An American Practice of Giving: A Neglected Strand in American Church History

Citation: 
Lynn, Robert Wood. "An American Practice of Giving: A Neglected Strand in American Church History." Unpublished manuscript. 1996. (Available through the Theological Exchange Network)
Abstract: 

Noting that historians of American religion have paid little attention to the history of Protestant fund-raising or the rhetoric of giving, Lynn looks at the rhetoric of reformers to gain insight into ideas about the practice of giving. Before the Panic of 1837, fund-raisers focused on the rising class of business leaders in the "market revolution," but had difficulty shifting attention from the making to the giving of money. Following the Panic, new conversations on the meaning of giving led to a concept of "systematic beneficence" and a small reform movement. Subsequent emphasis on a more biblically-based practice of giving and the emergence of the concept of proportionate giving (as opposed to tithing) resulted in the "stewardship movement" before World War I. The emphasis across this period was consistent: "regular giving" and "order" in the life of giver an church. But Lynn concludes by noting that the philanthropic enterprise still struggles with the basic question: Why give? (KA)

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