This American Tithe

tithing peopleWhat is tithing? And do most Christians practice it in the correct way? Journalist Douglas LeBlanc traveled across the country to speak to people about the spiritual discipline of financial giving, and how today’s churches get it right — and wrong.

Churchgoers know it’s time to dig a little deeper into their pockets when the pastor announces his annual series on stewardship or starts to extend his offertory prayers. The “offering” has become an important part of Christian worship, but many of us don’t understand the difference between tithing and charitable giving. In his new book, Tithing: Test Me in This, journalist Douglas LeBlanc sheds light on the ancient practice of Christian giving by taking readers on a pilgrimage across the United States to meet a variety of people who have made tithing an central part of their spiritual lives. Though some debate the validity of the concept of tithing, and whether it was strictly an Old Testament practice, LeBlanc was more interested in showing how this spiritual discipline of deliberate giving can transform ordinary lives. He recently spoke to UrbanFaith about the subject of his book.

URBAN FAITH: Very simply, what is tithing?

DOUGLAS LEBLANC: To my mind, tithing is giving 10 percent of your income to the church where you worship God week after week. Some people like to count donations to all nonprofits as part of their tithe. That’s a more easily achievable definition of tithing, but it’s better than not giving away 10 percent of your income. The one thing I resist strenuously is referring to anything other than giving 10 percent as tithing: “I’m tithing 4 percent of my income this year.” Words matter, and that’s an abuse of a perfectly clear word.

Does what we do in our churches each week during offering time resemble anything that happened in the early church? How has the practice of corporate giving evolved through the years?

I’m afraid my book does not explore the evolution of giving, other than through a few quotations from the early church. Consider this from the Didache, which may have been written before A.D. 150 and is quoted by leaders in the fourth century:

Do not be one who stretches out the hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving. If you earn something by working with your hands, you shall give a ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor shall you grumble when giving, for you will know who is the good paymaster of the reward.

What we have in most churches today is a formal opportunity to give. Some pastors whom I spoke to for the book, such as Jerald January of Vernon Park Church of God on the South Side of Chicago, have done away with a designated time for collecting offerings. I think it’s outstanding if a congregation supports the church without a formal offering, but I am not bothered by churches that collect the offering with more ritual. In my church, the choir sings some of its loveliest hymns during the offertory.

What are some of the most fascinating stats or findings about tithing in American churches that you discovered during your research?

What’s most fascinating to me is how low the level of giving is. Read any of the annual surveys by empty tomb, inc., and you’ll have to fight away sadness with a baseball bat. The founders of empty tomb, inc., John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, drove it home for me when I visited them in Champaign, Illinois. John Ronsvalle has calculated that a serious work of world evangelism would cost $182 million, which translates to about 2 cents per day from churches that clearly identify themselves as evangelical. Are we anywhere near achieving that goal? No.

I once heard a youth leader point out that the average congregation spends more on air conditioning than on youth ministry. I think you could replace “youth ministry” with any number of categories and still make that statement. I love air conditioning as much as the next guy — probably more, being a son of southern Louisiana — but surely we can do better than this in our church budgets.

More personally, when I take an honest look at what I spend on cable TV, books, broadband access, magazines, two pet cats, travel, and computers, my stewardship begins to look paltry. I try to remind myself regularly that, by the terms of history or the terms of how most people live in this world, I am among the remarkably wealthy by virtue of living in the United States. I try to let that inspire more generosity rather than guilt and self-loathing.

You interviewed various pastors and Christian leaders regarding the practices of tithing and giving. What were the most surprising things that you discovered as you spoke to different people?

What I greatly enjoyed was meeting several people on the Christian left who tithe. I’ve been a cultural and theological conservative for most of my adult life, and I’ll admit to making many glib assumptions about people on the other side of the aisle. As I traveled to various states to interview people, I saw just how much the basic discipline of tithing transcends so many political differences. Tithing even cuts across vast differences in theology. Tithing becomes a quiet rallying point for people who realize that serious Christian faith makes demands of you. Jesus does not settle for whatever kindness that comes naturally to us.

I also loved the drama of interviewing Randy Alcorn, who considers tithing as the training wheels one uses on the way toward real giving. Randy is a full-throttle Christian, and I find it humbling to spend time with people who submit so much more of their lives to God than I manage on so many days.

