A White Savior Complex



There are a few episodes that I regret. Not many. For the most part, I felt most of the episodes I did were fairly tame and harmless in terms of negative consequences.

Off the top of my head there are 3 episodes I heavily regret recording.

Two were released.

One. Was. Not.

And since we’re going chronologically, I have to skip thru a few more episodes to get to the theme of our post.

BUT SINCE YOU PROBABLY STILL HAVEN’T LISTENED TO ALOHA OY PARTS 1, 2, & 3 YET THEN I HAVE EXTRA TIME TO WASTE.

Seriously folks, the clock is ticking down. We’ve got maybe a half dozen posts before we hit our overly-hyped-mystery-moment-that-explains-why-Dave-says-fuck-so-much. Get your Aloha on!

Meanwhile… to kill time, let’s run off some more episodes I forgot or have such little memory of that there’s no point in spending any time on them. Which is helpful because I did like 80 episodes and Aloha is somewhere in the mid-50’s and I’m already burnt out like 20 posts into this narrative. (some day I may go back and actually go episode by episode but remember this isn’t really a behind the scenes tell all blog. There’s a specific purpose for this project.)

So… episode fast forward:


Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 60- And When You Pray

Jimmy prays for a bicycle and gets it and it makes Donna mad (always fun to do).
Walker Edmiston becomes my grandfather for an afternoon.

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 62- Let This Mind Be in You

I have no memory of this episode.

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 63- A Good and Faithful Servant

*shrugs*

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 74- Connie Goes to Camp Part 1
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 75- Connie Goes to Camp Part 2

This was the most kids in the studio at one time I ever experienced. Probably the most socially fun studio session I would have until the Aloha Oy sessions.

The basic plot is it was like All Star weekend for the kid characters. All the kids (or most of the regular ones) are sent to camp. And Connie is a counselor for the girls and somebody is a counselor for the boys. It was a blast.

This was the session where I learned that Katie Leigh played my favorite cartoon character of all time (at that time of my life) Baby Rowlf from Muppet Babies.

This would happen every session, btw. You’d find out another credit that Hal did or Walker or <insert all the adult cast>. And your mind would be blown again and again and again.

They say never work with your idols because you’ll be disappointed.

Katie’s the best. Work with Katie. 10/10. Highly recommend.

Also she probably deserves a medal of some kind for suffering through that long, long day. It was a looooooong day. Thank god for endless hot chocolate.

This was also the kind of day where in between scenes where the boy cast wasn’t needed we were running all over that complex. Sneaking up on tour groups. There may have been some mischief.

I’m not at liberty to discuss anymore.

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 79- Our Best Vacation Ever

Another Barclay Family Vacation episode.

We had good chemistry. It was a fun team to record with.

I’m assuming there were hijinks aplenty and some heartfelt lessons learned.

Ok.



*big breath*



*cracks knuckles*



*pours an adult beverage*

Adventures In Odyssey: Episode 91- A Mission for Jimmy

This episode has worried me and stressed me out for years.

Where do I start?

I’ve been dreading this. There are so many threads in my life right now where this episode could absolutely be weaponized against me politically. And rightly so. This is an episode that typifies my personal struggle with the entirety of this project and life experience.

I’ve discussed in previous posts how I was struggling with whether to tell the story chronologically or not. This is a good reason why telling things out of order makes sense. My feelings around the recording of this episode 33 years ago are very different than how I interpret this episode today.

I don’t even know how to make a synopsis of this episode without stepping on a landmine. So, I’ll let the team at AioWiki.com give the synopsis.

*takes sip of adult beverage*

See what I mean?

That’s… that’s… some astonishingly racist shit right there.

And my saying that that’s some racist shit… is gonna make some heads explode.

And a whole bunch of white people are gonna get really. fucking. cranky.



And this is probably the best example in my day-to-day life of how my relationship to this show would morph for me over the decades.

The first decade of recording I was in heaven. Greatest artistic experience of my life. By far.

By. Far.

Loved it. Thought we were one big family. Didn’t care one iota what was on the page (except once).

I carried that torch for the second decade despite… things.

The third decade… I see the world very differently now.

And part of what changed my view on the show was fan interactions I would have over the years once the fans came into my life in decade 2. And how the pathway of my life had moved in a different direction– SEE I CAN’T TALK ABOUT THIS YET BECAUSE WE’RE GOING CHRONOLOGICALLY.

