By Melissa Wuske
Clipping Coupons for Those in Need
Lauren Puryear of Woodbridge, Virginia, is an avid couponer. “I started couponing for food items like spaghetti and meatballs. I was (often) able to get the items for free or for little to no money,” she said. All that savings gave her an idea. She gathered others to search for coupons, and she founded a charity called For the Love of Others. The group uses coupons to gather food for their local area and has fed 5,572 people. Puryear, who is 29, aims to deliver 30,000 meals by her 30th birthday.
Putting a Dollar Value on Religion
What is religion worth? This question can be answered from a spiritual or social perspective, but it can also be answered financially. According to a study by Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Melissa Grim of Newseum Institute, religious organizations make up $378 billion to $4.8 trillion of the U.S. economy. The first estimate is more than the combination of Apple and Microsoft’s revenue worldwide, and the second estimate is about one-third of the gross domestic product of the United States.
The largest share of this money comes from religious health care networks, which raise $161 billion a year. Church congregations have a collective revenue of $84 billion, and $74.5 billion comes from individual contributions. Religious education and charities also generate billions.
“Religion is a highly significant sector of the American economy,” the study said. “Perhaps most significantly, religion helps set Americans free to do good by harnessing the power of millions of volunteers from nearly 345,000 diverse congregations present in every corner of the country’s urban and rural landscape.”
One Congregation’s Response to the Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple recently established its international headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts. Wesley United Methodist Church, located in the heart of Salem, is responding to the unique challenge of continuing to share Christ in its community.
“Salem is definitely a place of spiritual warfare and a place where it’s important for Christians to gather to pray and to be in unity and to preach Christ,” said Arthur Savage, the congregation’s minister. “There’s a lot of spiritual confusion and a lot of people who come in that are dabbling in it and looking—a curiosity.”
The church’s ministries are a direct response to the needs of the city, and the people who are attracted by the Satanic Temple. They have ministries for people leaving the occult and also Christ-centered outreach events and street ministries during the Halloween season.
Former Prison Superintendent Opposes Death Penalty
Semon Frank Thompson oversaw two executions as the superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary—the only two the state has performed in the last 54 years. The experience changed his life and his views.
“I began to feel the weight of this undertaking while practicing for the executions. Teams rehearsed for more than a month,” Thompson said. “I cannot put into words the anxiety I felt about the possibility of a botched procedure.”
He saw the toll that carrying out these deaths had on his staff: “After each execution, I had staff members who decided they did not want to be asked to serve in that capacity again. Others quietly sought employment elsewhere. A few told me they were having trouble sleeping, and I worried they would develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had to go through it another time.
“Since I retired from corrections in 2010, my mission has been to persuade people that capital punishment is a failed policy,” said Thompson. “America should no longer accept the myth that capital punishment plays any constructive role in our criminal justice system.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).