Special Issue "Philanthropic Traditions through Christian History: Common Themes and Contestations"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Professor David Daniels

Henry Winters Luce Professor of World Christianity, McCormick Theological Seminary, 5460 S. University Avenue Chicago, IL 60615, USA
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Guest Editor
Professor David King

Karen Lake Buttrey Director, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and Assistant Professor, Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, University Hall, Suite 3000, 301 University Boulevard Indianapolis, IN 46202-5146, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: faith-based organizations, religion and philanthropy, global Christianity, evangelical missions, relief, and development

Special Issue Information

While there has been a revival of academic interest in the history and current practice of philanthropy, scholars have often portrayed it as a secular enterprise and undervalued religion’s role in modern philanthropy. Today, in the United States, 32% of all giving goes to congregations, denominations, and missionary societies. By far the largest charitable sector, it makes up twice the percentage of the second ranking sector, higher education. When shifting the focus from institutions to individuals, surveys indicate 55% of Americans saying their religious or spiritual values motivate their philanthropic giving. If philanthropy is a worthy topic of research and if the study of philanthropy is a burgeoning sub-field in historical studies, then interest in the history of religious philanthropy cannot also not be ignored in order to understand its past or present.

This special issue seeks to explore traditions of philanthropy throughout Christian history. Far from a monolithic movement, the history and practice of philanthropy were often contested. Debates over the purpose and practices of religious philanthropy shed light not only on Christians’ debates within their own broad tradition but also through interactions with empire and state, amidst the formation of various markets structures, and in conversation with various religious and global contexts.

Understood broadly as “the love of humanity,” philanthrōpia originally served as a contested space for Christian communities to defend their actions and define their boundaries. It marked sites of competition or cooperation with empire and the state. Debates over who were worthy recipients of religious charity led to defining rules of engagement with the poor, refugee, and the faithful of other religions. From the very beginning, debates over the practice, meaning, and motivations of “Christian” philanthropy led to the defining of institutions, communities, and traditions.

The question of philanthropy was not just yes or no—did you participate in it or not—but more importantly how it also shaped these often broader questions. In addition to serving as sites of contestation and identity formation, philanthropy often did not fall under the auspices of traditional institutions. In fact, it often served as an agent for innovation (whether supporting leper colonies, international disaster relief, or family foundations). Likewise, scholars on philanthropy in Christian history must attend to how they present the agents of philanthropy—sometimes these agents were rich white men, but other times they were religious minorities such as Quakers, and most often women who found agency through the common Christian practice in their local congregations and communities.

How might these papers engage the power dynamics that philanthropy so often forces us to consider between the haves and have-nots; insiders and outsiders; co-religionists or those of different faiths or no faith, between government and the independent sector. What about relationships? What do we know not only of givers but of recipients—how does this form community or construct new walls? Finally, how does philanthropy shape local and global imaginaries? The growing field of global Christianity has rightfully turned attention to questions of agency, exchange, and indigenization. Scholars of philanthropy in Christian history should probe understudied topics such as philanthropy among Filipino Catholics in the Asia, Afro-Latinos in South America, and new Protestant immigrant in the West. These questions are complicated through the way philanthropy, wealth, and power affects these exchanges through enterprises such as international missions and indigenized Christian communities.

Finally, a new history of religion and capitalism by nineteenth and twentieth century American historians provides space for religion and philanthropy to enter the discussion. Christian charity has served as the foundation for much of the tradition of western philanthropy, but it did not simply disappear in the twentieth century. Professionalized philanthropy did not secularize but often took new forms outside of congregations, denominations, and missionary societies. Humanitarian agencies, secular foundations, and the fundraising enterprise are vital for understanding the history of Christian philanthropy as well as understanding the religious rationalities of some of our nation’s most powerful secular institutions today.

Addressing the broad sweep of the history of Christian philanthropy allows for attention to particular case studies as well as efforts to synthesize themes explored across historical periods, global contexts, and institutional forms. This special issue also seeks to spark other scholars to address additional research questions in this nascent field of study.   

