My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving
March 27th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving

Editor’s Note: Glenn Beck is a radio and television host and is founder of The Blaze, a news and opinion website, and GBTV.

By Glenn Beck, Special to CNN

I have never felt particularly charitable on April 15.

Instead, I typically feel like the victim of the most sophisticated burglary in world history. Yet it is on Tax Day that we learn a lot about the giving nature of our political leaders, at least those who release their tax records. Those documents provide a lens into politicians’ financial priorities and benevolence.

While the American people certainly don’t have a “right” to see the tax returns of any private individual, the public has grown to expect that those running for the highest office in the land will voluntarily allow us to view their filings.

Each election cycle, the media and general public take voyeuristic pleasure in examining how candidates made money and the charities they supported before knowing that the national microscope would be on them.

According to his tax records, President Obama gave about 14% to charity last year, a laudable amount by any measure. However, that’s about 12 times the rate he gave before he arrived in the Senate in 2004 and over 35 times the rate at which he gave in 2002 (when he managed to donate only 0.4% of his quarter million dollar income).

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This raises questions about how much of the president’s recent charitable contributions can be chalked up to political calculation.

When charitable giving is at a high rate for an extended period of time, as is the case with Mitt Romney, the media tend to ignore the trend. While nearly every outlet on the planet wrote about Romney’s 15% income tax rate when he released tax filings earlier this year, almost none covered the 15 % he gave voluntarily to charity.

Explainer: Mormon tithing

(While Romney and Obama lead the current presidential pack in personal giving, they are troublingly the only two remaining candidates supporting a partial elimination of the federal deduction for charity, which would cost non-profits far more than either man could personally give in a lifetime.)

Rick Santorum, whom I firmly believe would be the best president out of the current crop of candidates, does not back down when questioned about the influence of faith on his life. But the devout Catholic has understandably faced some criticism due to the fact that his charitable giving, about 3% of his income in recent years, lags behind both Romney and post-rise-to-national-prominence-Obama.

While Santorum’s donations compare favorably to the average American, they’re not up to the levels that many would expect from a man of such deep faith.

It should be noted that Santorum is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, which does not require a specific 10 percent tithe, as many other traditions do.

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Regardless, it’s fair to wonder why Santorum hasn’t willingly given more - which is why I recently asked him about it.

While noting that many of his charitable acts, such as volunteering time and raising money through speaking appearances at charitable fundraisers, are not reflected in his tax returns, Santorum admitted: “I need to do better and I should be better and I fell short.”

In comparison to what other politicians have been caught doing, this is admittedly a minor offense. But it’s encouraging that Santorum takes it seriously.

At the end of the day, the lesson - that it’s important to pitch in and give to help those in need - doesn’t just apply to presidential candidates; it applies to all of us, but particularly to conservatives.

Although studies have shown that conservatives already give more to charity than their liberal counterparts, the need is still great and requires much of everyone who is able to assist.

The idea that individuals are the key to helping others is a conservative one. It’s why I have never been shocked at Vice President Joe Biden’s lack of charitable giving over the years.

Biden averaged giving 0.2% over an entire decade of six-figure incomes in the Senate, 1/13th of what Santorum is criticized for today.

Unlike President Obama, Biden’s low charitable giving is a picture of stability. Even under the microscope of the Vice Presidency he still only gave 1% to charity last year.

And yet this is oddly consistent with his political philosophy. Progressives believe the government does a better job with your money than you can. So, why give any money to charity? Why doesn’t President Obama just give an extra 14% to the government?

It’s the responsibility of individuals to help others. Mercury One is a charity that I started in 2011 that attempts to take that morsel of ideology and turn it into action. The goal is to show that the American spirit of giving, while already far more significant than any other developed nation, still has plenty of room to grow.

When it comes to charity, Americans need to stop saying “Yes, we can” and start saying “Yes, I can.”

We face tough economic times ahead. I believe that we must shrink the size and scope of government or we will face national economic disaster.

But it’s not just about making the government smaller. As some of these giveaways from Washington disappear, American individuals must step in and make up the difference.

