by Robert D. Lupton
The author of Toxic Charity is at it again. Lupton insists that most of the work we do in the name of charity does more harm than good. Proclaiming that the only effective charity is the kind that asks more from those being served, rather than less, he lifts capitalism onto a pedestal and incriminates socialism and philanthropy as building dependency rather than affirming that the recipient also has something of value to offer.
Lupton’s arguments are convincing. His focus is primarily on poor communities, and his conclusion is that the best thing you can do for a person is give him or her a good job. Why capitalism? Only for-profit businesses produce enough wealth to create enough jobs to lift a community out of poverty.
Perhaps the worst thing you can do is give a person a handout. Lupton is presumably a Christian, but he’s not a fan of mission trips. They don’t contribute to local economies: mission trippers come to serve, not consume. They spend their money on airfare and projects rather than on merchandise and excursions. They flood local consumers with free goods, naively undercutting local businesses, the very system locals depend on for their livelihood. The research of a friend of Lupton showed that between 1992 and 2006, a half million workers in Nigeria lost their jobs due to the inflow of donated clothing. But perhaps even worse is the effects of repeated “charity”:
Feed a person once, it elicits appreciation.
Feed him twice, it creates anticipation.
Feed him three times, it creates expectation.
Feed him four times, it becomes an entitlement.
Feed him five times, it produces dependency.
So what can we do for the poor? For one, don’t denigrate big business or the drive for wealth. The hope for such communities is investors, business people with the means and knowledge to build jobs, putting the poor on a path to self-fulfillment. Our church missions should be replaced with fact-finding business excursions.
I can’t say I agree with everything in Lupton’s ideology, but he does make me think differently about some things … and he certainly has the lifelong get-your-hands-dirty experience to back up his findings.
Publisher, © 2015, 196 pages
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
//Yesterday, I wrote about how Jesus “healed” a beggar at the pool of Bethesda. The man picked up his mat and walked off, only to encounter “the Jews,” who scolded him for working on the Sabbath. It seems that carrying his mat was against the rules.
Still in character, and probably still miffed at being chased from a prime begging spot, the man replied that he had been healed, and his healer told him to take his mat and go. “Who told you to do that?” the Jews demanded. He didn’t know, he hadn’t bothered to learn Jesus’s name.
Soon after, Jesus spies the man again at the Temple–the man had probably moved his begging operation there–and says something very interesting to him: “Stop your sinning, or something even worse will happen.” Worse than being chased from the pool? Is pretending to be lame really that big a sin? Is Jesus now going to ruin his ruse at his Temple begging spot too?
So the man hatches a vengeful plan. He marches immediately to “the Jews” and informs them that he now knows the name of the healer who keeps bugging him on the Sabbath. The plan works like a charm:
For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. –John 5:16
And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
//In John chapter 5, Jesus comes across a beggar who had for the last 38 years suffered an “infirmity.” The man had been lying for a long time at a magical pool, a pool with the power to heal him, but when Jesus asked him why he wasn’t getting healed, he had a ready response: “Nobody will help me into the pool.”
Um, yeah. For 38 years nobody would give this man a hand? Methinks he had found a prime begging spot, and wasn’t about to give it up.
Jesus was having none of it. “Rise, take up your bed and walk,” Jesus demands. I picture the man muttering as Jesus lifts him to his feet. Without a thought of a “thank you” and never bothering to learn Jesus’s name, the man storms off. He seems quite practiced at walking.
End of story? End of ruse? Nope. More tomorrow.
by Michael J. O’Loughlin
Everybody but the ultra conservative seems taken with today’s Pope. A friend jokingly said that she believes in the second coming now, and this time Jesus is wearing a beanie.
Perhaps the most famous line uttered by Francis is in reply to a reporter who asked him about gay priests. The Pope replied, “who am I to judge?” Wait. The Pope doesn’t judge? No wonder Ted Cruz called for the Vatican to fire him.
It’s not that Pope Francis is thoroughly modern in his thinking. Read, for example, about his view on the Devil. That’s about as old-fashioned as you can get.
It’s that his focus is different. He focuses less on creeds than compassion. And the pattern he upholds for us to follow is Jesus, with the Lord’s care about the marginalized. Society’s margins, says Francis, is the only place where “reality is understood.”
Author O’Loughlin finds the Pope to be a breath of fresh air. He writes that as a young Catholic who’s watched most of his friends and relatives drive away from their faith, he sees hope for the future in Francis.
The Tweetable Pope grants us a peek inside the head of Pope Francis by examining the way he uses the Twitter platform. From gossip to sports to immigration to war, all under the influence of Jesus, you’re invited to dig into these mini-sermons to learn, 140 characters at a time, what makes this man so beloved.
Harper One, © 2015, 248 pages
Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening.
//Oh, how I wish that were true! In the evening, our labor just begins anew.
Leslie and I are finding out that starting up our new Fantasy Football service demands more time than we have available, and something has to give. So the Dubious Disciple is taking a break as we try to meet our summer deadlines.
We’ll see y’all in the Fall!
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: –Luke 24:46
//Most of us honor Good Friday as the day of Christ’s death, and celebrate the following Sunday as the day of his resurrection. Meaning, Jesus was in the tomb only two nights; he rose from the dead on the third day. A host of scriptural references corroborate this. See Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 27:64, Mark 9:31, 10:34, Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7, 24;46, Acts 10:40, 27:19, and 1 Corinthians 15:14.
What then are we to make of this claim in Matthew 12:40: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
I think it boils down to whatever source inspired the Gospel writers. Was it this one …
After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. –Hosea 6:2
… or was it this one?
