Review of Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton
Ryan P. Cumming of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has written a top-notch critical review of this book that has recently been making waves in the non-profit sector of our community. The book is quite popular and those who love it accept its conclusions as gospel truth. Cummings does an excellent job in his short review of pointing out the book’s finer points while also not glossing over its major flaws.
Most other reviewers speak admiringly of the author and his statements. The few negative reviews tend to emphasize the reviewer’s pet issues (i.e. social justice, evangelism, etc.) while ignoring the substance of the book itself. This is the first critical review I’ve seen that treats the substance of the book fairly:
I won’t dignify his words with the verb “argues” because Lupton doesn’t argue his points; he simply states them. I would be concerned that statements like this, when coupled with his criticisms of charity, would motivate more people to avoid service work in the first place than to engage in the community development he suggests…
…The difficulty here is not his rejection or support of foreign aid or welfare. There are arguments to be made on both sides of the debate. The problem is that the only apparent research Lupton draws on is Dambisa Moyo’s controversial 2009 book Dead Aid. Outside of this, Lupton appears to draw on his own experience, which I admit is extensive, but this does not make for a well-defended argument. And this is vitally necessary when making statements about both the poor and government’s relationship to them that are far from self-evident.