by Shawn Duncan
Anytime we learn something new, when our eyes our opened to a new perspective, it’s tempting to become a zealous evangelist. When Bob Lupton wrote Toxic Charity, he hoped the message would spread as enlightened converts brought innovative ideas to the charity sector.
However, just as well-intentioned charity can have unintended consequences, so can this new wave of smart charity practice. I’ve written about compassion paralysis and practitioner’s guilt, but another unexpected response to Toxic Charity is the emergence of the Charity Police.
Having become familiar with the basic concepts and terminology, the Charity Police now feel they can clearly distinguish between the good charities and toxic charities. Like your friend the movie critic, foodie or coffee snob (guilty as charged!), they set themselves up as the judge between who “gets it” and who doesn’t, who’s right and who’s wrong.
The truth is, we are all trying to figure this out! I have yet to find a ministry that is 100% toxic, or one that is 100% healthy. What we don’t need is critics. What we do need is courageous participants who are willing to enter into the complexity of poverty alongside the materially wealthy and the materially poor to seek innovative and holistic solutions.
So we offer an invitation to the Charity Police. We want your voice in our ministries and projects, calling us to think twice about the breadth and depth of our work. Instead of being a critic from a distance, we need insightful partners who can think critically alongside us about the ramifications of the work we are doing.
And we encourage you to offer solutions as well. Let’s think creatively together. Take the good that you see and consider how we might expand it or share it.
It can be too easy to judge from the sidelines. But the Charity Police can offer their sharp eyes to the good of the cause by jumping in and coming alongside.