 

Prof. Dr. David  Daniels
Prof. Dr. David  King
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Philanthropy and Human Flourishing in Patristic Theology
Religions 2018, 9(11), 362; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110362
Received: 23 June 2018 / Revised: 23 September 2018 / Accepted: 29 October 2018 / Published: 15 November 2018
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Abstract
This article grounds early Christian theologies and practices of philanthropy in their varied complexities in a larger patristic vision of human flourishing. For patristic authors (second to fifth centuries), human flourishing is grounded in God’s creative intent for material creation, including nature and
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This article grounds early Christian theologies and practices of philanthropy in their varied complexities in a larger patristic vision of human flourishing. For patristic authors (second to fifth centuries), human flourishing is grounded in God’s creative intent for material creation, including nature and material goods, that are to be shared for common use and common good, and also to be a means of distributive justice. Based on God’s own philanthropia (“love of humanity”, compassionate generosity), when Christians practice it mainly through almsgiving to the poor and sharing, they mirror the original image (eikon) of God, undo their crime of inhumanity, retain a Christian identity and virtue, and thus restore a semblance of God’s creative intent for the common good. This fundamental social virtue, philanthropia, is, in fact, an attendant virtue of salvation (the goal of creation, including humanity), in reversing the effects of the fall and restoring human flourishing. I then examine patristic authors’ presentations of how wealth presents Christians in concrete situations with a unique challenge and opportunity to demonstrate their spiritual state and persevere in their salvation by eliminating vices (e.g., greed) and cultivating virtues (e.g., detachment), and thereby to affirm and confirm their Christian identities. Finally, I explore the institutional aspect of philanthropy in the (post-) Constantinian era as the Christian church took on the task of caring for the poor of the whole Roman society as a result. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Double Character of Cuban Protestantism and Philanthropy
Religions 2018, 9(9), 265; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090265
Received: 1 June 2018 / Revised: 28 August 2018 / Accepted: 3 September 2018 / Published: 7 September 2018
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Abstract
In Cuba and the United States, Protestant institutions exist that are both reflective and nonreflective about their culture’s influence on belief and practice. The case of Cuba sheds light on how Christian churches and voluntary associations operate in an authoritarian regime. Despite the
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In Cuba and the United States, Protestant institutions exist that are both reflective and nonreflective about their culture’s influence on belief and practice. The case of Cuba sheds light on how Christian churches and voluntary associations operate in an authoritarian regime. Despite the tension and enmity that have typified Cuba’s geopolitical relationship with the United States since the colonial days, cross-cultural Christian philanthropic partnerships exist. The “doble carácter” (double character) of Cuban Protestant churches has grown out of both collaboration with, and resistance to U.S.-style evangelicalism (Arce Valentín 2016). Adaptations of liberation theology, adopted among Cuban Christians, provide an influential counterweight to the mighty Western theological and philanthropic tradition (González 2012). The nature of this engagement influences Cuban civil society, the survival of the Cuban regime, and provides an extreme case for cross-cultural philanthropy worldwide. This socio-historical account utilizes the data collected from personal interviews with Cuban Protestant leaders, primary sources found in the library at the San Cristobal Presbyterian Seminary and Cuban theological journals, and a qualitative analysis of literature on Cuba, Protestants, missions, philanthropy, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and civil society. Full article
Open AccessArticle A Prelude to Civil War: The Religious Nonprofit Sector as a Civil Means of Debate over Slavery, Christian Higher Education, and Religious Philanthropy in the Stone-Campbell Movement
Religions 2018, 9(8), 235; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9080235
Received: 8 May 2018 / Revised: 26 May 2018 / Accepted: 5 July 2018 / Published: 1 August 2018
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Abstract
This paper examines the role of Christian higher education and religious philanthropy in the debate over slavery prior to the Civil War. Competing religious views regarding slavery led to the founding of Indiana’s abolitionist Butler University. The school’s decision to brazenly support the
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This paper examines the role of Christian higher education and religious philanthropy in the debate over slavery prior to the Civil War. Competing religious views regarding slavery led to the founding of Indiana’s abolitionist Butler University. The school’s decision to brazenly support the cause of abolition directly conflicted with the leadership of The Disciples of Christ and mired the Indianapolis school in one of the most impassioned debates about the role of religious practice in civic life in the nineteenth century. In this case, the religious nonprofit sector functioned as battlefield upon which competing forces engaged in a form of civil conflict. An examination of the role of Butler University’s philanthropic action provides fresh insight into the debate over slavery brewing on the eve of Civil War and the way individuals use philanthropic institutions, especially religious institutions, as a means to assert their values within society. Research for this study has employed primary archival research of documents held at Butler University, Christian Theological Seminary, and The Indiana Historical Society. The author has consulted period specific newspapers, journals, and handwritten documents. The author has also employed a host of secondary resources ranging from academic journals and religious histories to personal interviews and literature on the State of Indiana. Full article