What is typically the trend with giving in the church during tough economic periods like the one we’re currently experiencing? Have you observed anything unique about this latest economic crisis?

Based only on my own observations, I believe many of us see giving to our church as part of our discretionary income, something that we would cut sooner than other outlets of discretionary income, such as dining out, entertainment, or vacations. I am horrified, more often than not, at how self-indulgent I can be on any given day, so I’m not arguing that tithing is the line of demarcation between holiness and sin. For those of us who do not struggle with much economic uncertainty, tithing is the beginning of Christian stewardship, rather than some Mt. Everest that only a select few would think of scaling.

Still, I also strive to remember the deeply pastoral perspective I heard from Ron and Arbutus Sider, two of the great champions of living more simply. “It’s an Old Testament principle that makes enormous sense, and it’s a great starting point,” Ron told me. “I wouldn’t say to a desperately poor single mom, ‘You’ve got to tithe or you’re disobeying God.'” Arbutus added: “It’s perfectly fine for impoverished people to give 2 or 3 or 5 percent.”

A recurring question that you hear a lot about tithing is whether it’s 10 percent off your gross or net income. What have you come to believe about that one?

I like the cleanness of tithing off my gross income, because income is income, even if it is taxed or allotted to a medical savings account before I receive a pay stub. Still, a tithe from a net income is better than no tithe at all. I think the biblical principle of giving with a cheerful heart should inform that choice.

There are so many perspectives and theologies out there about Christian giving, everything from prosperity teaching to pooling your resources and living in an intentional community.

I consider prosperity theology entirely bad news. It helps us confuse what we need and what we want. Worse, it tries to conceal carnal materialism in pious clothing. It turns prosperity into a sick measure of God’s favor, or of the authenticity of a person’s Christian faith.

Of course God does not want people living in poverty, but throughout Scripture the emphasis is not on blaming people for their afflictions. If anything, Scripture indicts those of us who are healthy and wealthy if we do not try to share what we have with those who have less. If a prosperity theologian had told Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man would rebuke Lazarus for not having sufficient faith to claim the riches that are his as a King’s Kid.

Living in an intentional community is a noble sacrifice, and I have great affection for people who do it, especially long term. One thing is also clear: Living in community is exceptionally difficult, and many communities simply fall apart over time because they cannot resolve the conflicts that arise when people live in that sort of emotional and spiritual hothouse. Few people are truly called to that life, and still fewer can make it work over many years. God bless those who can do it. Those few who argue that all true Christians should live such a life will soon enough find their idealism challenged by hard experience.

So, what do you think is the most biblical approach for Christians to take?

I consider the tithe my starting point. After that, there’s no shortage of other opportunities to give: natural disasters in impoverished nations; a friend or relative in an emergency; sponsoring a child through a relief and development agency; volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. As a shy person, I find it too easy to write a check rather than making myself vulnerable among the poor. I struggle against that, though, and when I relax enough, God sends moments of grace.

I once encountered a poor woman in Minneapolis and we spent about an hour together, talking and walking on a chilly day. She told me about being kicked out of her house by a heartless son. I bought her coffee and a piece of pie. She helped me find a better corner for catching a taxi to the airport. I prayed with her before we separated. I told her that our encounter reminded me of Hebrews 13 (“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it”). As I paraphrased it, she completed the sentence with me. It was eerie and I spent the rest of the trip home feeling unduly blessed.

I don’t see any one perspective on giving as the most biblical, except perhaps that Jesus calls us to be generous because generosity is at the heart of the Holy Trinity. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus represent the most extravagant act of generosity in all of history.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that American Christians have about giving?

Many Americans seem to believe we are somehow doing God a favor by giving even token money to the church by tossing $5 or $10 into the collection plate every week or two. God does not need our money, but he wants our hearts and souls. If our love for God does not lead us to a greater generosity with our time, talent and treasure, perhaps it’s time to stoke the fires of that love again.

And what are we generally doing right?

My sense, and perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part, is that thousands of churches are doing exceptionally creative works of mercy and hospitality with the resources they have, whether they’re storefronts or megachurches. It’s easy to take shots at Willow Creek or Saddleback, but both of those churches are deliberate about helping struggling people, whether they’re on the West Side of Chicago or across the world in Rwanda.

