Saturday, January 15, 2011

Land of the Sioux - Home of the Brave

This week I listened to several Christians lamenting the fact that Carlos Gonzales - an associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine with no Wikipedia profile - was invited to give a traditional Native American blessing as an introduction to President Obama's speech memorializing the Tucson shootings.

Time out.

What does "Native American" mean? It means a native of America. It means someone who was here long before the Puritans. That blessing was being spoken over this soil when Valley Forge was just a dim glint in the future. This is not an argument about the rightness or wrongness of anybody's prayer - this is simply to point out a claim that Carlos Gonzales and his people have on this land that most of us seem to have forgotten: precedent.

You probably think Jesus was appalled that a pagan was allowed to speak a blessing at a public event. I think he weeps for joy when things like this happen. That man represents a minority that this country has cheated, oppressed, abused, and trampled on, and we still begrudge him a measly little invocation and a feather. Fill ye up the sins of your fathers.

"I can see a people dispossessed
Broken and brave in the face of so much fear
Driven from their homes by the greed of a nation
Whose treaties were as good as litter along the trail of their tears"
-Rich Mullins, The Howling

Jesus is with the outcast. Jesus is with the dispossessed. And if we want to be where Jesus is, we should be there too. (That's a paraphrase from - no, not Family Force 5 - Bono.)

You can't talk out of both sides of your mouth about the separation of Church and State. Either they are joined, which means no religious freedom, or they are separate, which means your pet church is separate too. There is no special pass. (Really, the sacred/secular divide is somewhat artificial, as the state (because it is operated by people) will inevitably include some spiritual/metaphysical elements and motivations, however small and stunted. So the Christian Right responds by clamoring for the state to separate out every spiritual voice and influence but their own. Snap out of it. You're not in Kansas anymore. This is pluralism, Charlie Brown, and if you can't learn to respect people who are different from you then you shouldn't be preaching Christianity in the first place.)

Glenn Beck - that darling of the free and the brave - in November ridiculed another Native American, this time a Nevada college student, for her decision to sing a traditional tribal song in honor of American veterans and troops instead of the national anthem. He compared it to another incident in Colorado in 2008 where a black woman also sang "the wrong song." (How dare you sing an alternate song when you're supposed to sing the song about freedom?) If you put the Kool-Aid down for a second, it's Beck who sounds like the Nazi.

"That is 'power/knowledge,' not knowledge as power, but having the power to constitute what counts as knowledge."
-John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct? - Kindle Location 1359

Far from being a culture-toppling victory for secular* humanism, this is the type of positive gesture that promotes healing. Affirmation and respect - whether you smear them as mere "political correctness" or not - are still affirmation and respect.

Peace to Carlos Gonzales and the Yaqui.

*Yes, I heard the blessing attacked as "secular." It was secular like the Pope is secular.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff as always, brother. Glad to have found your new site. I'm looking forward to reading what God has on your heart again.

    Going toward God,