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Disciples Institutional Racism Towards Native Americans

June 15, 2015

“The vision of a community dwelling in God’s unconditional and universal love may sound like an impossible dream, but in God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). The radical conversion needed to overcome the sin of racism is made possible by the Holy Spirit. Sent by the risen Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and in our midst to empower us to live truly as God’s people. By the power of the Holy Spirit acting in us, we can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Jesus assured his disciples that the abiding presence of the Spirit would empower them to be faithful:

When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will bear witness to me. And you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26-27).

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I
Dwell in my love: a pastoral letter on racism, 2011[i]

INTRODUCTION

For decades the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has professed a theology and polity of Christian Inclusion. This is evidenced by the Disciples of Christ Identity Statement and Principles found within the denomination’s web page. The Statement of Identity states that “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.” This statement portrays an image of compassionate and caring people who trust in God and are devoted to practicing the principles and teachings established by Christ.

Within the twelve Principles of Identity can be found those principles which specifically address the policy, polity and theology of inclusion of diversity. These include: 6) We participate in God’s mission for the world, working with partners to heal the brokenness of creation and bring justice and peace to the whole human family; and 10) We celebrate the diversity of our common life, affirming our different histories, styles of worship, and forms of service.

Yet, for nearly five decades Disciples have betrayed their commitment to God’s principles and ideals by turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the suffering and hopelessness of Native Americans. Disciples have demonstrated this conduct through actively and passively creating and sustaining a polity, culture, and theology of Institutional Racism towards Native Americans. This is evidenced by Disciples remaining silent about social justice issues pertaining to Native Americans and denying Native Americans access to equitable resources for missional ministry. In so doing, Disciples have permitted, and even been complicit in growing, a national culture of racism towards Native Americans to thrive.

As a result, according to the National Institute of Health, the magnitude and depth of poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and health problems among Native Americans (American Indians), First Nations, and Alaska Natives is at an all-time high.[ii] Many Indigenous youth today present as feeling so powerless and hopeless towards overcoming the amount of racism they are being subjected to that an apparent epidemic of teen suicide spans the reservations and suburban communities across the nation.

This paper will demonstrate how Disciples have and continue to subvert the very principles and teachings they claim to hold dear. Many Disciples I have spoken with about this issue over the past few years have shamefully admitted that they didn’t even know about the plight of Native Americans and their role in it. On the one hand, I can see how this could be true, while on the other hand, so much has happened in the past fifty years that I find it difficult to accept.

While this paper is specific to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the issues raised are relevant to all European Christian denominations and churches. The harm caused by all European-based Christian denominations and churches who have perceived themselves to be morally superior to Native Americans can never be fully measured.

Do you have the courage to face the truth?

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One Comment
  1. BARBARA ANN MITCHELL REXFORD permalink

    I’m so ashamed of these people who
    are racist.They are supposed to help
    all peoples. Native Americans have been
    used & abused.It’s time to give their land
    back to them & solve their many problems, that were caused hy the
    Europeas & our ancestors. SHAME ON
    US ALL, DAMMIT …

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