Savings in government waste and inefficiency can only go so far. It’s up to all of us to demand of ourselves that we pick up the slack.

Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command us to elect a government that will take our money under threat of imprisonment so that bureaucrats can figure out the best way to help people in need.

But as so many on the left have pointed out, Scriptures do direct us to help the poor. Yet God puts the responsibility on us, not on the government.

Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians says that "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

I think the use of “not grudgingly or under compulsion” eliminates the possibility that he was talking about the IRS.

This should serve as motivation for all of us to do more personally. Unless you’re already feeling “cheerful” every year on April 15.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Glenn Beck.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Money & Faith • Opinion

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soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. Ronnie Harper

    Holy crap, a sane and refreshingly lucent op-ed by Glen Beck, unbelievable!

    March 27, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  2. JoJo

    While I commend Beck for advocating charity (even if he does it mosty to make political points), if people like Beck and Santorum are such devout, outspoken Christians, why were they not vocal in support of the long-standing Vatican and Chrisitan position that the War in Iraq violated Christian Just War Criteria from the beginning, and vociferously denounce the draft-dodging, war profiteers and religious hypocrites who started it? Why did Beck argue that a problem with our military is that it is too "humane" (abu Ghraib, waterboarding, the recent massacre of kids, etc.)? The Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive wars of choice and the use of torture is in direct repugnant contradiction to the teachings of Jesus (turn the other cheek, blessed are the peacemakers, he who lives by the sword will die by it, love your enemies, forgive seventy times seven times, etc.)

    "'Preventative War' is not in the catechism of the Catholic Church. There were NOT sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. ……It was right to resist the war.” Pope Benedict XVI

    “It is essential not to lose sight of the moral dimension of war. ……..The War in Iraq did not even come close to satisfying the requirements of a just war.” Ron Paul

    Religions’ stances on the War in Iraq;

    March 27, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Peter T

      A lot of people–not just politicians, talking heads, or Christians either–are pretty hypocritical in their beliefs. Basically they do what they want and pretend that is what their faith advocates, or else simply ignore the tenets of their faith so that they can do what they want.

      Violence or warlike actions/beliefs of Christians is a very glaring example of that. Jesus Christ was the ultimate peacenik, yet "Christians" are often war hawks.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Kelly

      Glen Beck did voice opposition as to why we were in Iraq. I remember listening to his program thinking that he must be crazy to state that we shouldn't be over there, now I know that he was right. Although it should be noted that former President Bush DID get congressional approval, it's on record no matter how many times YOU say it didn't happen. It should be noted that almost everyone one, except to gentle from the UN inspection team (his name escapes me at the moment) believed that Iraq had WMD, Democrat, Republican, American, European, Saudi....you name it. The story was on every news channel including CNN for months. I get you hate Glen Beck but it's a hate built on lies and misinformation. You are a truly pitiable individual, but judging by most of the comments you've got a lot of company, really poor quality company, but there's a lot of it.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  3. Peter T

    Criticizing Obama's pattern of charitable giving seems pretty shaky. In fact, it looks remarkably prudent and reasonable. When he first came into money just starting his career and with a young family, he gave limited amounts. As he started making more money and his financial well-being seemed secure, his donations rose dramatically. Isn't this what you would expect reasonable people would do?

    Giving to charities is certainly a laudable notion, but the idea that you can cut taxes, reduce gov't spending, and expect charitable donations to make up for it is taking a big risk with people's well-being who really need gov't assistance. Easy for a multi-millionaire like Glenn Beck to call for, but if he relied on food banks he might feel differently. The reality is that when the economy is bad, more people need more assistance. But that is also exactly when charitable donations drop. It's a poor model.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Provider29

      I read this as actually supporting our President for his giving when he was able. Amazing how you can read a half-glass of water.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • me

      $250k and he was not able to give at least 10% of his earnings? $225k is too low to survive? Shaky argument.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Peter T

      Beck basically called into question Obama's motivations for charitable giving. This is simply a way to try to discount something positive that Obama has done that Beck would otherwise have to give him credit for, and he cannot bring himself to do that.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Peter T

