12th and early 13th centuries there was something of an explosion of both wealth and the formation of informal orders within the Catholic Church.
One of those, the Franciscans,grew and spread rapidly across Europe and North Africa.Founded by Francis of Assisi, the order quickly numbered in the thousands and changed from an independent loose confederation of "brothers" living in absolute poverty to an official order of the Church with written regulations under the jurisdiction of a Cardinal designated as the "protector" of the order.
This was the beginning of the end for Francis, the entrepreneur.It marked the change from a few brothers who owned nothing to a disciplined community accumulating wealth and influence.It was then that Francis became what Joan Acocella coins "the inconvenient elder" in "Rich Man, Poor Man" in an article in the January 14 New Yorker:
"When he ceded control of the group, Francis hoped that he could still lead the men by example, but his influence quickly waned. This enraged him. ‘Who are these who have ripped my order and my brothers out of my hands?’he shouted. “Once, when he saw a new building that he thought the community had erected for itself, in disregard of the rule of poverty, he climbed up to the roof and began prying off the tiles and throwing them to the ground. Breaking with his earlier, gentle practice, he cursed people who opposed his ideas.”
Francis is indeeda good example of what, in the annals of history, might be called the “inconvenient elder”: the person who starts the revolution and then, once it succeeds, becomes an inconvenience, even an embarrassment, to the next generation. (Think of Gandhi.) They honor him —they have to — but they wish he would go away, so that they could “work within the system”and relax a little.
Anyone who has started an organization should think about this.How do you cede control without abdicating?How do you release your grip without abandoning the vision?Perhaps this is the way it should be.No one can live with a permanent revolution. Organizations mature,and the wise "inconvenient elder" knows when to step aside - or start another revolution.Comments