I’m sorry that it has taken me until nearly 10pm on the East Coast to bring you a post about statistics. The reality is that statistics can be difficulty, even if they are fun and paint interesting pictures of culture. So let’s talk money…
I’ve thrown around a couple ideas for today’s post and I’ve somewhat settled on one based on an article that a friend posted on Facebook this last week. The premise of the article is that the tax exempt status of the American Church is costing the government $71 Billion annually (with a B) from income tax subsidies, property tax credits, etc, etc. Considering that number, we should look at some stats on the church: there are approximately 35o thousand churches in America, and “Christians” comprise of 70.6% of the US population (PEW) – or approximately 225 million people. Pew also found that only 37% of the people the interviewed attended church on a regular basis or about 83 million Americans. Of those 83 million Americans, approximately 29 million make less than $30,o00 per year. So if you take the amount of money that the American church is costing the government, it equals about $1300/year per regular attendee making over $30,000 per year and that moves only $1577.78 to each person below the poverty line.
The problem with statistics is that you can make them into whatever you really want them to say. I could say that of the 45 million people below the poverty line, somewhere between a third and a half are regular attendees to a church – sorry prosperity gospel folks… they’re doing something wrong. I could also say that the answer to the 45 million people below the poverty line would be to close down some dying churches and have the government make up some of that exemption. The tough reality though is that many people are being helped by churches around the US.
The same argument could be made, albeit poorly for the removal of the tax exempt status of the NFL and NHL. The NFL has decided to get rid of its status, which should provide a large part of the $109 million that the Congressional Joint Committee on taxation placed the number at in 2015. But still, that only accounts for $2 per poor person.
So what’s the answer and how should all these numbers affect how I live? Well I think it becomes more important that we are clear on what numbers mean and that we don’t jump to conclusions. Could the American church help the poor more? Absolutely yes. Are they doing it now, undoubtedly yes. As a deacon at my church, we discuss situations each week via email or in person about ways that we can support people in crisis both inside and outside of our church. You can also get involved in your community. Ours has an amazing community food pantry. Our church gives money and food to it each month. Get involved. Love your neighbor and certainly the least of these.