Christian Charity

A few days after having run a charitable food drive with my youth group, I came across this great article on StreetProphets.com, which comments on some of the problems with Charity.

I've got this conflicted feeling about charity, mission work, and the like, because it seems to do what he's talking about here--in essence, 1) putting a band-aid on big problems and letting governments and societies off the hook and 2) providing an outlet for genuine concern which doesn't accomplish what it could were our time and resources organized differently. In the back of my mind is a bunch of reading I've been doing on missions and the emerging church, where people are taking a local and independent approach to solving social problems--serve your local community to end poverty, form collectives to provide accessible healthcare, open your spare bedroom to end homelessness, etc. To me, the draw to do that is really strong, and the impulse Christian, but the question is whether it accomplishes what is intended, or whether it's ultimately harmful in the long run.

Like with most things, I think I'm leaning towards the center. The answer isn't to cut off acts of local charity, or to become so politically leftist that you place all of your chickens in the government's basket. We also won't win by trying to solve all things locally--there are just too many problems that food banks and good-hearted doctors won't be able to comprehensively address.

I think what's coming out, in my thought and in the article, is the dualism that seems to be so inherent in the American mindset--as if you have just two options: individual/collective, private/government, republican/democrat, Christian/secular, etc. Ultimately, what's required is personal and local charity and good national and international programs and organizations.

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