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The history of compassion

"The history of compassion" Continued...

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

We will then have six weeks of online voting by readers (last year, 7,500 voted) and will announce the national winner at a Houston event in October. Given that Congress is taking up welfare reform again this year, we're particularly interested this year in ministries that help people prepare for and get jobs, so they can stay off or get off welfare.

We've also been insisting that organizations be explicitly Christian, with ample use of volunteers, a track record of creating bonds between helpers and helped, and programs so well-conceptualized that what's being done in one place is doable by others. Our preference is for small groups that haven't received much recognition over the years. This year's South Region winner, Challenge House of Hopkinsville, Ky., and the runner-up from Greensboro, Ga., both fit that bill well, as you can see over the next few pages.

Following those we have an essay by a young woman who decided to kiss law school goodbye, for now, and instead work in a residential program for at-risk teenagers. We conclude this section with a story about the compassion that a program at one Christian university helps students develop.

Crucially, that program director says, "We draw our definition of social justice from the Scripture, not so much from the secular terminology. We try to be very careful to say we're about biblical social justice, not about secular social justice. What we call today 'social justice' the church has commonly called 'compassion ministries'-showing compassion to your neighbor and helping those in need."

That's what churches have been doing for two millennia, and what many U.S. evangelical churches have been doing for two centuries. Nothing new, but given the presence of evangelical self-hatred, we need to be reminded that compassion has been for four centuries a mark of the church in America.

Follow this year's Effective Compassion competition and read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2010 on WORLD's Hope Award page.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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