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and threenights. –Jonah 1:7
The word “gospel” means “good news.” Jesus says his message is good news—not to the prosperous, but to the poor. Not to the happy, but to the brokenhearted. Not to the slave owner, but to the captive. Not to the seeing, but to the blind. Jesus himself says the reason he came was to “preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Do you know what the “acceptable year of the Lord” is? Many translations read “the year of the Lord’s favor.” Does that help explain it?
This special year, often called the Jubilee, occurs every fifty years in the Old Testament. It is the year in which debts are forgiven, slaves are set free, and property is returned to its original owner. It is a law that had fallen into disfavor, and it’s anybody’s guess whether anyone at all observed the Jubilee year anymore by Jesus’ time. Having read these words about the Jubilee, Jesus tells the crowd, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Let’s be clear, here. Jesus is not talking about proclaiming the good news of a future resurrection. His gospel is not about heaven at all. Jesus is talking about bringing relief for the desperate and freedom for the oppressed, and this he calls the gospel. His message is very this-worldly, and his gospel is directed to the commoner. The same message is repeated a couple chapters later: “Blessed are you who are poor.” Not “poor in spirit,” but just plain “poor.” Why? Because, says Jesus, the Kingdom of God has arrived on earth, and now things will be different.
You may be more familiar with Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount than Luke’s version, sometimes called the Sermon on the Plain. Both are basically the same scene, drawn from the same source. But in Luke’s version, the sayings are very down to earth, not meant in a spiritual way at all. Let’s look closer at the beatitudes. In Luke, we’re not dealing with the poor in spirit, we’re dealing with the poor. We’re not dealing with those who hunger after justice, but with those who are truly hungry. It’s not about those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but simply all who are persecuted. Luke is not about spiritual needs, but about stark reality. In Luke, Jesus is concerned about those with empty stomachs, the real have-nots, the people who are weeping now.
So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.
//These words are spoken by God to Moses about Aaron. God tells Moses that Aaron will do the speaking for him, and he (Moses) will act as God for Aaron.
Does this make Moses divine, taking on the role of God? The Jewish writer Philo (c. 25 BCE – c. 50 CE) thought so. He wrote “Having given up and left behind all mortal kinds, [Moses] is changed into the divine, so that such men become kin to God and truly divine” (Questions on Exodus 3.29). He even goes further and suggests that moses was a preexistent divine being: “And even when [God] sent him as a loan to the earthly sphere and caused him to dwell there, he fitted him with no ordinary excellence, such as that which kings and rulers have, … but he appointed him as god, placing all the bodily region and the mind which rules it in subjection and slavery to him” (Sacrifices 8-10).
Does Moses sound a lot like Jesus in this discussion? Philo lived at the same time as Jesus, and wrote about Moses as the Jewish pre-existent, heaven-sent earthly spokesman for God.
Were both Moses and Jesus God? Or were neither? Or do we need to rethink what it means when a human is spoken of in the Bible as divine?
Pray without ceasing.
//Do you believe in prayer? Stephen Hawley Martin, in his book Life After Death, Powerful Evidence you Will Never Die, describes an experiment performed by Christian Science practitioners. It relates to the effect of prayer in times of stress.
That it was Christian Science practitioners who dreamed up the experiment shouldn’t come as a surprise. See http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2012/07/book-review-21st-century-science-health.html for more information about this belief system. But did they learn something useful?
Prayer, they found, doesn’t just affect people. It affects plants as well. Rye seeds were planted, and half of the seeds were prayed for. A statistically greater number of rye shoots sprouted among the prayed-for seeds. But is this convincing evidence?
Practitioners next began adding salt to the water, stressing the rye seeds. They started with a small dose of salt–one teaspoon per half-gallon of water–and found that out of 2000 prayed-for seeds, 800 sprouted. 778 out of 2000 unprayed-for seeds sprouted. Prayer helped 2.3% more seeds sprout. Convinced yet?
They added more salt, and naturally fewer seeds sprouted. But as more stress was added, prayer had more effect. When they put in 1.5 teaspoons of salt, the prayed-for batch sprouted 3.3% more often. With 2 teaspoons, prayer helped 13.8% more sprout. With 2.5 teaspoons, prayed helped 16.5% more seeds sprout. Encouraged, they tried 3 teaspoons. Now 30.8% more seeds sprouted among those prayed for.
So do dire circumstances make people–or in this case, plants–susceptible to the power of prayer? Now the practitioners went all out, adding 3.5 teaspoons of salt to the water. This time, way overstressed, the prayed-for seeds grew 5 times as often. Prayer seems to work best in times of distress.
It appears what they say is true: There are no atheists in foxholes.
by Stephen Hawley Martin
How do we believe?
I reviewed this book a couple days ago, and obtained permission to print the following excerpt. Its relevance to religion, and life after death in particular, should be recognizable.
For years, Drew Westen, a psychologist at Emory University, has been studying how people think, particularly in the area of politics. … In experiments using MRI scans, Westen has demonstrated that persons with partisan preferences believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts. Not only that, they unconsciously congratulate themselves–the reward centers of their brains light up–when they reject new information that does not square with their predetermined views.
In one test, subjects were presented with contradictory statements made by George Bush and John Kerry. Republicans judged Kerry’s flip-flop harshly, while letting Bush off the hook for his. Democrats did the reverse. Interestingly, brain scans showed that the parts of the brain accounting for emotion were far more active during the experiment than the reasoning parts.
Anyone who follows politics will not be surprised by this. The truth is, Westen’s research does not relate anything new. Solzhenitsyn characterized this phenomenon as “the desire not to know.” …
Results such as this might help explain why some debates never seem to end. People are invested in the positions they take. So, as Westen puts it, they have a tendency to weigh not just the facts but also, “what they would feel if they came to one conclusion or another, and they often come to the conclusion that would make them feel better, no matter what the facts are.”