And so as much as I want to present to the audience the thoughts and feelings of a 12 year old kid living the studio dream life… this particular episode I can’t do that. I have to approach this as a 45 year old man in 2022 watching my country fall apart while blatantly racist agitation is occurring and political violence is being stoked.

Fucking Evangelicals™ are inherently racist.

Yeah. I said it.

But that’s not the real problem.

The real problem…

Is how they are absolutely convinced they are NOT racist.

It’s some Ancient Fucking Pilgrim™ shit.

Remember our history lessons from earlier?

The Fucking Pilgrims™ begat the Fucking Confederates™ who begat the Fucking Evangelicals™.

And we learned how the Fucking Evangelicals™ built their Suburban Anchor Baby Villages in post war America.

Well. Now we see the consequences of that.

This is an episode that emerges from the hard-wired collective narrative of White Evangelicals.

And before I go any further I want to take a moment to discuss a point that I feel is important to make.



You can be racist without meaning to be.



You can create racist art even if your goals are to NOT create racist art.



When white culture is so monochromatic that we don’t encounter other demographics in our world, it’s easy to see them thru certain lenses. We don’t even know what racism looks like because in our white bubbles of utopian masturbation we never encounter the negative consequences of it. This was very true in white suburbia in the late 80’s.

I was guilty of this. Still am. I’ve spent a quarter century trying to pick apart all the cultural narratives I’ve wrongly believed. It’s hard work. You feel shitty. It’s embarrassing to be ignorant.

And it’s easy to be defensive when our intentions were well-meaning when folk get mad. It’s an instinctual response to be defensive.

A critical point I’d like to hammer home to get started that’s become a theme in my political work as well:


Benefit of the Doubt


Vs.


Presumption of Malevolent Intent

I genuinely believe that most people in life that are NOT raging narcissists are fundamentally well-intentioned people.

Most move through life just trying to survive and create the best life for themselves with the cards they’re dealt.

I believe that everyone that I worked with was trying to make the best art they could.

I sincerely believe in their sincerity.

But this episode perpetuates a lot of harmful stereotypes about some stuff that’s very real: colonialism, white savior complex shit, the White Savior Industrial Complex shit which is the corporatized version that preys upon the white savior complex shit.

And it would be one thing if that was my only concern.

Hey we made an episode that is pretty racist and shame on us for not knowing better.

But then there’s the very real truth about why this series exists in the first place.

The goal of Adventures In Odyssey is to affect children’s minds. To teach them things. This is a much more serious work than just making silly entertainment and teaching kids how to read and count on PBS. This team is one that almost certainly gathers in prayer to ask for guidance and inspiration about what to teach kids. Which… is a noble thing to do.

It is noble to want to teach children things that you think are good for them.

But the question becomes, and this is one of the core fights that the Fucking Evangelicals™ have with their inability to coexist with others: what constitutes “what’s good for kids”.

Because embedded in the cultural narrative of White Evangelical Suburban and Rural America are some things that we perceive as good and the rest of the world would highly. HIGH. LY. fuck. ing. disagree.

And missionary work is one of these issues.

Missionary work is central to church life in ‘Merica. Every church has missionaries they support. The economic giving and support is done gladly. Congregations really believe in the value of the work they’re supporting.

But, for much of the world… white missionaries coming to brown-skinned non-english-speaking countries and insisting that we convert everyone in the name of “Spreading The Good News” is considered genocide.

There are many, many people that will swear up and down that is necessary, good work that is important for the Kingdom of God.




It’s one of the few Red Words that most Fucking Evangelicals™ adhere to: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation….”

What? You expect them to argue with Jesus?

These fundraising letters aren’t gonna stuff themselves!

And so because this is a cornerstone part of the faith… I hesitate to call it out because I fear my audience can not talk about this without losing their shit. And I don’t want to piss off people who have given their entire lives to a cause they are willing to give up everything for. I know missionaries. I have friends who feel called to do this. It is the greatest act of their faith.

And remember when I said that this show existed to mold young minds?

Well…


It worked.



I’ve had fans tell me that they were first inspired to become missionaries…

BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE.

The whole show is white evangelical propaganda.

And 95% of the time that’s pretty predictable stuff. Especially in the early years. Here’s an episode on why siblings shouldn’t fight and learn to get along. Here’s why you shouldn’t lie. Good shit. Stuff that Mr Rogers would talk about to the secular kids.

But there is a percentage of this work that is outright… propaganda.

