Category: Charity

Recently, I was interviewed for an article from the United Church of Christ’s Tri-Conference Ministries. During that interview, I mentioned that I had recently read about the idea of doing good recklessly (I didn’t originally read it on Cheezburger, but you can read the same thread that I did there). The interviewer pushed back a little, pointing out that doing good recklessly can cause real harm. And she gave the example of companies and organizations dumping t-shirts into African markets, damaging local clothing industries. At the time, I said that there are large-scale policy issues (like market regulation in…
This post is based, in part, on this post from 2016. Not too long ago, I wrote a book called Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church). If you haven’t read it, you should. You can buy a copy here. One of the challenges of writing a book is that some of what I wanted to say just didn’t make it in. Books have a limited amount of space, and I couldn’t cover every topic that I would have liked to. And one of the topics that I couldn’t cover was race. So I took an old post…
One of the things that compelled me to write Radical Charity is that I kept seeing two narratives about charity. On the one hand, there were the charity skeptics, arguing that charity and welfare hurt their recipients. These skeptics argue that doing for others what they could (or should) do for themselves erodes work ethics, fosters a sense of entitlement, and contributes to the dependency of the people who get assistance. On the other hand, there were researchers in a variety of fields studying the actual effects of charitable giving and welfare programs. And these researchers were discovering that when…
Imagine that you are a guard at the gate of the Queen’s palace. Outside the gate are two groups of people: the Bezelites and the Qomans. The Queen has given you orders to invite all of the Bezelites into the palace and to keep all of the Qomans out. But there are two problems. First, you cannot immediately tell the difference between the two groups. They are intermingled. And while you can conduct interviews, you have no guaranteed way of telling Bezelites apart from Qomans or vice versa. Second, no matter what you do, some Qomans will try to…
A while ago, my local NBC affiliate ran a news story about the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany (NABA). The story focused on NABA’s manufacturing program, which employees blind people, other visually impaired people, and sighted people. More specifically, the story focused on that program’s work making safety vests and neck tabs for women’s military uniforms; work that involves both sewing and ironing. The story makes it clear that there are challenges to this—the sewing machines need minor accommodations, and at least one of the employees was a little worried about using the iron when she started—but that…
Lately, I’ve been playing with an idea I call ‘compassionate capitalism’. This is the idea that we can use capitalism — an economic system where private parties own the means of production and operate them to make a profit for themselves — to solve big social problems like poverty. One example of this is Lumni, a for-profit business that provides money to low-income students so that they can pay for their educations. Lumni does not provide loans. Instead, it uses income sharing agreements. Lumni provides the money for an education, and the student agrees to give a certain percentage…
I majored in philosophy in college. One of my classes was called ‘Morality and the Law’. As part of that class, we read and discussed a lot of Supreme Court cases (as well as other cases). And one of the ideas that cropped up in a lot of those cases was the idea of the reasonable person. This is the hypothetical — and entirely fictional — person who exercises case, makes good judgements, and is generally neither a genius nor an idiot in their daily lives. They are the standard that we judge other people against. For example, we judge whether…
The other week, a colleague came to tell me about an idea he had to provide shelter for homeless families in our area. The backbone of the idea was providing shelter. The responsibility to provide overnight housing for these families would be rotated among the churches in the area. There would also be a central location where parents could get help finding a job and other services while their children were in school. And, while there are a lot of details to figure out, I thought it was a good idea. I’m going to take it to my community…
This post is a reworking of a few previous posts to introduce a key reason that I research and write about charity: the rise of charity skepticism in the Christian church. The posts that this brings together are The Case Against Charity (January 18, 2016), The Case For Charity (May 30, 2016), and Charity Matters (January 4, 2016). Half a decade or so ago, I was given a copy of Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). I was surprised at what I read. The core argument of the book…
In an earlier post, I wrote about refocusing this blog on three topics: charity, fundraising and communications, and being a pastor. In this post, I’m taking a little time to talk about one of these foci: charity. In 2012 or so, my parents sent me a copy of Robert Lupton’s book, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and How to Reverse It). It was my introduction to a movement — let’s call them ‘charity skeptics’ — that believes that charity is harmful. As Lupton describes it, America rejected the idea of doing for others what they can,…

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