Recommended Reading/Listening: Renee Bach and the White Savior Complex

Recently, NPR ran a thorough story about Renee Bach, an American woman who ran a critical care center in Uganda for undernourished children. Bach ran her care center as a Christian mission endeavor, directly motivated by her faith and relying on US church support.

Despite lacking any medical training, education beyond a high school diploma, or appropriate licensure, Bach was involved in providing medical care for severely undernourishing children, over a hundred of whom died in her care. She is now being sued in Ugandan civil court on behalf of the mothers of two of the children that died.

As a missiologist, Bach’s story struck me as an extreme and horrific example of some of the negative aspects of American mission abroad, in particular the “White Savior Complex” – the notion that middle-class or well-to-do white Americans working in impoverished contexts can transform those contexts just becuase of the privileges associated with their background, regardless of any skills, expertise, or knowledge they may possess.

For those looking to learn more about the White Savior Complex, the Failed Missionary website ran a three-part podcast about this topic. Each podcast is about 70 minutes long and is hosted by Corey Pigg of Failed Missionary and Emily Worrall of Barbie Savior.


UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott serves as Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott’s own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries. This post is republished with permission from UM & Global, the collaborative blog of United Methodist Professors of Mission. 


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