Last Sunday during the Gathering we talked about self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is important to being faithful, especially if you feel that you are unworthy of love. Everyone is worthy of love, and everyone whom God has called has a place at the table. Unfortunately, as we identified, the church does not always pass on that message; often, people are told that they’re not worthy because of who they are. This led me to make the point that often when the church points its finger at someone, it says far more about itself and its own insecurities, then is does about the other person or you.
I reiterate that point, because this Sunday we are celebrating the World Communion Sunday on both services, and I think that is a very important place to start. One of the things I learned from reading through the materials I received at the Multicultural Institute was how quick we are to discount people who are not part of the majority, or do not speak loudly. Anyone who has studied sociology understands that the dominant voice often shapes culture.
The problem is that at times the dominant culture does not always have the best answers or ways of operating. One needs to look no further back than the tyrannous leaders who have plagued the news over the past 40 years, probably more, but . . . Sadly, often when the dominant culture is forced upon minority cultures, important aspects of wisdom are lost.
This was seen early in the history of American Colonialization, as the White European communities settled, and often pushed out the indigenous people. Initially the colonies did not listen and also did not make it through the winter, later they worked with the indigenous people, and survived the winter. Unfortunately, the prevailing wisdom began to see that there was a threat hidden within the strange indigenous people, and the colonizers spent the next few centuries working to destroy and defeat the indigenous peoples.
This is the history of colonialization, not just in America, and Christianity played a big part, with the stories of converting the heathens or pagan peoples. While it did convert some, much was lost. But what also was lost were some unique understandings of God and nature, many which we suffer from today.
After graduating from high school, I spent the summer in mission on a reservation in South Dakota. There I was blessed to work with Sid Byrd, a Dakota man by tribe, Presbyterian Pastor, but grew up on a Lakota reservation and sent to an “Indian” school where they tried to teach out the “Indian” ways. As Sid describes this you could see the pain, and for the first time I understood how easy it is for people to discount or abuse their power.
In a conversation once he said that the lore told them that the people who were here knew that someday others would come, but never knew if they would come with a handshake or a gun. They came with a gun. Granted. he said it more eloquently than I just stated, but he went on to say that because people had come with the Gun, we lost so much. He then went on to talk about how poorly the Europeans had treated the land, dividing it up, taking ownership, abusing it. He said that because we did not learn the land we are going to lose it, not to invaders, but to its abuse. It has been fascinating for me to see the prophesy in his words. But it also makes me think of how different our environmental situation would be if early on we had listened to those who were here before us, and followed their insights?
This Sunday at the Gathering we are going to think about how we listen to each other. I am hoping that we can share our insights about God for our different cultures, and even bring in readings that help each of us understand our perspectives better.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen