Dear Rev. Graham: If the Tax Cut is So Good for Churches, Then Why is Giving Down?

On the November 21 edition of the Eric Metaxas Show, Metaxas interviewed Franklin Graham and the two literally demonized Trump’s opponents. Watch:

Graham first suggested an “almost demonic power” is behind opposition to Donald Trump. Metaxas interrupted to say that such opposition is demonic and the product of a spiritual battle. I could talk for paragraphs about this idolatry, but I will refer you instead to a tremendous article by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic out today. Wehner deftly makes the point that Graham and Metaxas degrade political and religious discourse with their demonization of opponents. Instead of disagreement with contrasting ideas, we have damnation of an opponent’s character.

Did Trump Raise the Economy from the Dead?

And speaking of ideas, Metaxas and Graham threw out a couple I want to address. Metaxas first declared that “literally three years ago the economy was dead in the water” and then agreed with Graham that now it is “screaming forward. That’s a fact.” But is it a fact?

The economy is pretty good by some measures. However, as I pointed out on Twitter yesterday, it wasn’t dead in the water when Trump took over.  In his The Atlantic piece, Wehner expanded on this today.

At the same time, economic growth under Trump has been so-so. GDP growth—which, under Trump will not reach even 3 percent during his first three years in office—is decelerating. The deficit has exploded. The manufacturing industry is in recession. And job growth during the last 33 months of the Obama presidency was higher than job growth during the first 33 months of the Trump presidency.

A good analysis of before and now was done by Heather Long who examined 15 indicators during the Obama years and the Trump administration up to the present. No, Eric, the economy was not dead in the water. Your Dear Leader hasn’t completely tanked it yet, but he had a healthy starting point.

Do Big Tax Cuts Lead to Big Tithes?

After Metaxas’ incomplete economic analysis, Graham suggested that the good economy has a special benefit for churches and Christians. As the leader of two huge nonprofit ministries with somewhere around a million in salary per year, this is something Graham surely knows about. Graham said more people are working so more people are tithing. Graham attributed the economic growth to the tax cut.

However, are religious contributions up since the tax cut? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was signed into law on December 22, 2017. Many provisions went into effect in 2018. Was there an immediate impact on religious giving?

According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, “giving to religion is estimated to have declined by 1.5% (a decrease of 3.9% adjusted for inflation).” Specifically in conservative churches, nearly half of churches in a Lifeway 2019 poll saw their giving decline or remain the same from 2017 to 2018. The tax law increased the standard deduction so many people may not have donated as much because they didn’t get a deduction for reporting it. Some may be saving up deductions for the 2019 tax year so the immediate effect won’t be known for awhile. However, there was no immediate obvious bump up in religious giving.

Furthermore, in Graham’s own Samaritan’s Purse ministry, giving was down significantly in 2018. Giving in 2018 was down $88.5-million which represents an 11% decline in giving over 2017.

So in short, opponents aren’t demons and perhaps things aren’t as good economically as Dear Leader and his followers suggest.


14 thoughts on “Dear Rev. Graham: If the Tax Cut is So Good for Churches, Then Why is Giving Down?”

  1. Franklin Graham does not have the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits. He is without spiritual gifts, as he has divorced himself from Jesus Christ by his pursuit of the political gospel. Scripture defines Franklin Graham as a spiritual adulteress (James 4:4) who is guilty of committing spiritual abortion. (Ephesians 4:19)
    Because of his influence in deceiving many, he will incur “a stricter judgment” from God. (James 3:1)

  2. I would hope that giving is down to Samaritan’s Purse because people are wising up to what a greedy snake is in charge of the so called ministry. Charity is not about making one man a multi-millionaire by raising money for the poor of the third world. Graham is disgusting and every bit as fowl as the Pharisees Jesus blasted without mercy. This is not a political statement, but one of leveraging charitable giving to make ones self filthy rich. There is nothing Christlike about that. Graham has chosen to despise Jesus Christ by serving and loving money. He is what he is.

  3. The other important point about the economy is that we’ve essentially borrowed a crap ton of money by cutting taxes, but we haven’t cut any spending. Anyone can live high off the hog if you don’t have to pay the bill. It’s like taking a home equity loan to buy an expensive sports car and then driving it around bragging to everyone about how great you’re doing. It sure looks that way from the outside, but sooner or later the bill will come due.

    The same is true here. The US will have to raise taxes *and* cut spending to pay down the deficit eventually. Republican were certainly freaking out about the deficit under Obama and I can guarantee you 100% they will be again under the next Democratic president. But, right now, they are owning the lib by cheering the drunken spending spree.

    1. Yup. Remember those GOP deficit hawks a decade ago?
      They’re only hawks when a democrat’s in the White House.
      Now their just domestic chickens awaiting slaughter.

      1. To be fair there were some long-term deficit hawks opposed to Trump’s plans (the Koch brothers come to mind).

  4. I don’t imagine Franklin would be concerned about the economy or a decrease in tithing as long as he get his million off the top. Evangelists like graham would not be concerned if we were a subdivision of Putin’s Russia as long as abortion and contraception was prohibited and all LBGTQ’s were outlawed .

  5. I wonder how the declines in giving are split between large donors and small donors.
    As pointed out in the post, with the higher standard deduction many small/medium donors no longer get a tax benefit from these donations. For large donors who typically are the ones with high incomes, the lower marginal tax rates on the wealthy reduce the incentive for charitable giving since the giving produces less tax savings. I suspect most donors (at least the small/medium ones) don’t think much about taxes when they give to their church, but if some do that could knock things down by a few percent.

    Another question would be whether the decline in giving is just to churches, or is across all nonprofits.
    If it is across all nonprofits, we can probably blame it on the tax law.
    If it is just churches that are seeing their giving decline, it more likely represents societal decline in church involvement. Some of which is driven by the disgust of many Christians (and potential Christians) at slimy politicized pseudo-Christians like Graham and Metaxas.

  6. Thank you for this coverage, Dr. Throckmorton. Metaxas and Graham are communicating directly to an increasingly shrinking demographic: U.S. White-Nationalist Evangelicals who have no interest in factual data, analytical thought, evidence-based research, or material reality. Documented facts are deeply, deeply offensive to them:

    1. (but how they can stand the smell is beyond me)

      Because they smell nothing but roses. This is likely the last president in their lifetime who will so willingly bask in their sycophancy.

    2. (but how they can stand the smell is beyond me)

      Because they smell nothing but roses. This is likely the last president in their lifetime who will so willingly bask in their sycophancy.

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