‘Savior Complex’ is an indictment of colonialist Christianity

The HBO docuseries showcases the ongoing injustices perpetuated by colonialism.
Arts & Culture

Savior Complex

Directed by Jackie Jesko (HBO, 2023)

Savior Complex showcases the work of Renee Bach, a homeschooled evangelical Christian from rural Virginia who in 2007, at age 19, moved to Uganda as a missionary. After her two-year commitment ended, she decided to return to Uganda.

In 2009, Bach founded Serving His Children, aiming to aid malnourished children. This center evolved into supporting dying children via a makeshift ICU room.

Despite not having any medical training, Bach routinely diagnosed children, administered IVs, performed blood transfusions, and supervised children in intensive care. Over the eight-year history of Serving His Children, the center reported 105 children in its care had died, though activists allege the numbers are much higher. The inherent controversy is that Bach represented herself as a medical professional to mothers of malnourished children, potentially contributing to their deaths. An honest examination of the impact of colonialism, and the white supremacy that enables it, is absent from Bach’s work.

But to put this injustice solely on Bach, or even white evangelicals, is hypocritical without examining the Catholic Church’s enablement of colonialism and racial inequality. Catholics must confront the church’s involvement in colonialism and the present-day effects, as well as work to undo structures of sin that perpetuate this evil. We must also look to Pope Francis, who throughout his pontificate has denounced colonialism.


Savior Complex is a reminder that the faithful must join Pope Francis in undoing the chains of colonialism in Africa not as saviors but as servants—mindful of our privileges in the West gained from colonial exploitation.

This article also appears in the February 2024 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 89, No. 2, page 38). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: HBO

About the author

Matt Kappadakunnel

Matt Kappadakunnel has a background in investment management and investment banking. He spent multiple years studying to be a Catholic priest and graduated from Creighton University. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

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