      After finishing something as expensive as law school and with a young family, new home, etc, you're probably not going to give tons to charity even making $250K. At least not at first. You never know how well the money will keep coming in, and so until you have more security I would doubt you would see many people giving out large amounts of their income as charity.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Sam

      @me, tuition at Columbia and Harvard Law is not cheap. Columbia is currently ~$30k a year and Harvard Law about $50k, neither including living expenses. Both are in high cost areas, so figure $15k living expenses a year. So figure Obama spent ~$350k to get through school, taking into account inflation. How quickly can you pay that back?

      March 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  4. wharf0rat

    Instead of paying taxes, give money to charities. Charities don't waste money on military spending or start unnecessary wars.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • JoJo

      Best argument I EVER heard for NOT paying taxes! Thank you.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Sharag

      Yes, but they spend most of the donations in giving themselves high salaries 🙁

      March 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Nice Guys Finish Third

      Without a strong military your country would be attacked, and you would be dead, or you would never have lived as Hitler took over the world. Chew on that for awhile.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • JoJo

      Nice Guys Finish Third: "Without a strong military ....... you would never have lived as Hitler took over the world".
      Is this another attempt to use a rare just war (WWII) to excuse unjust, unnecessary lie-based holocausts in general, like in Iraq?
      "There were NOT sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. ……It was right to resist the war.” Pope Benedict XVI

      “It is essential not to lose sight of the moral dimension of war. ……..The War in Iraq did not even come close to satisfying the requirements of a just war.” Ron Paul, served in the air force as a flight surgeon.

      “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Alan Greenspan, 2007, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve 1987-2006.

      Religions’ stances on the War in Iraq;

      "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking on the American invasion of Iraq, September 16, 2004.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Instead of refusing to pay your taxes or giving your money to religious charities, vote Democrat instead. After all, Grenada, Nicaragua, Iraq the first time, Afghanistan the first time, Iraq the second time, Afghanistan the second time, Pakistan... all brought to you by Republican presidents.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  5. Arkancharlie

    So. How much does the saintly Glenn Beck give to charity?

    March 27, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Brian

      Way more than you

      March 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • coaslinecascot

      Given he wrote this blog. I bet he gives quite a bit.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  6. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Need proof? Check out the postings by the phony 'just sayin'

    March 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Because they're just SO different from those of the 'real' just sayin.

      Get a life, you waste of oxygen.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Prayer brings about abundant life.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Michael Johnson

      The religious have murdered the most people in the name of their loving god who sat on his butt doing nothing while 6,000,.000 of his chosen people were murdered in death camps by good Christians.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • just sayin

      Hitler and the Nazi party were atheists.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Actually, Religion has throughout history done a great job at dividing people and abusing children... and still does today.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  7. 2liberate

    Potty-mouths withstanding, prayer works. At least for me.

    March 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Really? You always get what you pray for? Or just sometimes? Do you ever pray for something utterly random that happens anyway? Prayer doesn't work. You pray for things to happen that have some likelihood of happening and sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. The outcome would be the same if you prayed or not. After all, if two people pray to get the same job they both interviewed for even if one of them gets it, the other doesn't... which is no proof at all that prayer works.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  8. Bootyfunk

    Glenn Beck is just so.... ew.

    it's hard to imagine him wanting to do anything to help anyone that is not named Glenn Beck.

    March 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Michael Johnson

      This gutless coward has never served his nation, only his self.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Provider29

      Although I have very limited exposure, you all have obviously not even heard what I have. He has committed countless hours to the Jewish population here in the US and abroad, the pursuit and support of Democratic societies that encourage (or even allow) free speech and women's rights. And, more importantly, assistance to the poor and very needy in our Country. It may help to be accurate by actually listening once in a while.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  9. just sayin

    cat-fried thrice

    March 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  10. just sayin

    cat-fried twice

    March 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  11. just sayin

    cat-fried lice

    March 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  12. just sayin

    cat-fried mice

    March 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  13. just sayin

    cat-fried rice

    March 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  14. Urafkntool

    I often wonder, who cares? I give a little bit to NPO's I consider to be worthwhile (mainly Stormfront and save the children), it's not much but it's also nobody's business where it goes and how much.

