➤ [Epub] ➞ When Helping Hurts By Steve Corbett ➮ – Dolove.info
Churches And Individual Christians Typically Have Faulty Assumptions About The Causes Of Poverty, Resulting In The Use Of Strategies That Do Considerable Harm To Poor People And Themselves Don T Let This Happen To You, Your Ministry Or Ministries You Help Fund A Must Read For Anyone Who Works With The Poor Or In Missions, When Helping Hurts Provides Foundational Concepts, Clearly Articulated General Principles And Relevant Applications The Result Is An Effective And Holistic Ministry To The Poor, Not A Truncated Gospel Initial Thoughts At The Beginning Of Chapters And Reflection Questions And Excercises At The End Of Chapters Assist Greatly In Learning And Applying The Material A Situation Is Assessed For Whether Relief, Rehabilitation, Or Development Is The Best Response To A Situation Efforts Are Characterized By An Asset Based Approach Rather Than A Needs Based Approach Short Term Mission Efforts Are Addressed And Economic Development Strategies Appropriate For North American And International Contexts Are Presented, Including Microenterprise DevelopmentNow With A New Preface, A New Foreword, And A New Chapter To Assist In The Next Steps Of Applying The Book S Principles To Your Situation, When Helping Hurts Is A New Classic I could not be bothered to finish this I agreed with many of the cited information and claims that the authors made, but not with any of the conclusions that they drew from this information I m not crazy about short term missions and I deplore many of the things that the author condemns, such as the poverty as deficit model, paternalism towards the poor, and blaming the poor for their situation I appreciated Chapter 8, but feel that it fell short However, the author often backtracks or rewords what they re condemning others for as his own claim For example, the denouncement of paternalism is followed by the idea that poor people need non poor people to introduce a new way of life to them This was way too Ruby Payne esque for me to handle, as was the idea that poor people are ashamed of their situation, so charity is offensive Nevermind that a great number of low income people have protested for better wages and against the systems that create and perpetuate poverty throughout the world.There were also massive oversimplifications based on anecdotal evidence that often had me shaking my head He mentions broken systems, yet he doesn t push for any changes within these systems Apparently the only thing that the US needs to work on is job preparedness and financial education programs, with some microfinance thrown in for good measure.I also find it ironic that the author takes great trouble to mention the poor people in the US constantly, yet continually refers to the US as a monolithic group made of economically rich.I m also not sure what the author really wants people to do He fully changes the definition of poverty from a lack of material resources to include a lack of spiritual resources So essentially, if you want to alleviate poverty, just redefine the term, so by preaching the Gospel, you re reducing poverty This belief in God will inspire the poor to take charge of their lives and focus on God instead of material wealth, so then they ll still be poor, but they won t think about it as much He tells a story of a very decrepit slum in Africa that he visited and came across 20 worshippers These people put his faith to shame and he was clearly inspired by them according to the author, these people, who lived in literal shitholes, need no material or financial alleviation, because their belief in the Holy Spirit was so strong If you think that it s okay for people to live in absolute squalor in cardboard shacks with fecal matter in the street and not enough food to live on, because they need no spiritual alleviation then you are fucking delusional The end I will stick to non spiritual relief efforts if this is the crap that gets published. The first half of this book should get 6 or 7 out of five stars The principles, concepts, and framework it presents are ministry and mindset altering For me, as someone who gravitates toward that kind of instruction and thinking, it was priceless The second half of the book looked deeper at particular areas of ministry such as short term missions or micro finance, so it was aimed a bitat practitioners Over all, this is one of the few books that I think every single missionary, pastor, and para church leader should read And the congregants would benefit massively from it too. I read When Helping Hurts How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poorand Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brain Fikkert after having read Robert Lupton s Toxic Charity How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help I was told that When Helping Hurts does a better job of giving constructive criticism of service work and poverty alleviation than Toxic Charity does while straying away from the ideological language so pervasive in Toxic Charity Instead, I found the two books to be cut from the same cloth, and very much redundant of one another.In When Helping Hurts , Corbett and Fikkert build a case for beingcautious in service work, in particular international missionary programs that are aimed at poverty alleviation As their title implies, the central thesis is that when we set off to save the world , unless we take extra special precautions to do otherwise, we run the risk of doingharm than good for those that we are trying to help They stress taking into account the emotional well being of those being served, promote taking a holistic view of the situation to understand that material poverty is just one issue facing the recipients