Many religions urge their adherents to be charitable toward those in need.
Jesus directed his followers to sell their possessions and give alms to the poor. The Hebrew Bible instructed the Jews to provide generously for neighbors and strangers.
But as media technologies have raised awareness of global suffering, some have asked if the injunction to aid neighbors applies to distant strangers on the other side of the world.
During the late 19th century, a growing number of Americans insisted that the answer must be “yes.” In my recent book, Holy Humanitarians: American Evangelicals and Global Aid, I show how Protestant missionaries, ministers and media moguls persuaded a significant segment of the U.S. population to embrace the ideal of international charity.