Bob Lupton has seen both the blessings and curses of charity, cases where giving can both empower and disempower members of a community. As churches encourage giving and service projects around the Christmas season, Lupton encourages caution. How are churches measuring their outcomes, ensuring they aren't keeping people in places of need? Christianity Today's online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey spoke with Lupton during the Christian Community Development Association conference about ways Christians can navigate the charity waters.
How do you see charity hurting families?
I'm seeing one-way giving, doing for people what they have the capacity to do for themselves in a way that disempowers them. In the United States, the most common Christian charities are food pantries and clothes closets. For example, at Christmastime, I used to be involved with "Adopt a Family" at Christmas. I would line up suburban families with families whose kids wouldn't get anything for Christmas. Then, on Christmas Eve day, they would deliver toys and presents to that family. I saw something I had never seen before. The kids, of course, were excited. The moms were generally gracious, but a little subdued. But if there was a dad in the household, he just disappeared. These parents, in front of their kids, were being emasculated. They were being exposed for their inability to provide. The moms would endure that indignity for the sake of kids. But for the dads, it was just too much. It was just killing their pride.
The following Christmas, we did a "dignity for dads" promotion, or "pride for parents." So as folks called in for their families, I said, 'Go shopping, get presents for the kids, but bring them in unwrapped.' We set up a little toy shop and marked ...1
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