What Is Gained and What Is Lost by the Faith-based Organization (FBO) Term?

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Abstract

The growing interest in the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in promoting social development is welcome, but the article nevertheless questions the value of the broad term FBOs. The categorizations of FBOs do not bring adequate clarity. Four justifications for keeping the FBO term are analyzed: (i) highlighting the importance of religion and the size of FBOs; (ii) identifying characteristics of FBOs, specifically extensive networks and stronger local presence; (iii) surveillance of FBOs as potentially divisive actors; and (iv) necessary to map donations. Four justifications for scrapping the FBO term are also analyzed: (i) the term FBO might give connotations to religiously extremist movements – or to Western worldviews; (ii) the emphasis on the “devotedness” inherent in FBOs might directly and indirectly promote behavioral economics; (iii) both religion and FBOs might become “essentialized”; and (iv) research of FBOs is characterized by a lack of rigorous methodological, investigative approach.

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