One of the sweetest films I’ve ever seen is a PBS documentary, Let the Church Say Amen, which depicts the small, struggling World Missions for Christ in Washington, D.C. I had never heard of this church before, and I doubt that it ever will be known widely. The film left me with an abiding sense of God’s presence, because Pastor Bobby Perkins Sr. was there to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I expect there are far more churches like that throughout the country, both in inner cities and in tiny towns.

Maybe Scrooge Was Right

Maybe Scrooge Was Right for urban faithThis year, a more balanced perspective on gift-giving, and a newly discovered respect for “Scroogenomics,” is saving my Christmas.

I recently heard a clip on NPR referencing a new book by Wharton economist Joel Waldfogel titled Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays. In the book, Waldfogel makes the claim that every year, billions of dollars are wasted in the holiday shopping season because gift-givers cannot perfectly predict the needs or wants of the gift recipients in their lives, resulting in Christmas mornings all around the country during which millions of people open presents that they never really wanted to begin with. “If you discovered a government program that was hemorrhaging money — say, spending $100 billion of taxpayer money per year to generate a benefit of only $85 billion — you would be outraged,” Waldfogel writes.

The more I think about the premise of this book, the more convicted I feel about my own Christmas spending habits. Sure, it may be true that the dollars I spend help to boost a sagging economy, but is potentially wasteful spending really the best use of our family’s funds? I confess that as the mother of three young boys, I enjoy thinking about ways to brighten Christmas morning with gifts that they will find memorable and enjoyable; I tend to keep a file all year of ideas for presents that they might like, things a little out of the ordinary or that cost a little more. But to be honest, even I, the keeper of all relevant information with regards to my sons’ likes, dislikes, and preferences, am hit-or-miss when it comes to their gift selections.

The Sesame Street DVD that I was certain my three-year-old son would adore last year? He’s watched it once. The car design drawing set that I was positive my auto-obsessed eldest son would spend hours using? He’s pulled it out twice in one year. The toy guitar I bought for our music-loving youngest son? He much prefers the real piano we already have. I’m sobered to realize that, shipping and tax included, that’s $75 of waste right there — and that’s in the context of selecting gifts for people I know best. Imagine how much more potential for waste there is for recipients I don’t know nearly as well. Multiply that experience millions of times over, and you get the idea that Waldfogel is on to something.

What if every individual or family with the means and inclination took a moment this Christmas season to think about whether the money they are using is truly being well spent? What if we all took a portion of the money we typically spend on gifts and instead allocate it to a cause that would truly make a difference in the many local and global needs that surround us? I don’t mean to dampen people’s Christmases and throw gift-giving out the window entirely. For many people, gift-giving is a way of communicating and receiving love from their family and friends, and I have certainly appreciated many gifts that I have been given over the years. But for every good gift I’ve received, I can think of another three or four that I have either never used or don’t need. And I am sure the reverse is true, too — that I have given many gifts that have ultimately ended up in a trash dump somewhere.

So this year, I’m thinking about ways in which our family can reduce the shopping waste, create a climate around Christmas that is less about the gifts and more about the Giver, and help inculcate in our children a perspective about Christmas that frees them from ongoing cycles of holiday consumerism.

My kids are now old enough to have expectations about Christmas, and despite our reminders otherwise, most of those expectations have nothing to do with celebrating Jesus’ birth (although they are clever enough to answer the “Why is Christmas important?” question in a way that would make any Sunday school teacher proud, even as visions of presents dance in their heads). Just today, my seven-year-old son said to me, “I think you have Christmas presents already hidden all over this house. Lots of them!” This expectation is, of course, entirely my own fault. I love watching my kids’ gleeful faces when they emerge from their rooms on Christmas morning, stunned at the sight of a tree under which presents have mushroomed overnight. What parent doesn’t enjoy gift-induced moments of our children’s gratitude, even as we know the joy they’re experiencing is fleeting at best? What parent can successfully counter the false gospel that material possessions are a source of contentment if we ourselves are perpetuating that fallacy with our lifestyle choices, particularly at Christmastime?

So I shared with my son that actually, I’d like for us to handle Christmas differently this year, and think about giving more of our previous Christmas spending to those who desperately need it, as well as taking more time to understand what Advent is all about. I explained that as his parent, I definitely wanted the chance to give him something special just as God gave his children the best present of all that first Christmas, but that we would tone things down from this year onward and have a different perspective about gift-giving at Christmastime. I felt a bit Scrooge-ish saying this, and I admit that I was worried that this news would deeply disappoint him, but after taking a moment to ponder my words, he answered, “I totally agree with this plan!” (Children, I’ve come to learn, often embrace spiritual truths so much more quickly than those of us who are supposed to be older and wiser.)

