Kristof, reporter for the NY Times and co-author of 'Half the Sky', discusses frankly the issue of Westerners charging in on white horses, acting as saviours in developing nations, and solving the world's problems. Famous for his humanitarian work on a variety of issues in a number of countries, he brings a unique perspective to an issue that has been bantered back and forth and around for centuries.
Coincidentally, I was having a similar issue with my family about Christians and their missionary work in other countries, and within our own country (Canada). Much of our middle/upper-class white version of Christianity has been pandered to other countries as the way to go. With our good intentions and great ideas, we fly in, tell the locals of all their ills and sins, bring some second hand clothes and hotel toiletries, and expect believers there to suddenly be radically transformed into… us. Instead of Christ's beautiful image of myriad of cultures, we all to often expect that people — wherever they are — will start looking like our brand of church, of doctrine, of dress.
It is true that many countries were evangelized through colonization. But it is not true that we need to adhere to those same sad tactics to create converts. Fear and the lust for conquest drives imperialism. The Spirit drives the true church, and the Spirit is all about community, compassion, mutuality, truth and respect. Where can any believer go where the Spirit is not already present?
We dwell in a culture of arrogance and safety.
And we miss out on the deep, intimate relationships with the poor, rich, slave and free around the world.
There are those outreaches, ministries, communities, churches, and individuals who see and understand the need for sustainable growth rather than cheap western solutions and live by those values. By and large, however, believers need to learn how to associate and relate better with our brothers and sisters around the world. They are family. Not underdogs. They are equals. Not poor souls that need hand outs again and again. Where's the dignity in that? Where's the posture of humility?
Humility… Canada would do well to take a large bite of that pie. As bitter as it might taste, the nourishment would revitalize a dying church.