of our charity, and encourage relief organizations to use objective business minded measures to judge whether relief programs are having the intended outcomes.I believe that some of the points that Corbett and Fikkert make in their book are valid and can be useful to any relief organization as they periodically self assess as to the path that they are on However, as presented in When Helping Hurts , those points come along with a lot of unnecessary editorializing and casting the subject matter with their own ideologies In the end, I believe that the reader can be left thinking that trying to help people is such a precarious endeavor, they would be better off to not even try because they will probably doharm than good The irony here is that the authors have hurt the potential for people seeking to do good when they seemingly wanted to help that situation.Corbett and Fikkert are direct in stating that they write their book from a distinctly Evangelical Christian perspective As a devout Catholic Christian myself, I did not expect that point of view to take me into uncharted territories, but I found some of their positions to be extreme For example, they are absolutely convinced that no aid organization will be successful unless it offers material assistance while simultaneously working to spreading the Christian faith They write none of the foundational relationships can experience fundamental and lasting change without a person becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus pg 80 Earlier they had referenced Bryant Myers model of the four foundational relationships that must be functional in order for a person to live a fulfilled life a relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation pg 57 I think there are plenty of very successful secular relief organizations in the world to demonstrate that this is simply not true Just to name a few The Red Cross, Oxfam International, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, Kiva, The Peace Corps, The Gates Foundation these are all successful established relief organizations which have helped millions of people that operate with no specific religious affiliation To proclaim that Christians have some sort of monopoly on being able to help people is rather ignorant.In a similar vein, the authors continually come back to The Fall They quite literally attribute all of our world s current problems to the original bad decisions of Adam Eve To quote The effects of the fall are manifested in the economic, social, religious, and political systems that humans have created throughout history pg 61 As a Catholic, I have never been prone to interpreting the book of Genesis as a literal historical account But regardless of that interpretation, writing off ineffective and unjust systems as the inevitable outcome of a decision made millennia ago seems to me to be a rationalization for inaction When Helping Hurts is sprinkled throughout with the ideological conservative red meat that we have come to expect from the Religious Right There are stances against women in the workforce many American couples are running themselves ragged, with both parents working long hours in high stress jobs In the process, children and marriages are often neglected, tearing families apart and leading to a host of long range psychological and social problems pg 88 There is blaming of the victim such a worldview that held by ghetto populations as Corbett and Fikkert term it obviously contribute directly to the material poverty of their victims pg 86 And there is criticism of the social safety net while blaming the victim Many poor people have behavioral problems that make them less than ideal workers Moreover, historically some of these behaviors were exacerbated by a welfare system that penalized work by removing benefits as people s earnings increased pg 186.My fear with a book like this is that the reader can be left with the conclusion that trying to help people is futile Corbett and Fikkert warn repeatedly that it is possible to help too much when considering bringing in outside resources, we must always ask Is it too much pg 127 They give plenty of other reasons why individuals would be better off to not try to alleviate poverty at all They recommend that local organizations familiar with a specific region are likely better equipped to deal with the situation than we outsiders Corbett and Fikkert emphasize that the charity recipients are probably suffering fromthan just material poverty If an individual has a poverty of being low self esteem , poverty of stewardship loss of sense of purpose , or poverty of community self centeredness , then the solutions are muchcomplicated and involved than simply alleviating physical deficiencies All of this is coupled with pointers on how one can distinguish the deserving poor from those just seeking to take advantage of big hearted do gooders.In the end, I feel that When Helping Hurts misses the point Bishop Untener of the Saginaw, Michigan Diocese said it best when he wrote If you start to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor, you are finished at least as far as the gospel is concerned If Corbett and Fikkert intended to write a book that would discourage people from wanting to get involved with service work and provide those sitting on the sidelines with plenty of justification for their inactivity, then mission accomplished If you are seeking a book that will inspire you to give back to your fellow human and propose how you can do your part to make the world a better place, I suggest you look elsewhere.My review of Toxic Charity mentioned above can be found at So here s the thing This book contains radically important and often overlooked information Sometimes the band aids we