What is “spiritual paternalism?”

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert are the authors of this excellent book

From When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert …

Many of us assume that we have a lot to teach the materially poor about God and that we should be the ones preaching from the pulpit, teaching Sunday School class, or leading the vacation Bible school. We do have much to share out of our knowledge and experiences, but oftentimes the materially poor have an even deeper walk with God and have spiritual insights and experiences that they can share with us, if we would just stop talking and listen. (location 1700)

The authors argue that a common unhealthy practice of North American Christians toward the poor is paternalism. Note: Since I am reading this book with an Amazon Kindle, I am referencing the book using the Kindle reference system which is by “location” rather than by page number.

Here are some suggestions for avoiding “spiritual paternalism.”

  1. Create an inter-cultural conversation—conducting an exchange program between churches or ministries, by which leaders teach on both sides of the partnership.
  2. When preaching or teaching in the host culture, invite dialog from your respective partners; simply expect that you will learn much more than you teach. Avoid the necessity of having the last word.
  3. Learn the vital practice of empathic listening. For more on this, click here.
  4. Avoid the attitude of superiority by constantly praying the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner

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