The Missionary Podcast: not just for missionaries
Saint or predator? Are there only two options?
Well let’s get right into things this week. I was going to wait to broach this, but with the podcast dropping, it is timely to explore now.
Over the weekend, The Missionary released the first three podcast episodes and will release one more each Friday for the next few weeks.
The title gives the impression this might only be relevant to people involved in Christian missions but the issues it touches on reach far broader than that. While Renee’s faith plays a part in the story, anyone working cross-culturally or in the humanitarian and development sectors, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Jewish, anyone, needs to wrestle with this story.
From iTunes: “A young missionary named Renee Bach left her comfortable life in America to start a malnutrition program in rural Uganda. Folks back home and in Uganda praised her as a model missionary -- an example of the healing power of God’s message. But a decade later she’s accused of masquerading as a doctor and rumored to have killed hundreds of children in her unlicensed clinic. How did Renee Bach end up here? Is she a case of good intentions gone wrong...or a predator posing as a saint? Hosted and reported by journalists Rajiv Golla, Halima Gikandi and Malcolm Burnley.”
As Malcolm Burnley tweeted:
Before you listen and if you have time, read these two articles:
A Missionary On Trial, by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker
And Protecting Whiteness At All Costs, an Open Letter to Ariel Levy and The New Yorker by No White Saviors on Medium
There is a lot of noise on the internet about the story of Renee Bach in Uganda and No White Saviors, but these two give a pretty good overview of the issues and what is at stake.
Here are the first three episode links. Have a listen and let’s talk. I’ll leave a few comments of my own in the comments, starting with episode 1.
What do you think? Let’s dig into the FIRST episode…
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One of my questions is about fact and evidence. In an episode, someone says she thinks Renee didn't graduate from high school. That is left hanging as fact, but according to NPR and The New Yorker, she did in fact graduate, in 2007. That seems like an easy thing to either verify, dispute, or take note of in the reporting. So I'm left to wonder about other, more complicated and weighty issues.
I listened to the first episode twice and am left with a lot more questions than answers, and some things I hope the podcast touches on in the future. Questions about evidence and facts, for example. And I hope to hear from Ugandan officials in the future and Uganda coworkers of Renee's. I also hope they dig into some of the history of foreigners here, colonial history, development, etc, and what are the current realities in Jinja in terms of healthcare, religious belief, etc. So some historical and cultural context, I guess. That's just the beginning of my thoughts here!