put on what we view as poverty ends up causing muchharm than good in the long run, in ways we ve refused to see I get that It points out that we sometimes see ourselves as some kind of savior, perfect and needing to share that perfection which is just all wrong I get that too I also feelandthat we should help smarter put our time and effort into the ways of helping that pack the most punch Teach a man to fish. Yeah I get that But, I also felt like parts of the book were just paralyzing, like anything I ve ever done that I felt God leading me to do was really just aweful and I would ve been better off just going along my selfish, comfortable way Kind of depressing and made me second guess TOO much However, I think this book in the long run has been very helpful in teaching the church to beeffective but for me personally it was often just discouraging. As a how to guide on some of the dynamics of good community development, When Helping Hurts has some helpful insights As an evangelical theology of poverty and helping , it is passable but in a field not exactly crowded with contenders As a reflection on the causes and consequences of poverty, it is haha poor As an analysis of the systems and structures that make and keep people poor, it is shamefully inadequate.Some reviewers have labelled this as paradigm busting or revolutionary It s certainly on a lot of reading lists in the mission development Christian circles in which I move I suppose if you like many North American evangelicals have been victim to teaching that leaves you unable to connect a concern for people in poverty with the Gospel, then this book does offer a few steps forward Firmly set within a standard evangelical account of the Bible s grand narrative from creation, to fall, to redemption and new creation, it mounts the case that the church needs to declare using both words and deeds that Jesus is the King of kings who is bringing a kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace Hooray for that However, it poses this entirely within a framework entirely familiar to, and comfortable for, North American evangelicals neoliberal capitalism The solution to poverty without hurting it turns out is disciplining and rewarding people to strive harder as self actualising entrepreneurs within the system that has impoverished them Acknowledging the positive When Helping Hurts is modestly helpful on some of the dynamics of good development, and provides some useful tools for reflection It highlights some of the ways in which helping particularly patronising, context insensitive, overbearing, or just plain dumb ways of helping can hurt If you ve never heard of assets based community development starting from a community s strengths, resources and relationships rather than its problems or deficiencies , it provides some helpful insights and tools If you ve never considered that helping by giving gift boxes to poor children might, in fact, exacerbate feelings of shame and powerlessness within the child s family, or that short term missions might providegood feels for participants than actual good for the communities they visit, it provides a necessary wake up call I agree wholeheartedly with the all too brief section on the poison of paternalism and its summary of the iron law of community organising Do not do things for people that they can do for themselves Though it should be noted that this principle is not about encouraging a kind of pull yourself up by your bootstraps self reliance nor a denial of any sense of interdependence or obligation Rather, it is a recognition of the dignity and agency of those who are part of the community in poverty and an acknowledgement that those affected should be empowered to make decisions and take actions for themselves and with others, rather than being merely subject merely to the actions and whims of those with power over them.It s ironic, though, that the section decrying paternalism will follow mere pages after an imaginary case study focused on a person who knocks on doors in a neighbourhood, asking for help to pay for an electricity bill Money, you might think, is at the root of this person s problems No, the authors hasten to assure us But what if this person s fundamental problem is not having the self discipline to keep a stable job Simply giving this person money is treating the symptoms rather than the underlying disease and will enable him to continue with his lack of self discipline A better and farcostly solution would be for your church to develop a relationship with this person, a relationship that says, We are here to walk with you and to help you use your gifts and abilities to avoid being in this situation in the future Let us into your life and let us work with you to determine the reason you are in this predicament It s difficult to imagine apatronising approach And the framing of the hypothetical is convenient and self serving the imaginary beggar s problem is a lack of self discipline, not chronic poverty, not structural unemployment, not health or education related debt, just to name a few Oh, and I m pretty sure that doctors treat symptoms as well as the underlying disease all the time it s really not an either or.To be fair, the book does pose a modest challenge to wealthy North American Christians of the evangelical persuasion to take seriously the deep scandal of global poverty, hunger and inequality It draws on Bryant Myers richer analysis in Walking with the Poor Principles and Practice of Transformational Development to skewer the god complexes of the non poor, who might assume that they are superior and have the answers to the problems faced by poor people Though to preview some of my complaints it undercuts this challenge fairly consistently