My next book will be dealing with how the teachings of Jesus transformed the understanding of what it meant to live a good life and to be a good person in the Western world. One of the most important areas I’ll be focusing on is Jesus’ emphasis on going out of one’s way to help those in need — not just family and friends, but even complete strangers. What we think of as privately funded charities, governmental support of the needy, and individual assistance for those we hear about virtually didn’t exist in the pagan/polytheistic world of the Roman empire before then. It exists big time now, and it almost certainly would not have happened apart from the influence of Jesus’ followers, as Christianity became the dominant religion of the West and transformed culture, society, and government. And now this commitment to help others in need seems rooted in our DNA (well, obviously not in all of us!), whether we identify as Christian or not.
The original motivation for the Bart Ehrman Blog was to raise money for charity. I absolutely would not have begun it, in 2012, for any other reason. I do, of course, believe strongly in providing scholarly knowledge about the New Testament, the historical Jesus, the history and writings of early Christianity, and lots of cognate fields to non-scholars, and this is a terrific avenue in which to do it. But there’s no way I would have started the blog just for that reason. Too much work! And I have (and had) plenty other venues to do that in through writing, lecturing, giving interviews and so on.
I started the blog because someone convinced me that it could generate revenue and that I could give it all away. Whoa. Now THAT was a good idea.
So I did it. And here you are, reading it. Every week (going on twelve years now) I have published 5-6 posts and you, the members, pay a small fee to read them. In addition, some of you generously make independent donations to the blog.
ALL of your membership fees and separate donations are completely tax deductible (in the US). And every penny goes to charity. I don’t keep any for myself and we don’t take any of it for overhead. As a result, we’ve raised well over two million dollars for charity, and we are growing all the time. Nearly half of that amount has come from the past two years.
With all that in mind I’d like to remind you of the charities we support. From the outset of the operation I decided to support two international charities that have no political/ideological commitments apart from helping those in need (hunger, homelessness, disaster relief) and two charities local to me (focusing on hunger and homelessness). A few years ago I added one local (focusing on literacy). Your fees and donations go directly to all of these.
If you would like to donate to any of them, it is easy enough just to do it through the blog. If you don’t designate a specific one, we’ll put the donation in the general fund up to go out proportionally to each; if you have one in particular you’d like your funds to go to, just tell us (write a note to [email protected]) and we’ll make it happen.
Here, now are the charities. They are all impressive. Check them out online if you don’t know about them already.
- Doctors Without Borders: What do I need to say? This is one of the truly great humanitarian charities in the world, without question, a bright light shining in our universe, active in all the crises we read about in the paper and many, many that (pathetically, frustratingly, aggravatingly) never make an appearance there. By their own summary: “Doctors Without Borders provides medical care to people in nearly 70 countries worldwide, saving lives threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe. As a humanitarian organization, we treat people in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.” http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/
- CARE: CARE is a hugely successful international relief agency that works in nearly 90 countries. Founded in 1945, CARE is nonsectarian, impartial, and non-governmental. As they say: “implementing long-term programs to fight poverty, responding to humanitarian emergencies, and advocating for policy change to improve the lives of the poorest people.” They deal with heart-rending problems with dignity and integrity, again in all the major crisis situations we know about and many we (most of us) don’t: http://www.care.org/
- The Urban Ministries of Durham: This charity is near and dear to my heart, the agency that deals with hunger and homelessness in my own part of the universe. It is an absolutely amazing “ministry” (it is not religious in any way; the term is used in the sense that they “serve” those in need). They certainly deal with pressing needs of members of the community through their homeless shelter, community kitchen, food pantry, and clothing pantry. But even more impressive and arguably important, in addition Urban Ministries works diligently to get people off homelessness and into permanent jobs and permanent housing. Last year they ended homelessness for 287 people. Anyone interested in seeing what a local organization can do, and do brilliantly, should check out their work at http://umdurham.org/.
- Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina: This, too, is a phenomenal organization which deals with food distribution to the needy throughout my part of the state. The quantity of food they collect from all kinds of sources and the complex distribution process they undertake are logistically mind-boggling. They literally keep people from starving – an increased desideratum during Covid and now an ongoing one because of the post-epidemic economy. You can see what they are about at http://www.foodbankcenc.org
- The Durham Literacy Center: Literacy Centers throughout the nation are doing a world of good, teaching those who need help learning to speak, read, and write English, training them to be productive and happy citizens and valuable contributors to our society. The Durham Literacy Center does amazing work with numerous programs – English instruction, skills classes, high school equivalency, and and and – all of them improving the lives of people who need help, and thereby making significant contributions to my city and state – and through that, to the known universe. To see more about them, check them out at https://www.durhamliteracy.org/.
The Bart Ehrman Foundation in Durham, NC is a tax exempt organization. Donations to The Bart Ehrman Foundation are tax deductible in the US. EIN 45-4810987. For more information about it, go here: http://www.orgcouncil.com/nc/durham/bart-ehrman-foundation-987.php