For decades I have noted the cost to society of the loss of Christian principles. But only now have social scientists examined the enormous potential of voluntary groups to contribute to providing services.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania has for the first time placed a cash value on the activities of voluntary societies.
Researchers carried out a long and intensive investigation of the activities of 11 churches and a synagogue in Philadelphia, and calculated a total contribution to the local economy of £50m every year.
I first noticed this topic in the 1970s when elderly parents were placed in care homes funded by the state, while some daughters looked after their parents at home without any recognition or remuneration from the state. Over the decades, the cost of this has become apparent.
The cost of easy divorce has become apparent only after the event – and it is children who are paying the price.
In the 1990s I often asked the question what will happen when the last Christian conscience disappears from the boardrooms of our companies. We can now see the result in the endemic corruption throughout our society.
More recently, the state has required churches to demonstrate that they are contributing to the community if they are to retain the tax breaks of charitable status. This concept, along with David Cameron’s “Big Society”, seems to have prompted this university study.
There are other areas which need costing. The state has eventually paid attention to the cost to society of the weekly preaching of Islamic terror, and has foolishly implemented some draconian solutions, but what is the value to society of weekly preaching the Gospel in terms of reducing policing and court time, and improving the economic output of the country in terms of the Protestant Work Ethic? Who has costed this?
What about that other institution – the traditional family? As a society we are slowly learning the cost of undermining it.