Today’s Philanthropy: Giving Back While Perpetuating Inequality and the Power of Big Money


Although he died in 2006, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, longtime pastor of New York’s Riverside Church and a lifetime advocate for justice, speaks to our times: “Charity is a matter of personal attributes; justice, a matter of public policy. Charity seeks to alleviate the effects of injustice; justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it. Charity in no way affects the status quo….”

Coffin continues: “We comfort ourselves with the thought that because our intentions are good (nobody gets up in the morning and says, ‘Whom can I oppress today?’) we do not have to examine the consequences of our actions.  As a matter of fact, many of us are eager to respond to injustice, as long as we can do so without having to confront the causes of it.”  Charity “is desperately needed in an economy whose prosperity is based on growing inequality.”

The meaning of these words

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