    March 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You don't have more than a 'little bit' of anything, Tool.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Michael Johnson

      The average administration costs for charities is 28% or more. Many have over 40% in admin costs.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      So, you consider racism to be worthwhile? Sad.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      @Michael: that actually has little to nothing to do with my comment.

      @Joshua: you mean I consider saving my race to be worthwhile.. the answer is yes.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  15. fred

    Check out that collection plate. A bunch of $1 on the bottom then a few 20's and 5's on the very top. CNN head line should read we staged this photo and article to asociate Romney, money and greedy Churchs with the ultra conservative Glen Beck. Election time must be around the corner

    March 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Not sure what subliminal "vibes" you're getting from the image, but I think it's just a stock photo that they've used before for other articles.

      March 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • fred

      You're probably right I have a bias that adjusts for what CNN says and what Fox News says. Either way I thought the arrangement of money on the plate was odd and ordered. Even the collection plate was gold like the Gold plates Smith saw or the gold associated with the Catholic Church.
      We pass a typical purple velvet pouch around. Again very typical religious use of purple velvet the color of royalty.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      fred, if you applied the same powers of observation to The Babble and the existence of (any) god, you would soon become an atheist.

      March 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • captain america

      It gets tiring having a pos canadian like hot air undermine our American values and insult our way of life without even the common decency to spell things properly. Go screw yourself hotair you are less than dog crap to US. There's your sign

      March 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      The Concise Guide to Captain Asshole: blah blah blah blah blah. . .

      March 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • fred

      You are correct and I observed that the Bible is the story of God redeeming a people for himself. That is the simple truth which cannot be taken away. That process of redemption and Gods road map for His people is very clear. If God has not called you then this book is not for you. It is a blessing to the redeemed and nonsense to all others. Before my experience with God it was nonsense now it is the Word of God. Same book same words just a different heart.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Provider29

      Amazing!! Do you not see the inference? Those much less well-off induce those of us who are to give and set a strong example. In other words those that still give when they can then those that have more should. The fact that the dollars are in such an array may be politically motivated but you also cannot see the "foundation" givings. Could have been $ 50s or more. gold plate? That has been typical in the churches I have attended which it has been a very long time as I am not even associated with one or that committed at all. I just love the feeling of mutual love I get when there; maybe once per year if I am lucky. Frankly we do not give to churches very much: homeless shelters, youth haven, mental health orgs. goodwill, etc... much more direct in our opinion and meaningfull.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  16. just sayin

    Cats are bigger than Romney and bigger than Jesus.

    March 27, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  17. hbyt

    Let me know when government spending shrinks. I believe we should give as we are led to give and not according to when the government spending decreases because it will never decrease just grow slower.

    Thanks for the article,


    March 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  18. Luke

    I point Mr. Beck's contention that Mr. Romeny's charitable giving has been sustained, but fails to indicate that nearly all of this charity is designated to the Mormon Church (to which Mr. Beck is a member). This charity is indeed required to be a member of the church, which makes this hardly charity but rather membership dues. The money is then funneled into political campaigns that the church disagrees with such as the fight against prop-8 in California, special interest groups and enriching the church itself rather than programs that benefit the common good regardless of political tie or value. Shameful, yet not sup rising, Mr. Beck.

    March 27, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • cindy nowicki

      You have no idea how much Romney gives to his church, compared to his other charitable contributions.. Many Mormons do not include this money on their tax statements. Until you have absolute proof on how his money was divvied out, you can not assume what you only 'think' you know. The Mormon Church also uses their monies to help poor country's, individual persons not of their faith, etc. "Judge not, lest ye be judged!"