In researching about the character of Dan Isidro (go ahead and follow the rabbit hole) you very quickly learn that Mr Whitaker owns a publishing company that publi$he$ book$ for the christian audience.

Ya know… cuz the Fucking Evangelicals™ what’s their core behavioral pattern? Leave or Replace. And here we have Mr Whitaker with his own publishing empire. Just like Rupert Murdoch who also owns a christian publishing empire. More on that later.

Keep in mind the target audience for AIO is kids 8-12 years old.

I had a sibling become a missionary. He got very sick and almost died. The organization that he raised a bunch of money for the privilege of getting him sick halfway around the world still sends us literature every month asking for money… 20 years later.

There’s a billion dollar industry here.

And it’s an industry I’m not comfortable with… that I made propaganda for.

I’m not a sociologist so I can’t give you academic information on how white missionaries are typically unhealthy for the communities they invade. But it’s a practice I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with as time goes by.

Especially when I see how much Fucking Evangelicals™ neglect their own backyard.

So… imagine how it feels… when a fan tells you with devout sincerity and the deepest most profound earnestness… tells you that your episode encouraged them to be a missionary to <insert 3rd world impoverished POC country>.

And people are telling me that this is one of the most profound life choices they’ve ever made. And how grateful they are for the work I did.

It’s heavy, heavy shit.

And as an actor I’m tremendously proud and touched to have made art that has that kind of deeply profound impact on people.


BUT IS IT GOOD?



Is the impact… good?

Can something be bad… even if the intent was good?



And I think this is probably one of the most fundamental things Fucking Evangelicals™ need to do is to really look and examine their actions and ask: IS THIS GOOD OR DOES THIS CAUSE HARM?

And that the answer to that question DOES NOT BELONG TO THE ONES ASKING.

Because every Fucking Evangelical™ will tell you that missionaries are good!

And the populations they’re serving? How do they feel? When the cameras are off? How do they REALLY feel?


I’ve walked with one foot in the Fucking Evangelical™ world and one foot in the Fricking Secular© world during my life. I deeply appreciate both points of view.

And I can imagine every Fucking Evangelical™ fan reading this blog that’s still in the faith to read that synopsis and shrug your shoulders and think, “yeah… and? What’s the problem?”

And I can imagine every single one of my POC and Lefty Activist political communities to read that synopsis and go:

“WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK IS THIS WHITE SUPREMACIST BULLSHIT”

Like I said… this episode has made me nervous for a long, loooooong time.

If the episodes with Officer Harley were so bad (because he was a bumbling idiot and that wasn’t respectful to cops) that those episodes had to be banned…

Can we consider banning an episode that actually perpetuates some racist shit?

I would call upon the powers that be… MY PRAYER REQUEST is that this episode would be permanently struck from broadcast rotation and the streaming service and any and all future physical products. There’s 900+ episodes. Surely we can send this one to Episode Jail where it belongs.

I would like to have this episode off my conscience.

And I say that knowing full well that for some this was a very important episode.

A major theme in my life story is attempting to Set Things Right.

There’s a lot of damage in this world. And some of it I have perpetuated in my life through my own ignorance. And as you’ll see in the second half of my story, where I learned and unlearned some things… I realized I wanted to be a person who made things better. I’m no white savior. I don’t have some fanciful notion that I and I alone am going to Right All The Wrongs.

All I can do is fix myself. And look at my immediate environment and ask, “Am I helping or hurting?”

So many times I’ve thought I was helping I was hurting. And sometimes, especially before I left the faith, I was so convinced that I could not possibly be wrong that I walked around arrogantly causing damage while thinking I’m the hero.

It’s a very common behavior for Fucking Evangelicals™. What a religion needs to economically thrive is not always in the best interests of the locals who have their own religions that they use to control their masses just. like. you.

There is a shit ton of money in the White Savior Industrial Complex industry too.

Whole organizations employing hundreds of thousands of people all over the world in every religion. This isn’t unique to Fucking Evangelicals™. But the white missionary going to the brown spanish speaking country protrayed in this episode… this is how white suburban kids envision missionary work.

They are NOT taught to go fix water pipes in Flint Michigan.

Or to help the homeless lining the streets of Los Angeles.

Or to help politically pass universal health care and save millions of lives.

Every kid I ever knew went overseas or across a national border for a mission trip.

Do some missionaries do good and noble work that saves lives? Sure. Probably.

