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CULTURE DIGEST: Conservatives give more than liberals, study says; NBC cuts back on editing ‘VeggieTales’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Per capita, Americans give more money to charity in the month of December than most nations give all year long, and Americans who attend a house of worship weekly are 25 percent more likely to give than people who rarely attend, according to a Syracuse University professor.

“For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society,” Arthur C. Brooks writes in his book, “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism,” released in November. “Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their [supposed] callousness in the face of social injustice.”

Brooks is a behavioral economist who was raised in a liberal home, and he writes a regular op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal. At Syracuse, he’s the director of nonprofit studies for the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

In his book, Brooks uses an array of statistical analysis to conclude that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and don’t favor government-funded social services are far more generous than their counterparts, regardless of income.

Also, conservatives are more likely than liberals to donate blood and serve as volunteers, Brooks found.

“While 85 million American households give away money each year to nonprofit organizations, another 30 million do not,” Brooks wrote in The Wall Street Journal Nov. 27, adding that the charity gap is driven not by economics but by values.

“Nowhere is the divide in values more on display than in religion, the frontline in our so-called ‘culture war,’” Brooks wrote. “And the relationship between religion and charity is nothing short of extraordinary…. These religious folks also give nearly four times more dollars per year than secularists, on average, and volunteer more than twice as frequently.

“It is not the case that these enormous differences are due simply to religious people giving to their churches,” he added. “Religious people are more charitable with all sorts of nonreligious causes as well. … On average, people of faith give more than 50 percent more money each year to non-church social welfare organizations than secularists do.”

FAITH-BASED CHIEF IS A SAMFORD GRAD — Terri Hasdorff, a 1993 graduate of the Baptist-affiliated Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., is the new chief of the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives office at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington.

“USAID has a long history of partnering with faith-based and community organizations,” Hasdorff said at her swearing in ceremony in August. “Leveraging their expertise and dedication has proven a wise public investment and has greatly enriched our effectiveness in the field. I look forward to facilitating new partnerships as we continue to help build and support the foundations of freedom around the world.”

President Bush created the Center for Faith Based Initiatives at USAID in 2002.

During testimony before the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations in September, Hasdorff said USAID’s rationale for working with faith-based organizations is that they have proven to be effective in many of the difficult contexts in which the agency works. She then quoted Samaritan’s Purse.

“The Church … can be viewed as the largest, most stable and most extensively dispersed non-governmental organization in any country. Churches are respected within communities and most have existing resources, structures and systems upon which to build,” the relief organization said. “They possess the human, physical, technical and financial resources needed to support and implement small and large-scale initiatives. They can undertake these actions in a very cost-effective manner, due to their ability to leverage volunteer and other resources with minimal effort.”

Hasdorff said USAID learned early on that faith-based organizations are on the cutting edge of meeting human needs worldwide.

“… [They] are excellent implementing partners for development programs because of their dedication to results, their ability to reach the grassroots level of society and their capacity to mobilize societies for positive change,” Hasdorff told the subcommittee.

NBC BACKS OFF ON EDITS OF ‘VEGGIETALES’ — After initially requiring that all references to biblical or evangelical messages be edited out of the popular children’s show “VeggieTales,” NBC has cut back on its editing requests in episodes it has aired this fall, according to the show’s creator, Phil Vischer.

“Well, we’ve just shipped out the last few episodes, and guess what? Bob and Larry are talking about God!” Visher wrote on his blog Oct. 31. “‘Huh?’ you say, ‘Wazzup wit dat?’ Well, I really don’t know. But the last four or five episodes, most of which had at least as much ‘theistic’ content as the earlier ones, if not more, came back from NBC standards and practices department with no requested edits. None. So they’re going to air just the way they were originally written.”

Vischer said he has no idea what caused the change, but he reported that NBC may have received about 600,000 e-mails about the VeggieTales edits. He added that he cannot confirm or deny the rumor.

“But I do know I’m thrilled the last few stories, including Madame Blueberry and King George and the Ducky, will be airing just as we wrote them — without a single edit,” he wrote. “That’s really cool, don’t you think?

“So if you stopped watching your veggies on NBC out of protest, turn it back on! Your protest may have brought a little more light to TV’s ‘vast wasteland,’” Vischer said. “Let NBC know you’re thrilled with their recent choices by watching the show.”

In a statement, NBC said its standards have not changed regarding the show, which is broadcast on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Eastern.

“NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of VeggieTales,” the network said. “Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages, while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view.”

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  • Erin Roach