Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Elon Musk, the Thai Cave & Paternalism: OR When a Church offers you a Submarine!

I don't know how accurate the Guardians's story is about this - but I've seen the sentiment many times.  Someone from outside the culture steps in to offer their help, they give their advice from their viewpoint, and expect it to be followed. However, Musk's submarine wasn't needed and in the end all the boys were rescued, and under Thai leadership, as it should have been.

In the church scene, plenty of us at the margins have experienced similar stories. We go to a well known church leader for help. This leader knows nothing about our particular type of ministry but immediately starts dictating how we should do ministry. We say that we're only asking for a little financial help (like Paul asked churches), but get told, 'No, what you really need is a submarine! And we'll run it!'

Not only have I been told I needed, and been offered submarines before, but I've also been told that the diving equipment and strategy I have is no good. Our home grown methods (that came about as the Holy Spirit grew a church in our local area and led us through his word), are sub par in their eyes, even without examining them.

I have many stories of these, but perhaps the specifics would hinder people seeing how it might have played out in their context. Paternalism has been hurting many people at the margins for a long time, and it didn't stop at the missionary compound years ago. The sad thing is that many of the paternalistic leaders of our day, would deny its something they exhibit. And whenever I've tried to explain the problem, I'm usually interrupted with an explanation of how I either should have accepted their submarine, or need to make my myself and my methods look more like a submarine.

Paternalism is part of the prejudice gospel, but like any sin, is something that can be repented of. We're not counted righteous because of a lack of paternalism, but because of Christ's imputed righteousness, so let's freely confess it and turn from it, to our humble saviour, who teaches us to humbly serve each other.