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 4 Ways to Avoid a Savior Complex

The deeper we dive into how a hero mentality can creep into ministry, the more we recognize how wrong motives have fueled our service and the more opportunity we find to repent. Sarita Hartz warns that a “Gospel of Goods” is dangerous to locals, but might this false gospel be corrupting us as well? Before you read her article, consider what the method of your generosity could expose about our Christian beliefs.

When we feel the need to step in and “fix things”, often comparison is fueling our charity. We pity people who don’t live the life we’ve lived. As Christians we need to ask each time we feel this way, “What am I believing is the answer to life’s problems?” Perhaps you’re tempted to look at a person living in poverty and think “if only she had a good education.” Or Christmas gifts or a particular kind of housing. But ultimately, what we’re believing is that the key to flourishing is to craft a life that is similar to our own.

These things can all be tools towards creating a healthier, less dependent lifestyle, but none of them are the “fix-all” solution for every situation. What unintended harm might our very solutions cause? Consider the relational cost of isolating a child by sending her to another city for better schooling in a culture deeply steeped in familial ties. Or the way expensive Christmas gifts might make a child a target for violence in a community that lacks access to those amenities. We fall into “saviorism” when we think that someone in another country has to have what we have. It exposes brokenness in ourselves– do we truly believe that the gospel is the key to human flourishing? 

We are not saying “only preach the gospel,” and this is an important distinction. 127’s entire identity is found in caring for the vulnerable practically and physically as part of gospel ministry! But we are saying that a helpful tool for evaluating our motives is to consider whether what we offer is necessary to finding Jesus and living a productive Christian life. If we determine that it isn’t, we should question if our charity is a healthy means to promote human flourishing or the byproduct of comparison and guilt within ourselves that could rob a person of agency, foster dependency, or create more problems than it solves.

Read Sarita Hartz’s “4 Ways to Avoid the White Savior Complex” and think about how her solutions can alleviate many of the harmful consequences we’ve considered so far.

4 Ways to Avoid the White Savior Complex | by Sarita Hartz | Medium

Reflection Questions:

  1. Hartz tells a story of a time she regrets paying for a genocide survivor’s rent, adding she wished she’d “helped her find work, or supported a local org who was empowering national women.” Based on what we’ve learned about human dignity, why might one of those approaches be a better solution?
  2. Hartz claims that “dependency destroys dignity.” First, can you explain theologically why that statement might be true? Second, can you think of some examples from television, books, or real life where you’ve seen dignity undermined by dependency?

 4 Ways to Avoid a Savior Complex

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