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By Stephen Mattson 4-03-2018

We live in a society influenced by Christendom, and can look no further than President Trump to realize its influence. But we can forget that religious rhetoric and the organizations that spew it are the result of careful strategy and implementation, whose power structures are often facilitated under the guises of “ministry” and “missions.” If you’ve lived within the subcultures of American Christianity, you’ve no doubt experienced a short-term mission trip, been on a youth group mission trips, have sponsored a missionary, or maybe even been a missionary yourself. If you attend a church, chances are good it has a mission board, sponsored missionaries, and are actively recruiting and sending out teams of missionaries. "Missions" is a topic filled with complex issues like race, cultural identity, politics, and nationalism, and it’s the central theme explored by a new podcast titled Failed Missionary.

The three co-hosts of Failed Missionary — Emily Worrall, Jamie Wright, and Corey Pigg — reflect upon how missions can be co-opted by a white savior complex, selfish motivations, and cultural presuppositions. Instead of propagating theology or advocating for a particular spiritual path, the three attempt to process what happened in their own lives, and what’s presently happening in the climate of missions and spirituality throughout the world. Corey notes that one of the goals is to “present the other narrative of what modern missions and the white savior complex is doing to the world currently. Both participant and recipient.”

The hosts come from varied missionary backgrounds. Emily Worrall co-founded Barbie Savior, which was originally an Instagram account that went viral because of its depictions of Barbie dolls in stereotypical “missionary porn” photos — a typical image being a white Barbie doll surrounded by children of color. Barbie Savior brings awareness to the cultural and moral issues surrounding international aid and missions, and although Emily’s platform may have started off by bringing light to the very serious problem of many missionaries and Christian organizations having a white savior complex, it has become something much deeper, and is a good resource for people wanting to become involved in empowering and ethical international aid.

Jamie Wright, better known as "Jamie the Very Worst Missionary" is known for her authentic writing style, which became popularized when she started documenting her “failed” missionary quest to Costa Rica. Using her own experiences and self-deprecating reflections, she described her discontentment and disillusionment with missions and American “Christianity.” She hit a nerve with a wide audience who empathized with her sentiment, many of whom recognized the glaring disconnects between Christ and a religion that repeatedly fails to properly represent Christ’s sacrificial love and generosity represent.

Corey Pigg is the third host of Failed Missionary, and was instrumental in bringing everyone together for this project. Pigg not only has his own exploits of being a missionary, but he’s also the producer of successful podcast The Liturgists ­— an award-winning and popular show among people passionate about Christianity and spirituality.

This weekly podcast promises to be an enlightening yet sobering look into the missionary culture of religion, and is being framed within a society struggling to rationalize its faith with its politics — and horrible implementation. For any parent about to send their children on a mission trip, for college students considering a mission-oriented gap year, and for anybody involved in missions, this podcast should be mandatory listening. It serves as both a confessional for the sins of past missionaries, and a hope for those struggling to understand how to move forward. For people of faith currently struggling to reconcile their religion with its most shameful manifestations, Failed Missionary offers an outlet to rediscover some brutally honest observations while being sustained by inspiring takeaways.

Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.

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"‘Failed Missionary’ Podcast Is a Cheeky Deconstruction of the White Savior Complex"
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