Compassion Accounts

Omri Elisha

in Moral Ambition

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267503
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950542 | DOI:
Compassion Accounts

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The chapter focuses on the influence of a pair of twin imperatives, compassion and accountability, that ambiguously define the purpose of charitable giving in the context of evangelical outreach. Compassion, on the one hand, invokes an ideal of empathetic, unconditional benevolence. Accountability, on the other hand, imposes certain reciprocal obligations on the part of beneficiaries as a condition of continued benevolence. The religious precepts of compassion and accountability are simultaneously consonant and at variance with prevailing notions of personhood and technologies of citizenship through which populations, rich and poor alike, are produced, empowered, and governed. Compassion is understood as unconditional, accountability is all about conditions and expectations that are deemed critical for compassion to work. Evangelicals who participate in social outreach ministries, whether through church-sponsored programs, faith-based organizations, or individual initiatives, pursue the desire to be selfless and gracious, to give with “no strings attached.” They seek, in short, to embody the radical sacrificial compassion of Jesus Christ.

Keywords: compassion; accountability; benevolence; social outreach; church-sponsored programs

Chapter.  12123 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology of Religion

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