Open AccessArticle “We Are Doing Everything That Our Resources Will Allow”: The Black Church and Foundation Philanthropy, 1959–1979
Religions 2018, 9(8), 234; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9080234
Received: 30 May 2018 / Revised: 1 July 2018 / Accepted: 19 July 2018 / Published: 1 August 2018
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Abstract
Contemporary wealth inequality has prompted a renewed and increased interest in the role that external funding plays in civil society. While observers frequently consider how big philanthropy influences education, politics, and social services, few historical treatments of the postwar era have addressed the
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Contemporary wealth inequality has prompted a renewed and increased interest in the role that external funding plays in civil society. While observers frequently consider how big philanthropy influences education, politics, and social services, few historical treatments of the postwar era have addressed the interaction between foundation philanthropy and American religion. Black Christianity stands as one clear example of this oversight. Numerous studies of black life in the twentieth-century have engaged the tensions between internal prerogatives and external influences without applying those questions to black churches. This article begins that exploration by focusing on Lilly Endowment, Inc.—the most consistent twentieth-century source of foundation support for religion—and analyzing its interactions with a series of summer seminars for black ministers hosted at Virginia Union University. Though contextual changes in the latter twentieth century altered the nature of Lilly Endowment’s relationship with its recipients, two decades of collaboration reveal how black Christians exerted substantial influence over the trajectory of Lilly Endowment’s growing program in religious giving. Full article
Open AccessArticle Clemency, A Neglected Aspect of Early Christian Philanthropy
Religions 2018, 9(8), 229; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9080229
Received: 30 May 2018 / Revised: 14 June 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 26 July 2018
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Abstract
In classical and early Christian usage the concept of philanthropia (philanthropy) rarely just meant “love for one’s fellow human beings” or generosity towards people whom one did not personally know. Classicists have pointed out that in both of these ancient traditions it was
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In classical and early Christian usage the concept of philanthropia (philanthropy) rarely just meant “love for one’s fellow human beings” or generosity towards people whom one did not personally know. Classicists have pointed out that in both of these ancient traditions it was most synonymous with the Latin term clementia. As such, it had a concessive facet and a universalizing force: showing kindness to humans, even if doing so went against one’s natural or justified reluctance; being merciful, despite the fact that beneficiaries might not seem worthy of it. These observations have not informed prior scholarship on early Christian philanthropy. Based on a comprehensive survey of how the word philanthropia is used in church histories, hagiographies, monastic literature and church sermons written in the Greek language from the fourth to seventh centuries, this paper argues that the classical notion of philanthropy as clemency prevailed among Christian authors throughout late antiquity, and was fundamentally important in the early Christian promotion of universal almsgiving. Full article
Open AccessArticle Marketing Missions: Material Culture, Theological Convictions, and Empire in 18th-Century Christian Philanthropy
Religions 2018, 9(7), 207; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070207
Received: 1 June 2018 / Revised: 26 June 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 3 July 2018
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Abstract
In the 18th century, Halle Pietists were part of a global missionary network that reached into North America and that anticipated later developments in worldwide evangelical missions; Pietists made critical alliances with other Protestants, they were savvy in their use of media, and
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In the 18th century, Halle Pietists were part of a global missionary network that reached into North America and that anticipated later developments in worldwide evangelical missions; Pietists made critical alliances with other Protestants, they were savvy in their use of media, and they worked alongside different empires in their efforts to reach and convert the world. Recent scholarship on religion and humanitarianism in the United States has focused predominantly on the Anglo-American story and the Post-Revolutionary period. This article argues that the Pietists highlight an earlier—and crucial—colonial era of global missionary connections, philanthropy, media, and empire. Attending to their writings and the images they used reveals important and continuing themes in the study of Christian philanthropy in America, including the significance of theological convictions, financial necessities, political allegiances, and racialized imaginings of potential, “uncivilized” converts. This article looks at the image of ascending eagles from the orphan house in Halle, which the Francke Foundations (earlier the Glauchasche Anstalten) used for their seal on books and medicines, and also considers an engraving of Tomochichi, a leader of Yamasee and Lower Creek descent, who appeared in the first report from the Pietist mission in colonial Georgia. The article argues, finally, that images were used to sell a particular vision of missionary work, albeit one that was not always true to experience on the ground and that appealed to colonialist objectives. Full article