So we are beginning the process of change in our household this Christmas — small changes but hopefully in the long run, significant ones: we’re letting friends and family know that we’ll be giving a gift to One Day’s Wages in their name as opposed to buying them a gift, and asking that they consider doing something similar. My husband and I have agreed to not give each other gifts, but to instead jointly choose something we both need and can use. We will spend time shopping for gifts together as a family for needy children in our area, and yes, we will get some gifts for our own kids as well, but I’ll stick to a plan of fewer and more meaningful gifts.

My hope is that over time, our family and especially our kids will think of Christmas as the time of year when we primarily strive to make a difference in others’ lives rather than benefiting our own. Who would have thought that a little dose of Scroogenomics was just what I needed to reclaim the true meaning of Christmas?

How to Handle Panhandlers

How to Handle Panhandlers for urban faithPanhandlers and beggars seem to bombard us in the city. They wash our windshields at stoplights and then come to our windows expecting payment. They cling to ragtag cardboard signs and approach us with forlorn faces. Some are missing limbs. They sit in wheelchairs holding dirty cups. Some are in obvious need. We can tell by looking in their eyes that they truly are blind or hungry or ill.

What should we do?

As the leader of a large organization that specializes in ministry among the homeless, let me give you my expert opinion: I don’t know!

I think God gives us these dilemmas to cause us to rely on the compassion of Christ he has implanted in our hearts. Coming face to face with someone who asks us for money is an opportunity to be led by the Holy Spirit, instead of being driven by guilt or obligation or the desire to bolster our own ego as a “generous person.” There is no simple answer.

Jesus said in Luke 6:30 that we are to give to everyone who asks of us. Most of us are hesitant to do that because we are afraid that we will be taken advantage of. Perhaps the recipient of our charity will use our hard-earned cash for booze or drugs. Surely giving to someone who would use our money for those purposes would not be in anyone’s best interest, would it? Yet, the directive is clear. We are to give without question and without judgment.

While we don’t want to contribute to someone’s addiction, it is helpful to understand that people who are living on the street usually do not have access to appropriate pain medicine, mental health counseling, or the gentle pacifiers such as chocolate and ice cream that we turn to when we need a lift. Who are we to judge them for how they spend money? I certainly have not always made the best decisions with the money that God sends my way. Yet God keeps giving to me.

On the other hand, our gifts do not always have to be cash. I urge people to give financial gifts to organizations that specialize in wise care for the under-resourced — like Sunshine Gospel Ministries, Circle Urban Ministries, or my own Breakthrough Ministries — and then get involved by volunteering to help those ministries. Then, when asked for cash, we can respond like Peter and John did when confronted by the crippled beggar. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:1-10).

A financial gift to a mission or an organization that provides opportunities for the homeless will help men and women who have been crippled by life get back on their feet and — in the name of Jesus Christ — walk a new walk. As stewards of the resources God entrusts to us, we want to make sure our gifts to the poor are invested wisely.

Instead of giving cash to people on the street, we can give directions, or perhaps a ride, to the nearest ministry that provides loving care in the name of Christ. Like the Good Samaritan that Jesus described in Luke 10, we can transport those who are battered and broken to the nearest rehab center and pay for their rehabilitation.

I have a friend who always gives people exactly what they ask for. If they ask for change, he gives them change. If they ask for a couple of dollars, he gives them a couple of dollars. He says that in the grand scheme of things, considering his budget for giving to the poor, the amount of money he hands out is actually relatively small. He thinks we make a bigger deal of being taken advantage of than we should. After all, Jesus let himself be stripped, beaten, and hung on a cross unjustly to show his great love. It is not likely that we will ever experience that much injustice in our giving to the poor.

The June 13th entry in Oswald Chambers’s great My Utmost for His Highest reads, “Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.” So, again, we are asked to let the Spirit guide our practices when we come face to face with someone asking us for money.

One thing I am quite certain about is this: When I stand before God in the judgment, I don’t think he is going to drill me about how smart and frugal I was when I was face to face with someone who asked me for money. I doubt that God will point out how proud he is of me that I didn’t let myself get scammed by someone who was lying to get a few bucks out of me.

