We are proud to announce that one of our Values & Capitalism books, “From Prophecy to Charity: How to Help the Poor,” has been named a runner-up in the World magazine book of the year contest. And congratulations to Bob Lupton, author of “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help—And How to Reverse It.” Lupton’s book was named the other runner-up by World. Here is Marvin Olasky on the two books:
Over the past year we heard a lot about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, with many proclaiming and some actually believing that a wealth transfer from rich to poor would return us to Eden. If only it were that simple! Last year also a religious left ad asked, “What Would Jesus Cut?” It asked readers to support governmental programs such as “proven work and income supports that lift families out of poverty.” If only such proof existed! Still, that sentence suggests the right question to ask: What is proven and what is not? Veteran poverty-fighter Robert Lupton—founder of FCS Urban Ministries—gives a street-level answer to that question in Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help—And How to Reverse It (HarperOne). Lawrence Mead supplements that with a public policy overview, From Prophecy to Charity: How to Help the Poor (AEI). … Lawrence Mead begins his book From Prophecy to Charity with one basic fact: “Poverty involves more than low income. … Long-term poverty or welfare dependency typically occurs because of the behavioral side of poverty that official statistics ignore. Serious poverty among the working-aged population is usually linked to unwed childbearing and failure to work.” Mead notes “the poor” are very different from what they were in 1937, when Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called one-third of Americans “ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished.” Today, most of that one-third is decently housed, clothed in ways that inspire children around the world to imitate them, and often overfed (although sometimes still ill-nourished). But many among the long-term poor have not succeeded in building a stable marriage. Some are troubled by alcoholism and drug addiction. Many focus on short-term boosts rather than perseverance. It’s wrong to use those tendencies to place all poor people in one pile, because many have solid work and family values, and even those who don’t have some justifications: Financial problems often lead to marital ones, and vice versa. Nevertheless, whether it’s fair or not, those on a troubled behavioral track usually stay poor, and the realistic economic alternative is what Mead urges: “The adult poor must work as other people do. Poor children must get through school and avoid trouble with the law and unwed pregnancy if they are to get ahead in life. Progress against poverty, then, requires programs with the capacity to redirect lives, not just transfer resources.” Mead explores biblical teachings in his attempt to find what such programs need to achieve. He notes how in ancient Israel “expectations to do good rested on everyone, rich and poor alike.” From Prophecy to Charity is deepest when it turns to the New Testament and describes well how Jesus “aids people in immediate, practical terms. … Yet he does not concentrate on material need. … He calls for no social programs, no redistribution.” Instead, he meets their deeper needs. No government program can meet the deepest needs of the poor, and that’s why churches are crucial. Mead does suggest, optimistically, that government can encourage people with short-term perspectives to take low-paying jobs that will lead to higher-paying ones, if they prove themselves. He likes the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, which subsidizes low-paid workers so that the earnings of parents with children can increase by as much as 40 percent. Even EITC doesn’t work when individuals are dead set against working—but when it does work, the reason is that it stresses work.Read the remainder of the article.