This post is part of the series Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It).
For reference, here’s the version of the book I’m using.
Overall, I liked the ideas presented in this chapter. I like it when Lupton says, “Cure without care is like a gift given from a cold heart. Charity that does not enhance trusting relationships may not be charity at all” (p. 51), that he identifies trust as “the foundation of all human relationships” and “the essence of faith” (p. 61) and that he assigns us the responsibility to help “outsiders to become insiders” (p. 62).
There is a lot we could do with these ideas. We could take charity to find its foundation in relationship-building. We could link charity, appropriately, to agape and thus concerned with building not just any relationships – and certainly not cold, bureaucratic relationships – but relationships founded on the sort of selfless love exemplified in Christ. We could imagine charity as a revolutionary act.
Unfortunately, as we begin to go down that path, Lupton’s illustrations pull us back. In his description of the food co-op, outsiders do not become insiders; they simply replicate the schemes of insiders while remaining outside. Similarly, in the description of the relationship between Ann and Janice – a relationship founded upon deception – Lupton identifies ‘need’, rather than a lack of trust, as the problem. In other words, the undercurrent of demands to help the poor enter some version of modern Western capitalism, rears its head. This redirects charity from the potentially revolutionary to a fairly conservative act.
But the possibility of Lupton uncovering – and perhaps even embracing – the subversive side of charity remains.