God is more likely to say something like this: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Holy Health Care

doctor prayingDebates on our national system of providing health care are raging in political and corporate offices around the country. Traditionally, however, churches and faith centers have been the sites of healing, health, and wholeness for a community.

In the 1970s, many churches in the U.S. experienced a resurgence of “healing ministries” that accompanied a renewed charismatic movement. Though it may not always be God’s purpose and will to perform spectacular demonstrations of his healing power, it is clear that he equips his people with the gift of healing. Healing services, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, healing prayer, and many other manifestations all spring from the healing ministry of Jesus. It’s what he did: He healed. He taught. He saved.

This “making people whole again” was a way Jesus prepared those he met for receiving the Good News into their lives. Karin Granberg-Michaelson wrote in her 1984 Sojourners article, “The Healing Church”:

In considering the healing miracles of Jesus and the profound emphasis he placed on wholeness, we must ask what Jesus wished to communicate through his healing works in people’s lives. That is best answered in the context of more basic assumptions about the meaning of Jesus’ overall ministry in and to the world.

While many churches are deeply faithful to their healing ministry, it sometimes doesn’t make it past the church doors. It doesn’t flow into a social concern for how we as Christians can serve the common good. “If the church is to reclaim its healing ministry, it must ask the question ‘what constitutes wholeness?'” writes Granberg-Michaelson.

Wholeness is not just for the individual or the community of Christians; it is a gift God gives to us and through us for the larger society. It is part and parcel of how we move as a society “toward healing and reconciliation,” as Granberg-Michaelson puts it.

If healing and wholeness (spiritual, physical, and emotional) is a gift that God gives to the church, then it is our responsibility to find ways to share the workings of that gift in service of the common good. Granberg-Michaelson says:

Whole person health care [the treatment of a person as a unity of body, mind, and spirit] is, therefore, the heritage of the church. We must reclaim our function as the primary mediator of healing in society.

One important way that we as Christians can “reclaim our function as the primary mediator of healing in society” is by educating ourselves on the nitty-gritty of the health-care debate and working to craft a system that allows healing to flow throughout our land.

We want to craft a health-care system that honors a fair exchange of money for services, that redistributes our social capital toward the health and healing of all over the long-term, and that allows for philanthropy and generosity of heart by those who can give freely for the betterment of all.

A generous health-care system that reflects a commitment to healing and wholeness for the sake of securing human dignity is a priority. It’s one way Christians can extend our healing ministry toward our national body.

This article appears courtesy of a partnership with Sojourners.

Beating the High Cost of Higher Education

college scaleIf you’re a middle-class parent with a senior graduating from high school this year, you’ve probably been deeply involved in the frantic world of college acceptance. You’ve been sweating it out with your kid as he awaits that all-important letter from his school of choice. You’ve played the role of the patient counselor, but the truth is you’re just as anxious as your young college-student-to-be.

You’ve spent the past 12 years watching, encouraging, and helping your child (when you can understand the assignments) to study, read, and complete all of his homework. You drove him to music lessons, sports practices, and community service assignments because you were told by the college counselor at his high school that he needed extracurricular activities on top of great grades. You paid for professional classes to help him boost his SAT score, and when invited, he joined the National Honor Society, the National Honor Roll, and Who’s Who Among American High School Students. You hung every plaque, framed every certificate, pinned up every ribbon, and displayed every trophy to remind yourself that you expended this effort knowing that every bit of it would look great on his all-important transcript for the ultimate prize–scholarship money.

But, alas, now that you have sweated over accurately filling out the FAFSA, you’ve discovered that your child, although deserving, is not eligible for any Federal, state, or any other need-based aid, which (you also discovered to your chagrin), is what the majority of the large awards are based on. You make too much money. (You could argue that $69,000 for a family of four is no real money, but save your breath. That’s the ceiling in some states.) If only you had a lower-paying job, more children, or were deeper in debt, that same high school senior could be looking at a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious university. Because you have worked hard to provide, you are now looking at dipping into your retirement fund to help with his higher education. (You’re as old as you are because you judiciously waited to start your family until you were in a better financial position to provide a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood and a childhood with at least some frills.)

And that great kid of yours is now rewarded by having to take out loans for his higher education. He will then have the grand privilege of looking forward to his first 10 years out of college paying those loans back while he holds down the great job for which he has been prepared, plus paying a decent amount of taxes to that same state and federal government who wouldn’t help him get where he is now. Parents, what were you thinking?

