Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Toxic Charity, by Robert Lupton

Chapters Five & Six

1.  Lupton introduces this chapter with a deeper examination of organizational charity.  Citing several examples of programs run amuck, he asks, “But isn’t it time we admit to ourselves that mission trips are essentially for our benefit?  Would it not be more forthright to call our junkets ‘insight trips’ or ‘exchange programs?’  Religious tourism would have much more integrity if we simply admitted that we’re off to explore God’s amazing work in the world.”

What is your response here?  Agree or disagree?

2.  Lupton moves on to cite his organization, Focused Community Strategies, as an example of effectiveness.  “By narrowing the focus of missions, by concentrating the collective efforts of the church on specific places and issues, we dramatically increase the chances of effecting significant, measurable, and lasting change.”  

Why is this so difficult for churches to accomplish over a sustained period? 
3.  Lupton illustrates another failure…this time brought on by the 1.5 billion dollar donation to the Salvation Army by the Kroc family. 

Why did this ultimately lead to failure?

4.  “Top-down charity seldom works,” Lupton says, noting that “all charity begins at home.”  He offers the example of The Atlanta Project (TAP), launched by President Jimmy Carter in 1990.  His assessment? “Had the President’s council of strategists included an experienced community developer, the decision to target twenty multi-neighborhood school catchment districts would have been immediately challenged.” 

“What lessons can we learn from President Carter’s disappointing mission?”

5.  Lupton discusses “dead aid,” as coined by Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo.  This represents the one trillion dollars in charitable aid that has flowed into Africa over the past fifty years.  “Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.”

“So why is humanitarian aid still so popular?  Why does it continue to be a moral imperative among the affluent cultures to impose charity on the less fortunate…all buy(ing) into the belief that giving to the poor is a good thing?”

6.  Finally, Lupton shares the story of a Christian entrepreneur who set out to make Kansas City the first hunger-free zone in the country.  Lupton gives this man a lot of credit, but reflects, “The hard part is rethinking the entrenched giveaway mentality and restructuring an established one-way charity system.  A hunger-free zone may be possible, but developing the dependency-free zone is the real challenge.”

Great!  What happens next?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Toxic Charity, by Robert Lupton

Chapters Three & Four

1.  Lupton begins chapter three with his account of Christmas, 1981, when he celebrated the season as a newcomer to an urban neighborhood.  He highlights the departure of the father during the opening of gifts to his children, provided by others.  Lupton attributes this absence to the emasculation of the father, unable to provide for his own children.  Noting such charity as a perversion and toxic, he concludes, “This thorough look at the anatomy of my charity eventually exposed an unhealthy culture of dependency.” “Doing for rather than doing with those is need is the norm.  Add to it the combination of patronizing pity and unintended superiority, and charity becomes toxic.”  He goes on to cite Haiti and Africa as broader examples.

Can you recall any similar or dissimilar examples from your experience with giving?  Where do you agree or disagree with his conclusions?

2.  Lupton states, “It is difficult work…establishing authentic parity between people of unequal power.  But relationships built on reciprocal exchange…make this possible.  And parity is the higher form of charity.”

What are the challenges to reaching such parity, and how did Lupton succeed?
3.  Lupton notes that mercy combined with justice creates:

            - Immediate care with a future plan
            - Emergency relief and responsible development
            - Short-term intervention and long-term involvement
            - Heart responses and engaged minds

He adds, “In a strange twist of divine irony, those who would extend mercy discover that they themselves are in need of mercy.  Out of our own need, we are readied for service that is both humble and wise.”

How do you view this relationship between mercy and justice?

4.  He concludes this chapter by stating, “There is no simple or immediate way to discern the right response without a relationship.  After all the questions, this is the best I could offer John: due diligence.  And if you don’t have time to invest in forging a trusting relationship, give your money to a ministry that does.”

How do you approach discernment and due diligence?

5.  In chapter four, Lupton introduces the Georgia Avenue Food Co-op, which fosters community.  He promotes converting food pantries into food co-ops.  The problem with the former, he notes is that they foster dependency.  “Forging ahead to meet a need, we often ignore the basics: mutuality, reciprocity, accountability.  In doing so, relationships turn toxic.”

What is your experience with food pantries versus food co-ops?  Do you agree with Lupton’s conclusions here?

6.  Finally, Lupton says, “The giver-recipient relationship is doomed from the start.  Such relationships hardly foster trust.  Usually they breed resentment.  If trust is essential for building relationships and making enterprises run effectively, then we have a find a way for outsiders to become insiders.  Recipients must become dispensers, authors of the rules, builders of community.”
“We know these things.  And we have the capacity to accomplish them.  But the will to change our traditional charity systems – now that is the real challenge.”

So, what stands in the way of changing our local charity systems?
What might be required of us to usher in such change?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Toxic Charity, by Robert Lupton

Chapters One & Two

1.  Lupton’s opening statement sets the tone for his book:  “In the United States, there’s a growing scandal that we both refuse to see and actively perpetuate.  What Americans avoid facing is that while we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.”

What was your initial response to that statement?  Did you react with agreement, disagreement…or somewhere in between?

2.  He continues:  “We mean well, our motives are good, but we have neglected to conduct care-full due diligence to determine emotional, economic, and cultural outcomes on the receiving end of our charity.  Why do we miss this crucial aspect in evaluating our charitable work?  Because, as compassionate people, we have been evaluating our charity by the rewards we receive through service, rather than the benefits received by the served.  We have failed to adequately calculate the effects of our service on the lives of those reduced to objects of our pity and patronage.”

Where do you find the truth in this statement?  Where might you counter with, “Yeah, but…”
3.  And again,  “We respond with immediacy to desperate circumstances but often are unable to shift from crisis relief to the more complex work of long-term development.  Consequently, aid agencies tend to prolong the ‘emergency’ status of a crisis when a rebuilding strategy should be well under way.”  “When relief does not transition to development in a timely way, compassion becomes toxic.”

Can you recall situations where this assessment played out?  What circumstances contributed to this predicament?

4.  Lupton provides, “The Oath for Compassionate Service,” on pages 8-9.  Quickly review them again...

What are the challenges to meeting these criteria today?

5.  In chapter two, Lupton describes the short-term service industry, emphasizing the shortcomings of various service projects and mission trips.  He does cite “micro lending” as one example of a positive approach to assisting others.  Mostly, the author gives example after example of huge projects gone awry, with the exception of a few in which he was instrumental in leading.

Is there a common thread that runs through these stories of failure and stories of success?