Worldviews are overrated. Intuition matters. At least, that’s the impression readers may take away from a thoughtful review of a new book on philanthropy by Jeff Cain, a former colleague and now the co-founder of American Philanthropic. The book in question is Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World, and the title gives away the naivete that so often informs the transformationalist outlook, whether cultural or ecclesiastical. For the world of philanthropy the contrast runs as follows:
Maybe you are the kind of donor who supports nonprofits in your community. Like many Americans, you give or tithe through your church or temple. You support local human-service organizations that provide direct aid to the needy, infirm, and down-and-out. You contribute to your alma mater, local theatre company, community hospital, or library-building campaign.
Perhaps, too, your giving is influenced by your family members, colleagues, and close friends in your church, business, or neighborhood. You give out of a genuine sense of caring and gratitude for those people, places, and institutions to which you are geographically, psychologically, or spiritually connected.
If these sensible and natural forms of charitable giving describe your philanthropy, then Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World is not for you. This fast-paced encomium to good intentions grounded in strategy and directed by experts is aimed at a special breed of philanthropist—a breed so special that it is honored with its own moniker: catalytic philanthropists, intent on changing the world.
The same kind of difference applies to the religious world and separates the churchly Protestant from the born-again believer who flocks to the parachurch organizations and their conferences in search of that fix that the local, mom-and-pop – okay, dominie only – church provides. If the idea of philanthropy is not to change the world, so the idea of confessionalism is about perseverance, pilgrimage, and waiting for the only transformer who is capable of changing the world.
The review is short and well worth a read. Aside from the point it makes about philanthropy, it also illustrates the difference between a worldview that holds to abstract truths as opposed to a profession of faith with concrete loyalties. Viewers of the world – perhaps because they don’t live in it – invariably want to change the world and think they have ideas capable of doing so. Confessionalists know that ideas don’t change the world (God does) and understand that those who attribute such power to ideas border on folly, never considering ironically the impotence of human reason. Chances are, though, that the people who are supposed to be the smartest in the room – the ones with all the philosophy and epistemology and theory – won’t ever intuit this dilemma because the people who object to worldview in favor of intuition can’t theorize their instincts. And without a theory, as all worldviewers know, knowledge is inconsequential.