Can you do good work while perpetuating harm? Yes. You can. Ask anyone who has lived with an abuser. The abuse isn’t 24/7. There’s good moments in the mix, too. Which is what makes untangling from that kind of abuse very difficult to process.

Sometimes, we love those that cause us harm.

Sometimes, we love projects that cause harm.

Sometimes, things we think are good… are really only good for one’s ego.

At the heart of the White Savior Complex is an ego that can not be satiated. Because it’s chasing the wrong things.

Fucking Evangelicals™ vote to crush countries politically and upend their economies. Then when they’re broke and destitute and their societies are fracturing directly because of our interference… then we send in missionaries to “fix” things and convert people and ingrain ourselves into their lives so our corporations can swoop in and gobble up resources.

And this has been going on for millennia.

It’s not a new phenomena.

And to those whose passionate pursuit of spreading the word of god throughout the entire earth is something they’ve committed their lives to and might feel as though I’m taking shots at you…

Flint still has bad water and now so does Mississippi. Maybe go spread the good word there with noble acts of service? Maybe help the mentally ill find housing?

Maybe a greater mission in life is the betterment of all humanity. And that starts in our own backyard.

And really… the really hard work starts at your bathroom sink.

Right above it.

That reflection of me staring back at me.


Do we have the humility to admit when we’re wrong?

I believe this episode causes cultural harm. For white evangelicals as well! It perpetuates a way of thinking about the world that is very racist and where the traumas of colonialism are still happening and eroding the whole point of telling people there’s good news in the first place.

I’ll believe the work missionaries are doing overseas merits consideration when I see the quality of that work transform lives in this country right here FIRST.

AND. I. DON’T. SEE. THAT. HAPPENING.

How about this: A Mission for Fucking Evangelicals™… fix the logs in your eyes before you feel compelled to run out and pluck the splinters in the rest of the world’s eyes.

Recently the President of the United States absolved some student debt for our citizens. And HolySpiritFilled Fucking Evangelicals™ went ballistic which is odd for people who believe in the inerrancy of a book that calls charging interest on loans to poor people a crime (usury). Maybe y’all aren’t the best folk for us to be sending out as religious ambassadors to the world.

This country ain’t doing so good.

And it’s mostly Fucking Evangelicals™ fault.

Whole world’s watching.

What exactly are you fucking evangelizing about?



4 responses to “A White Savior Complex”

  1. Whew! A powerful and important conversation. Like you, it’s been an important journey for me to understand the reality of the harm this really is. Especially hard when it’s taught so young and as such a core element of our beliefs. While I remember being “inspired” by this episode, it was only one voice of many at the time for us all growing up in this evangelical boom.

    I appreciate the complexity you share about the issue while also holding strong to your understanding. I’ve seen privileged white terns understand for the first time that there are ways to live differently than their own. But I’ve also worked overseas while seeing groups come in and do (shoddy) work that local students would have otherwise been paid to do allowing them to pay their own tuition. Those experiences are just a drop in the bucket. When it comes to intention being harmful, every trip or individual cannot expect to be the exception to the rule.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Been reading your blog and felt compelled to make a, hopefully, short note on this subject. Being from the UK, yet having lived in America for 4 years, where I discovered AIO, it amazes the amount of importance placed on missionary work. Here, missionaries are far from common, I’m sure it happens, but, having a Mother who is a retired vicar, I am not aware of anyone who is a missionary. Instead, we tend to focus on foreign aid through charities, such as UNICEF, Red Cross etc.

    There are plenty of people who go and work for or volunteer for these charities, but overall, it is a very non-religious thing. There doesn’t appear to be any ulterior motives for the help beyond just wanting to help. I’m not sure if this particularly interesting or useful to you, but it just fascinated me that being a missionary is such a big and important thing within religious circles in the US. It seems to me to be the right thing for the wrong reason, somewhat, though not completely. An interesting topic of discussion.

    Keep up the good work, I am enjoying these retrospective thoughts on these shows. Very enlightening.

    All the best,
    David

  3. “And I think this is probably one of the most fundamental things Fucking Evangelicals™ need to do is to really look and examine their actions and ask: IS THIS GOOD OR DOES THIS CAUSE HARM?
    And that the answer to that question DOES NOT BELONG TO THE ONES ASKING.”

    YES!!! 100% Thanks for this very important blog post.

  4. You may be happy to know that they later did an episode that said missionary work can be helping local problems as well as going to foreign countries. So… it’s a wash?

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