by substituting one form of paternalism for another and by assuring the wealthy that a material definition of poverty is part of the problem, that sharing or redistributing wealth may causeproblems than it solves, and that people will only genuinely be free from poverty when they 1 have found Jesus and 2 have liberated their entrepreneurial selves in service of the economy s relentless demands often via some tough love from their wealthy neighbours.Sadly, the seeds of the work s problems are sown early and deep arising from the book s fundamental confusion between the multidimensionality of people s experiences of poverty which include shame, isolation, vulnerability, powerlessness, exhaustion and the like and a univocal definition of poverty which is unambiguously and fundamentally about material deprivation While acknowledging that their material deprivation is what makes people in poverty worthy of particular attention and care, the authors want to argue that a material definition of poverty is part of the problem when it comes to helping.Poverty, they argue borrowing from Bryant L Myers is fundamentally a matter of failed relationships with God, self, others and creation To back up this contention, they quote from the World Bank s magisterial study, Voices of the Poor From Many Lands in which people in poverty describe their own experiences, including hunger, vulnerability, shame, dependence, social isolation, powerlessness, exhaustion and the like They argue that because this multidimensionality is integral to any true definition of poverty, a merely material definition of poverty is part of the problem, blinding well meaning people to poverty s root causes and to its solutions The problem of poverty goes well beyond the material dimension, so the solutions must go beyond the material as well However, this is to confuse the effects or experiences of poverty including shame, powerlessness, isolation, etc with its essence material deprivation , poverty s marks for its meaning Certainly, the experiences of people in poverty go far beyond merely material deprivation, and poverty s effects are not solely financial But poverty s experiences and effects are rooted in material deprivation, and any sane definition of poverty is all about a lack of material resources All other metaphorical extensions of poverty s meaning such as poverty of spirit in the gospels or poverty of being in this work are dependent on this root, brutely material, meaning Sure, as the authors argue, the poor and the non poor may both experience shame, powerlessness, isolation, etc and experience the same brokenness in relationships The difference between the two groups and the very definition of poverty is precisely that one experiences material deprivation which drives and deepens those experiences.The trouble with defining poverty in ways that minimise material deprivation and with promoting solutions that minimise the requirement to attend to wealth redistribution or dismantle systems that impoverish individuals, communities and nations, is that you have already come close to arguing that money and material resources who has it, who doesn t, and what they do about that isn t at the root of poverty and any meaningful response to it The authors of When Helping Hurts attempt, but in my view ultimately fail, to resist the temptation to mount just such an argument.I m not arguing that dependence and disempowerment isn t or can t be a problem in responses to poverty Nor am I arguing that giving money is always the best response to someone in need I am simply arguing that redistributing wealth and ending affluence may well be a necessary condition for ending poverty.Despite some acknowledgement of structural or systemic causes drivers of poverty such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund s imposition of structural adjustment on developing nations in the 1980s and 1990s or structural racism in the United States the authors do not spend any time considering political advocacy, public campaigning, or revolution any part of the strategy for responding to poverty Perhaps predictably, the authors present microfinance as the paradigmatic way to respond to poverty.It is truly instructive, too, that their advocacy for microfinance small loans made to poor people to establish income generating initiatives is presented entirely from the perspective of the lender They relate the story of Muhammed Yunus founder of Bangladesh s Grameen Bank one of the world s biggest microcredit lenders The professor reached into his pocket and lent Sufiya and forty one of her neighbors a total of twenty seven dollars To the amazement of observers, the loans were fully repaid on time Contrary to the received wisdom, it was possible to lend money to very poor people and get it paid back As if the main issue to be considered with microfinance is the rate of return for lenders While they do consider what they see as some of the pros and cons or microfinance again, these relate primarily to the concerns of lenders and their ability to reach particular populations of poor people But it is not the case that microfinance s problem is simply that it fails to reach the poorest and most excluded people There is now very good evidence that microfinance may help to smooth the incomes of some poor people and help them hedge their bets in the face of financial insecurity but that it simply does not make fundamental change in the lives of poor people The authors do not engage with this research at all It also never seems to occur to them that lending extremely small sums of money to extremely poor people selling extremely low value added products in communities of other extremely poor people might have some limitations when it comes