A white Lutheran minister with his mostly black confirmation class in 1926:
From a collection documenting African-American Lutherans in the Schomburg General Research and Reference Division of The New York Public Library.
"We do not know if there is something about larger congregations that causes people to give less than they would give if they were in a smaller congregation, or if people inclined to give less are drawn to larger congregations. Perhaps members of smaller congregations perceive (rightly or wrongly) that their congregations have more financial need than people in larger congregations perceive. Or perhaps larger congregations require less financial commitment from their members because they are more efficient. Perhaps members of larger congregations are somehow less personally invested in their congregations, or perhaps they are just as invested, but a particular level of commitment translates into more financial support for a smaller congregation than it does for a larger congregation. Whatever the dynamics behind this relationship, it is clear that people in smaller congregations give more to their churches than do people in larger congregations. Not incidentally, other research shows that people in smaller congregations also participate more in the life of their congregation than do people in larger congregations."Larger religious groups, it would seem, have weaker individual commitments. This is an interesting bit of data to connect to the broader story of the trends of weakening religious connections.
Baby Jesus thieves literally take the Christ out of Christmas. When they do, it becomes apparent that the sacred object is also a piece of property, protected by the law that protects property and this whole apparatus that defends Christmas: fences and lights, tracking devices and private security companies, patrolling police and the courts. The commercialization of Christmas is visible here in a way it might not be, otherwise. That’s the power of the joke.
Stealing the baby Jesus can seen as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas, which is to say against Christmas, since the theft, as a theft, shows how indistinguishable the commercial and religious aspects of this American holiday really are.