DAY 3: Indigenous Belief & the Gospel

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every Indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}

It’s Native American Heritage Month!

People often ask me how I can be a Christian and an Indigenous woman. And the answer is, it’s complicated. And it’s a long conversation. And it’s not simple. People ask me if I believe our Potawatomi teachings enhance the gospel.

I believe they do.

And I’d go further to say that other cultures who have unique teachings also enhance the gospel of Christ because God is a universal God, and I believe Christ honors all cultures, a Christ who is not a colonizer.

When I learn something new about my tribe’s ways, our stories, our understandings, it feeds the way I view Jesus’ teachings. We cannot read the Bible objectively.

We read it with subjective eyes, recognizing the people who wrote it and the time they lived in. Still, when I hear a parable of Jesus, I seem to lean in closer than I have in a long time. It’s like listening to an elder speak. It’s life-giving.

The work of prophets has forever been difficult. Prophets say what’s hard. As my friend Propaganda speaks in his song Andrew Mandela:

I throw stones at your sacred cows;

I dance with skeletons in closets;

I point at elephants in the room,

and make a mockery of heroes.

 

This is what prophets do.

 

When we bring our culture to the gospel, we become prophets. We point to the poison inside systems.

 

We call out institutional sins that have existed within the church for a long time, the very things Jesus fought against: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, love of empire over people.

So in that decolonizing we learn something.

It points us back towards those seven teachings I wrote about on the first day of this series.

Our world literatures are such a beautiful learning tool, and having them helps us understand ourselves and others—if only we pay attention to our humility along the way. I’m learning to respect the Jewish traditions that make up the Hebrew Bible, a culture that is old and beautiful and has thrived through such oppression, continuing to fight white supremacy today.

In America, the Bible has been used for a lot of things– to control and manipulate, for the sole purpose of evangelizing or “saving the lost,” or, in our ancestor’s case, “killing the Indian to save the man.”

So I as I am redeeming my own Potawatomi culture for myself and my family, I am also redeeming the stories of Jesus, who honored and cared for and listened to those who were often most silenced in community. That is where my Indigenous beliefs and my beliefs in Christ come together and thrive beautifully.

I believe when we decolonize, Jesus is right there, whispering, “Yes. Keep going. Keep going.”

Don’t give up, friends. We’ve got work to do.

 

 

 

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