“It is now common for the simplest autonomous act – feeding the homeless – to be banned. Instead, the nascent virtue-consumer hurries home to slot some coins into the moral Laundromat of the charity sector. Their moral impulse is safely pooled, its messy implementation genteelly hidden. Yet this is a placebo that cannot take the place of human contact.” — Oxfam and the Fall of the Moral Monopoly, by Toby Guise


6 Replies to “Charity”

  1. Feeding the poor isn’t banned– what they usually fail to mention in the “so and so arrested for feeding the poor” stories is that they’re deliberately set up in a place that is awkward for everyone, usually belong to someone else, possibly dangerous for the homeless, and the first several times they had run ins with police the police tried to get them to help an existing, safe location that was feeding the homeless and like all such centers always needed volunteers.

    But the ones that get arrested don’t want that, because they’re being activists, not trying to feed the hungry.

    1. The Newsweek article certainly glossed over the idea that there is more behind the ban on feeding homeless in, say, city parks, than animus towards the homeless.
      Not to mention that you might ultimately be helping the situation by ensuring that they have access to handwashing facilities prior to eating, or at least hand sanitizer, to help stop the spread of disease.
      Still, the main blog posting makes a good point that the “good deeds machine” has distanced us from charitable interactions with other people–just send the check and let the development/homeless/insert issue here specialists take care of it for you–no need to ask about what they actually do with the funds.

      1. The “I gave at the office” thing is bad– but so is charity theater where they’re using those in need to get something they want, and doing a substandard job of helping, too.

        Standing on streetcorners and ringing bells as they give alms.

  2. Christian charity, I think, must be a personal activity. It’s primary goal isn’t efficient food delivery.* Our Lord could have fed all five thousand in a blink. Instead he had His apostles give out bread by hand. Over-organizing and corporatizing it seems to me to defeat the purpose. It reminds me of a church scheme involving sign-in registers in the pews and a database, by which means the appropriate committee could identify and contact people who hadn’t attended for three weeks – making it look like the people at church had missed them.

    *That’s what capitalism is for.

  3. If organizing to feed the poor is bad for the groups that folks were pointed to, it’s just as bad when they’re doing the same thing but on other folks’ property, in a place that is awkward for the homeless and the folks already there, etc.

    These folks aren’t getting arrested when they hand a corner-beggar a bag of fast food, or a loaf of bread, or a beggar bag.
    (If you’ve got kids you need to keep busy with a “Christian” sort of activity– go with beggar bags. You put in something good to eat, a treat, some personal hygiene supplies– razors for the men’s, nice smelling soap and pads for the ladies– see what you can fit in a quart bag. It’s dang near sure to be harmless to even those who are abusing charity, and it makes it so the kids must look at those begging as people, not Charity Targets.)

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