Science Daily posted this just the other day:

Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than Are Non-Believers

While my response is neither based upon recent research nor scientific data, I wonder if this only paints the #27 in a Paint-By-Number portrait, leaving out all the primary colors and majority of larger spaces for the whole picture to be seen?

I wonder if this group did any research at all on how the “highly religious” do show their compassion? The only example they give here is an emotive response from a video of a few hurting people and a limit of $10 to give. While a hungry person might think $10 is sufficient for a couple of dollar-menu-meals at McDonalds, what is it doing in the long run? It treats a symptom with a well-worn bandaid. It does not reform and develop. If this is the measure of compassion, then our government is one of the most compassionate organizations ever established, given it’s current welfare budget. Why should the church even bother trying to compete with the billions spent by our federal government? We can’t.

I’m also left wondering, how lingering is the emotive response to this person? How quickly are they forgotten? Does the emotion carry into transformed character–real life change–or is it just a behavioral modification tool, one that only changes the outward behavior, but nothing of the heart? The long-term compassion shown to others isn’t measured out in this study and I think that’s where the church–yes, I’m shifting the gears here from the “highly religious” (which means very little to me) to the church–outshines non-believers.

Here’s an example: for the past six years the church (I’m using the term broadly; think classical Christianity and church here) in Rochester, MN has banded together every summer (and more recently over a couple of Christmas breaks) to help our community. This will be year #7 of CareFest. Last year was probably one of the greatest, in terms of numbers involved, work accomplished and having our “light shine” out to the broader communities around us. Following severe flooding of the Zumbro River, several communities were devastated. The federal government simply couldn’t handle it well. So, in steps the church, SHOWING CARING COMPASSION: rebuilding houses and buildings, cleaning up, hauling away, painting and more. And it lasted far longer than the one day’s efforts. In fact, it is still ongoing and many government agencies are now coming to the church…yes, you read that correctly–coming to the church and asking for their help, input and prayers.

Sure, we could have watched the news reports and gotten all weepy-eyed over the devastation. Sure, we could have started collecting offerings and contributions during our services and just sent in a check (this did happen by the way; it’s how CareFest covers some of its expenses). And most certainly, we could all have felt a little better ABOUT OURSELVES (and that seemed to be the point of the research findings–feeling better about yourself for doing a good deed, rather than truly helping change a life, not just giving $10).

But that is not the point of CareFest. The point is to let our “light shine before others, so that they will give glory to our Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5.16, ESV) We want our compassion to last, to make a lasting difference and impact, not just appease our guilty consciences. This is true compassion. This is truly “loving one another.” If Science Daily wants to study that, they could come to Rochester this June 16 and see what takes place when the love of Jesus Christ is shown to others.

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