      March 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • coaslinecascot

      Mormons do a whole lot of charitable giving to non mormons. My best friend is mormon. He is always trying to get me to help him with his food programs. that helps serve the poorest areas of my city.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Provider29

      Good Point!! Therefore do not just give to religious organizations. Check and double-check the productivity per dollar donated over and over. We gave a lot to Haitian rebuilding efforts just to find out we did not do our homework correct. YTD 2012 we have probably contributed $ 5,000 on an income of maybe $ 120,000 Gross if we are very lucky the rest of the year (married family of 3). That alone make me total distrust our Vice-President and I have no respect for VP Biden. In fact he makes me sick to my stomach that he is still there. The party can do so much better than that.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Luke

      cindy nowicki

      We know exactly what he gave and where it went. Mr. Romney gave ~14% of his income to charity. The Mormon church requires 10%. So we know he actually only gave 4% to charities. The rest went to his church, which requires the donation and then uses the cash for whatever it sees fit, including fighting political battles (it also pays no tax despite politiziing).

      March 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    March 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!

      March 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Leo

      Prayer works!! How can a faithless man such as yourself expect prayer to work for him? Do you think you can command the Almighty God?

      Proverbs 15:29

      The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

      James 5:16

      Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

      James 5:15

      and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

      March 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • just sayin

      Cats don't work! I tried them lots.

      March 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Leo

      I tried prayer too, but it didn't do a fucking thing for me either.

      March 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Leo

      Nice troll job on the last post!! Thanks for showing how week liars and decievers such as you are!! Posting under someone elses ID just shows what you are!!

      Using the same ID as someone else is for 8 year olds!!

      March 27, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Joe the Plumber

      Mark 10-25
      A camel has a better chance of going through a head of a needle than a rich man does of entering the kingdom of GOD ......Interpret that rich white man

      March 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  20. Pipe-Dreamer

    An old woman once told me that "Charity begins at home." She died awhile back,,,, Oh mother of my being forgive me and my brother our deeds done. I try now to make things easy for myself and my brother in our meeger existence. Mom, Dad, We both still do love you both and do at times frollick around your memories. I pray sometimes that you and God are playing the games we all have played in the passing times. Poker, 7-card stud was mother's favorite. Before she died brother and I took her to a casino and one time she hit aroyal spade flush! Won $10,000.00 plus she did! Dad was never a good card player. He would rather be fishing. I hope that both of our parents have found their God-given place in heaven's abode. See ya mom and dad when my time comes! Until then, I will take care of my brother and treat him with dignity.

    Love and Kindness to all,

    March 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Hemsworth

      PD-God bless you and your family!

      March 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bro!

      Cool story!

      March 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Tom B.

      Stay strong, PD.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Hemsworth, I mean no offfense but please whenever you want God to bless someone use, "May" in front of it. May God bless you Hemsworth for reading my post and finding it worthy of being read and commented upon. At 57, I am on the downhill slope and days gone by of long ago seem to have happened only yesterday. With one having many things to do, many people won't take the time to reflect upon the things a family did once do together. Mary, my brother and I's Mother along with our Father, Joseph would well have been a family of 9 if it weren't for Mom having 5 misscarriages. All girls they were. My brother was Mom's last pregnancy and he was born 9 plus years after I was. He (brother)was our parent's last conception. I was their 1st. Mother Mary gave it her all to raise her 2 boys. If only I would've known while growing up, what I do now know, I would have done things much differently. The moments of Life fly by ever so faster as one ages. When I am no longer this Life's member, I praytell and do hope the remainder of you will learn from your mistakes and make amends to those you cherish and have trespassed against without due reason. For you see people, this world of Ours is not God's Kingdom, Never was and never will be. God and His subjects, live out their Lives inside us and we all are their Buildings wherein they live out their days and eons of days.living mostly in harmony. We labor together with God and thru God's ways of husbandry all Life upon this world was and is and will ever be the living essences of God and His Glorious Nature!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • fred

      Pipe Dreamer
      You said: "God and His subjects, live out their Lives inside us "
      I am sorry but I do not understand this. We are one in Christ but His subjects do not live in us. One day all those who have died in Christ wil form one organism in unity and God will come and dwell in that temple. Is this what you are referring to?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:46 am |
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