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Open AccessArticle “Vibrating between Hope and Fear”: The European War and American Presbyterian Foreign Missions
Religions 2018, 9(7), 205; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070205
Received: 31 May 2018 / Revised: 21 June 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 2 July 2018
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Abstract
Scholars have argued that World War I and its aftermath caused a rapid transformation in American global philanthropy. The decline of the American “moral empire” coincided with the rise of professional, bureaucratic, and secular philanthropy. The reasons for this transformation appear almost self-evident:
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Scholars have argued that World War I and its aftermath caused a rapid transformation in American global philanthropy. The decline of the American “moral empire” coincided with the rise of professional, bureaucratic, and secular philanthropy. The reasons for this transformation appear almost self-evident: the crisis greatly exceeded the capabilities of all private organizations, leading to the growth of state-supported, public, and semi-public organizations like the American Red Cross. In fact, though, mainline foreign missions grew rapidly after the war and did not decline until the Great Depression. In 1920, for instance, they combined to receive over 80 percent of Red Cross receipts. Even amid the decline of the “moral empire”, therefore, mainline foreign missions remained major sources of philanthropic aid and primary representatives of American interests abroad. This article looks at the hopes and fears of Presbyterian (USA) foreign missions in the years before American entry into the (imprecisely named) European War, in order to understand the resilience of foreign missions during a period of crisis. The war created numerous practical, financial, and conceptual challenges. But, it also inspired the mission boards to seek greater sacrifices among donors, to coordinate with other boards and the federal government, and to find alternative methods to achieve its goals. These efforts in the first half of the 1910s prefigured a nationwide transformation in ideas about service and voluntary giving. After the United States entered the war, these “social goods” became nearly obligatory in the minds of many Americans. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Almsgiving and Competing Soteriologies in Second-Century Christianity
Religions 2018, 9(7), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070201
Received: 25 May 2018 / Revised: 10 June 2018 / Accepted: 22 June 2018 / Published: 26 June 2018
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Abstract
While care for the poor was widely advocated and practiced in early Christianity, charity was not universally endorsed. The Gospel of Thomas (Gos. Thom.), for example, is notable for its rejection of almsgiving, along with other practices such as fasting and
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While care for the poor was widely advocated and practiced in early Christianity, charity was not universally endorsed. The Gospel of Thomas (Gos. Thom.), for example, is notable for its rejection of almsgiving, along with other practices such as fasting and prayer (Gos. Thom. 6, 14; see also Gos. Thom. 27, 104). Ignatius of Antioch accuses some of his opponents of neglecting almsgiving and Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius’ friend and fellow bishop, suggests that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting are practices that will help counter false teaching in Philippi. This paper explores the role of almsgiving in competing visions of soteriology in second-century Christianity, including consideration of texts such as 2 Clement (2 Clem), Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrnaeans (Ign. Smyrn.), Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians (Pol. Phil.), and the Gospel of Thomas. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Value of Money: Funding Sources and Philanthropic Priorities in Twentieth-Century American Mission
Religions 2018, 9(4), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9040122
Received: 9 February 2018 / Revised: 2 March 2018 / Accepted: 4 April 2018 / Published: 10 April 2018
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Abstract
At the turn of the twentieth century, Western missionaries and mission organizations sought to develop financial strategies that would facilitate the further expansion of the Western mission enterprise. Three such strategies emerged: an increasingly sophisticated, corporatized approach to fundraising by mission boards; faith
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At the turn of the twentieth century, Western missionaries and mission organizations sought to develop financial strategies that would facilitate the further expansion of the Western mission enterprise. Three such strategies emerged: an increasingly sophisticated, corporatized approach to fundraising by mission boards; faith missions that shifted the economic risks associated with fundraising from mission agencies to missionaries; and self-supporting missions that cultivated economic funding available in the mission field. Each of these strategies had different implications for power configurations in the mission enterprise and allowed the values and views of different groups to prevail. The board approach empowered mission executives and large donors. The faith mission approach empowered missionaries and supporters with a conservative theology. The self-supporting mission approach made missionaries arbiters among a variety of competing interests. This economic approach to the study of mission provides new insights into the complex and contested power arrangements involved in Western foreign mission that extend beyond those gained from traditional political and cultural analyses. Full article
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