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Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It Paperback – October 2, 2012
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“Lupton says hard things that need to be said, and he’s earned the right to say them. Believers would do well to receive his words with the mindset that ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend.’” (Christianity Today)
“[Lupton’s] new book, Toxic Charity, draws on his 40 years’ experience as an urban activist in Atlanta, and he argues that most charitable work is ineffective or actually harmful to those it is supposed to help.” (Washington Post)
“Lupton’s work, his books and, most importantly, his life continue to guide and encourage me to live and serve in a way that honors God and my neighbor. I highly recommend Toxic Charity.” (Danny Wuerffel, Executive Director, Desire Street Ministries)
“Lupton’s book reminds us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He shows how the people called poor can be blessed by supporting opportunities for them to give their gifts, skills, knowledge and wisdom to creating the future.” (John McKnight, Codirector, Asset Based Community Development Institute, Northwestern University)
“A must-read book for those who give or help others.” (Booklist)
“In Toxic Charity, Lupton reminds us that being materialistically poor does not mean that there is no capacity, no voice, and no dignity within a person. If we truly love the poor, we will want to educate ourselves on how best to serve. Let our charity be transformative not toxic.” (Roger Sandberg, Executive Director of Medair International)
“A superb book. Toxic Charity should serve as a guide and course correction for anyone involved in charitable endeavors at home or abroad.” (Ronald W. Nikkel, President, Prison Fellowship International)
“Toxic Charity provides the needed counterbalance to a kind heart: a wise mind. Though I often thought, “Ouch!” while I was reading the book, Robert Lupton gave this pastor what I needed to become a more effective leader.” (Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland – A Church Distributed)
“When Bob Lupton speaks of the inner city, the rest of us ought to sit up and take notice... [His work is] deeply distrurbing—in the best sense of the word.” (Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God?)
“Top 10 book of the year.” (World Magazine)
From the Back Cover
Public service is a way of life for Americans; giving is a part of our national character. But compassionate instincts and generous spirits aren’t enough, says veteran urban activist Robert D. Lupton. In this groundbreaking guide, he reveals the disturbing truth about charity: all too much of it has become toxic, devastating to the very people it’s meant to help.
In his four decades of urban ministry, Lupton has experienced firsthand how our good intentions can have unintended, dire consequences. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency. We converge on inner-city neighborhoods to plant flowers and pick up trash, battering the pride of residents who have the capacity (and responsibility) to beautify their own environment. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, hearts full of pity and suitcases bulging with giveaways—trips that one Nicaraguan leader describes as effective only in “turning my people into beggars.”
In Toxic Charity, Lupton urges individuals, churches, and organizations to step away from these spontaneous, often destructive acts of compassion toward thoughtful paths to community development. He delivers proven strategies for moving from toxic charity to transformative charity.
Proposing a powerful “Oath for Compassionate Service” and spotlighting real-life examples of people serving not just with their hearts but with proven strategies and tested tactics, Lupton offers all the tools and inspiration we need to develop healthy, community-driven programs that produce deep, measurable, and lasting change. Everyone who volunteers or donates to charity needs to wrestle with this book.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Where I disagreed with the author and the reason for the low rating is that I felt he was very one-sided. It felt to me like this was an attack on most of the charitable efforts commonly put forth by faith-based organizations like food shelves, clothing closets, meals and the like. The author goes on to say that we should never engage in one-directional giving unless it is an emergency. My questions is: whose definition of emergency are we using? The author mentioned things like natural disasters, which certainly are emergencies on a large scale. But is it not a personal emergency when someone loses their job unexpectedly? A major illness or injury can be an emergency. How do we determine whether someone`s circumstances constitute enough of an emergency?
There is a degree of judgment in that statement that makes me very uncomfortable. And it seems to be contradictory to the theology of faith-based organizations, especially Christian ones, who believe in trying to be unconditional. I am not comfortable trying to decide if the family at the food shelf or clothing closet is in enough of an emergency to warrant my charity or if they are trying hard enough to change their circumstances. I am not comfortable assessing how much work they are putting into this or asking them to do more, like he suggests more than once. Does the single mother working a full-time minimum wage job have time to be working at the food shelf or volunteering at the church to "earn" her charity? I don`t know the answer to those questions but I`m not even comfortable asking them.
Now I certainly agree with the "teach a man to fish" principle but most of the examples the author gave would be well outside the reach of my faith-based community. For example, we support a program that provides food for homeless people. The author would suggest that we need to be a part of their communities and he gives the example of people moving into those neighborhoods. That is not a practical response for my church - people are not going to sell their homes and uproot their lives. In the case of this particular program, the meal provided is the only thing many of these people get to eat in a day, or even two days. The consequences of NOT doing this would be very serious. And I don`t feel that these meals are encouraging these people to remain in their circumstances just to continue to get a measly sandwich or something similar. But that is what the author suggests is the consequence of this type of program - dependency and the attitude that people don`t want to change their situation.
I gave this two stars because I do feel that it is important to consider the long term goals of a charity when supporting it with financial donations or time. And I can see where some of these "mission trips" may cause more harm than good. But many of the fixes the author suggests, like the above, would be neither practical nor economical for the average person. And I don`t contribute my time or money to make myself feel good, which the author seems to think is a common motivation. I give because it is a response to human suffering. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us and I think that is directly addressing one-way giving - there will always be a need for that. But I can agree with the author that we need to establish and support charities that try to help people out of their circumstances as well. I guess I see a need for both and I really felt that the author is arguing that the type of charities that give unconditionally should be eradicated for the most part. I think the circumstances for many people would become even more dire if we removed the food shelves, clothing closets, and free assistance programs that are available through our faith communities. There is plenty of room and plenty of need for both approaches.
Toxic Charity is a must-read book for those who give or work with charities. This book gives examples and solutions in an understandable way.
I was truly impressed. So often we give, thinking that we are making a positive contribution when it is totally the contrary.
Before you join a group, be sure that EVERYONE, AND I MEAN EVERYONE reads this book. It is one of the best!