to ending poverty This blindness when it comes to microfinance is replicated in other ways As this review is already, um, long, I ll mention only two in closing.A bias towards capitalist, entrepreneurial solutions as opposed to other political and communal responses is evident throughout but one minor argument exemplifies the problem The authors quote uncritically William Easterly s contention in The White Man s Burden Why the West s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good that aid has failed because,Despite an estimated 2.3 trillion in foreign aid dispensed from Western nations during the post World War II era,than 2.5 billion people, approximately 40 per cent of the world s population, still live on less than two dollars a day.At first blush, this sounds like a knockout argument that aid has failed 2.3 trillion is, for almost everyone I know, a massive amount of money and yet 2.5 billion people, which is far larger number of people than I can imagine, still live in poverty Surely there could be no clearer evidence that helping by giving money is a fool s errand.Yet 2.3 trillion over the five post war decades to the time Easterly is writing amounts to just 48 billion per year.In 1981 to take a rough mid point of the period the global population was around 4.5 billion people, with roughly 2 billion people living in extreme poverty.Which means that even if every cent of that aid over those decades was directed to addressing the poverty of the world s poorest people, the supposed largesse of Western nations amounts to just 24 per person each year And, of course, it is not the case that all of this aid was given to address poverty Roughly half the aid given in 1981 was given in the form of loans, not grants Huge sums of aid was given not to end poverty, but to prop up favoured regimes such as Egypt or Turkey and had no benefit at all for the poor.What should we imagine this 24 to play along with Easterly s unstated and unrealistic assumptions was supposed to achieve Even for the very poorest people, its probably unreasonable to think that 7 cents per person per day is going to go a long way towards ending poverty Under the Marshall Plan, the US investedthan 200 per citizen in the European nations they helped back on their feet after World War II.Oh, and the fact that there are still poor people around even after aid has been given is no argument at all Developed nations spend billions each year on health and there are still sick people Finally and, for me, most fundamentally the theology undergirding Corbett and Fikkert s analysis and prescriptions is extraordinarily deficient Their one and only reference to all that the Bible says on the difficult topic of whether or not you should always give to someone who asks which appears to be at the heart of their thesis about helping without hurting is a footnote pointing to Neither Poverty Nor Riches Illuminating the Riddle The judicious balance sounded in that book s title gets to the heart of the problem Yes, the Bible s witness on poverty and wealth is various and not easily reconcilable There are different and seemingly incompatible streams of tradition on the topic from the stolid and aphoristic Wisdom traditions of the Proverbs to the extreme and denunciatory prophetic traditions of Amos and Jesus I can understand the temptation to seek a middle ground Yet, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus does not call us to any sort of via media, to a balancing of extremes God calls people to take sides because God, in Christ, takes the side of the unloved, the marginalised, and the poor And the scandal, indeed crime, of global inequality and environmental destruction requires us to swap a comfortable and manufactured objectivity , for a challenging and determinedly locatedoption for the poor When Helping Hurts is worth reading But it should not be anyone s final word in thinking about and responding to poverty A helpful next step would be to read Bryant Myers Walking with the Poor Principles and Practice of Transformational Development, from which the authors freely draw and the Gustavo Gutierrez s A Theology of Liberation, from which they avowedly do not draw. While I already knew the general direction of this book, I was surprised by all the new perspectives and light bulb moments I encountered Even if you don t agree with everything Corbett and Fikkert say, it s worth a read for the fresh ideas and insights Just be sure you get a recent edition, as some areas of potential misunderstanding have been cleared up. One of the best books I ve read on the issue of poverty and challenging one s definition of what poverty means and to approach relief and development If you every work with people in any situation, this is an excellent read. This is a hard one to rate as although I agree with the basic principles of the book that sharing the Gospel, long term work and relationship building should be the priority when helping the poor, I also felt that the emphasis was wrong in lots of areas I hope this book has not stopped, and will not continue to stop, people helping the poor as they fear getting the methods wrong and hurting people My general advice would be to pray for wisdom and then to give generously and, if you get it wrong then learn from your mistakes for the future, and trust that God is ultimately in control and that all of our material financial resources belong to Him.My full review is herehttp christianmissionaryuk.blogspot Outstanding book A must read for any Christian or local church that is serious about serving the poor This book totally challenged my existing ideas of poverty, poverty alleviation, and practical steps local churches need to take to serve the poor both at home and abroad.