Image of God and Community Volunteering among Religious Adherents in the United States
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- Mencken, F.C. & Fitz, B. Rev Relig Res (2013) 55: 491. doi:10.1007/s13644-013-0115-4
Individual theological beliefs provide important motivations for religious people to volunteer in their communities. Compassion and loving one’s neighbor are both ideas that can motivate individuals to volunteer their time and talents. Religious believers who have conservative theological beliefs may see volunteering for their communities as a minor factor in their religious calling. Recent research on the role of social embeddedness within religious communities, however, has questioned the importance of theology as a motivation to volunteer (Putnam and Campbell, in American Grace. Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010; Lewis et al., in Soc Sci Res 42: 331–346, 2013). In this paper we test the effects of a religious adherent’s image of God’s disposition toward the world on their pattern of community volunteering. Using data from the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and multinomial logit models, we find that having an image of God as judgmental lowers the odds that religious adherents report having volunteered for the community independent of their place of worship. Adherents who are most willing to engage the external community independent of a place of worship are those with less judgmental images of God. We also find that embeddedness is associated with volunteering for and with the place of worship in the community. Implications for theory, research and social capital formation are discussed.