Well, fellow parents, as I faced this dilemma, I joined my son Matthew on a search for private, merit-based scholarship money. We found the search frustrating, as each of the wonderful organizations offering this money has tons of different requirements, long forms, and many applicants. The competition is fierce and Matthew’s registration and move-in date kept moving steadily closer. Would he get the scholarships or not? I was losing my fingernails fast.

I finally realized that I was approaching it all wrong. Instead of chasing the money, I needed to send Matthew to a different institution. I needed to send him someplace where the cost of his education, room, and board would be covered by the state and federal agencies of the great land in which we are proud citizens. And since I know you get what you pay for, I wanted to find an institution on par with the $30,000 per year I was looking at paying for him to attend his chosen university. It was my good fortune to be watching 60 Minutes several weeks earlier because I got my answer.

Yes, 60 Minutes spotlighted just the kind of institution that, I decided, would be perfect for my son. It’s a place called Pelican Bay. The show talked about its entrepreneurial “students” who were running national corporations while still in attendance. What a head start on life! I want my son in a place where those around him are forward thinking, self-starters — people who see barriers as challenges and let nothing stop them from reaching their business goals. There was the young man who had taught himself a whole new language in order to better communicate with his colleagues. And there were art “students” who wove intricate messages into their masterpieces — messages only those really in tune with the times could decipher. Matthew would be able to network with these guys and more (early on, his report cards received the coveted comment “works well with others”) who operated independent empires and who were more than glad to allow him to align himself with them as each group would jockey to bring him into their circle and teach him what Pelican Bay had taught them. Such fraternity!

I leaned toward the television. At Pelican Bay, Matthew would gain incredible business savvy. He’d know the ins-and-outs of insider trading, financial frugality, slick communication skills, and creative time management.

I was fascinated. Upon searching Pelican Bay’s website, I found more intriguing incentives in terms of an educational environment for my son. The website promised that Pelican Bay fosters “an innovative, collaborative environment that provides meaningful educational and vocational training.” That’s exactly what I wanted for Matthew. It also incorporates “medical and mental health services in day-to-day operations.” Fabulous! Free health care.

The more I read, the better it got. Pelican Bay provides “secure housing” and has established that “violence is unacceptable” and backs this up by holding residents “personally responsible for their actions through behavior-based multi-level programming.” In this age of out-of-control school violence, what a comfort this is for a parent. This settles my fears about releasing him to the dorm.

Pelican Bay is an extensive 275-acre facility with a $115 million budget, workout facilities, laundry facilities, and optical services, just to name a few provisions.

Now here’s the best part: Every resident of Pelican Bay receives a full ride financed by the government to the tune of $30,929 each per year. That’s free tuition, room, board, medical, dental, and visual for as long as is necessary, all on the government’s dime. Such a deal! As a taxpayer, I’m paying into this system anyway; how can I possibly pass up taking advantage of such an incredible business educational opportunity for my son?

The minor detail that Pelican Bay is a state correctional institution may deter some parents, but the benefits just seem to far outweigh the risks.

Of course, my home state of California and the federal government could question the logic of paying over $30,000 a year, for 15 years to life, over paying $30,000 a year for four years to educate upstanding young people who have the real potential of becoming contributing, positive role models in society. They could question the validity of a system that believes middle-class kids are less deserving of starting life after college out of debt. They could question their support of a system that punishes parents who have been diligent and balanced in their spending habits for 18 years. Those questions could be asked, but the student loan system is riding safely and securely on the backs of these middle-class kids who obviously have admirable work ethics or else they wouldn’t meet the requirements of acceptance to the excellent private universities across this country.

Before I sent for the Pelican Bay application, Matthew and I continued to scout merit-based scholarships. (Did I mention he was the valedictorian of his class, carried a 4.2 G.P.A., and planned to major in Film Production with a view to bring values-based motion pictures into mainstream Hollywood?) He and a few of his friends are in the same looking-forward-to-the-loans boat.

If anyone has a better idea for these kids, please let me know. Otherwise, parents, take my advice and follow my lead. Look into the outstanding, educational, vocational, and personal growth opportunities afforded free for your child at institutions like Pelican Bay. Believe me, when they go there, they will never be the same.