Bryan Fischer speaks with forked tongue

American Family Association Issues Analyst Brian Fischer believes that Native Americans lost their lands because they were “morally disqualified” to keep them. His first column on the subject was blasted by a Native American advocacy group, his enemies and even his co-workers – one AFA attorney called it “wrong and disturbing.” Fischer’s claimed that his readers were not mature enough to handle a discussion of his thesis and removed it from the AFA website.Then last week, Bryan Fischer, found a morally qualified Native American to write about. Fischer claimed that Jamestown’s Algonquian princess Pocahontas showed her fellow Native Americans the way to relate to the British – convert to Christianity and learn their ways. Fischer then asserts that her people did not follow her which led to their demise. On point, Fischer wrote:

It’s arresting to think of how different the history of the American settlement and expansion could have been if the other indigenous peoples had followed Pocahontas’s example. She not only recognized the superiority of the God whom the colonists worshipped over the gods of her native people, she recognized the superiority (not the perfection) of their culture and adopted its patterns and language as her own. 

In other words, she both converted and assimilated. She became both a Christian and an American (technically, of course, an Englishman). She melded into European and Christian civilization and made her identity as a Christian and an Englishman her primary identity. She was the first manifestation of what became our national slogan, “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of many, one.” 

Had the other indigenous people followed her example, their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless. Sadly, it was not to be. 

It is true that there was no seamless and bloodless history. But it is not true that indigenous peoples completely rejected Christianity.  

According to real historian Mark Noll, the Native Americans were responsive to Christianity after Pocahontas. Prior to 1675, pastors John Elliot and Thomas Mayhew evangelized in Massachusetts leading to converts among the Algonquians and a translation of the Bible into their tongue. 

Another example of evangelism described by Noll in his book, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, was the work of Moravian David Zeisberger in Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1748, Zeisberger saw the native people in central Pennsylvania converted and organized into peaceful villages. Fischer clams Native Americans were nomadic. In a way that was true of early Christian Native American converts, but not for the reasons Fischer claims. For instance, Delaware people converted through Zeisberger’s work had to relocate multiple times at the insistence of European settlers. During one move in Ohio, savagery was the downfall of a portion of Zeisberger’s colony, but the perpetrators of the atrocities were Americans who brutally murdered native men, women and children. After this tragedy, Zeisberger’s group found refuge in Ontario and thrived as a Christian settlement.

Fischer’s thesis is most clearly devastated by the experience of the Cherokees in the south after the Revolutionary War. The Cherokees signed a treaty with the federal government in 1794 and then settled into a peaceful period where they built roads and villages. They welcomed Christian missionaries which led to many converts among the Cherokee in Northern Georgia and Tennessee. In his book on American Christianity, Noll describes “a slow but steady acceptance of the Christian faith.” Noll continues the sad tale:

During the administration of President Andrew Jackson, however, the evangelism of the missionaries and the work of selective cultural adaptation by the Cherokees both received a fatal blow. After the discovery of gold in Northern Georgia about the time of Jackson’s election in 1828, the lust of the White settlers for Cherokee land grew even stronger than before. Jackson and his agents for Indian affairs were eager to give it to them. The result was a forced removal of the Cherokees from Georgia to the West. Despite the fact that the Cherokees had adapted to American ways with remarkable skill, the removal proceeded with ruthless finality. The missionaries, who had come to the Native Americans as bearers of civilization as well as of Christianity, faced a terrible dilemma. They now were forced to watch their country, supposedly the embodiment of Christian civilization, turn violently against a people that had responded to their message.

The United States, bearing the gifts of Christian faith and republican politics, destroyed a tribal people that was working to accept those gifts. Some missionary spokesmen, unlike Worcester, Butler, and the Joneses, played a signal part in that destruction. Such spokesmen were good culture Christians. The agents of Andrew Jackson’s Indian policy were democrats. Together they did the devil’s work in the name of the Lord and of his “chosen country.”

Noll’s description is haunting. He repeatedly demonstrates that the Cherokee and other native peoples followed the way of Pocahontas but they were not rewarded with Fischer’s “seamless and bloodless” assimilation. Instead, during the Trail of Tears, men, women and children were uprooted and brutally forced to march hundreds of miles, many to their deaths, because they were Native Americans. At the time, some Christians, seeing the evil, engaged in civil disobedience to try to prevent the forced relocation. In the present, why can’t the American Family Association stop revising history and acknowledge this sad and painful chapter in our history?

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  • Richard Willmer

    So, according to Fischer, I’m an American (who holds a British passport), while Americans are something else!

    Oh dearie me!

  • Jess

    I used to support the AFA financially. Although I am not sad to say i did, I thought at the time that the organization was working to uphold Christian teaching about the family. Since Bryan Fischer has joined the AFA, I have stopped donating any money to it. They are not a gospel group at all but a cynical political group, and not one that demonstrates love of God.

  • Jess

    Sorry, I meant “Although I am NOW sad to say…”

  • David Blakeslee

    There is a strange framework with fundamentalism that looks always at current and past historical events as some sort of confirmation of God’s plan or God’s punishment.

    It is wierdly effective, as somehow people like Fischer rise to the top with no credentials except the special skill of twisting history and logic in such a way as to promote this Egocentric view of current events and history.

    People like Fischer are clearly articulate and ignorant. How Fischer developed into this kind of human being would be a fascinating thread.

    Degrees and Advanced degrees, but woefully pathological in his judgment.

  • stephen

    David, it was done by the compilers of the New Testament. How they wrenched the real events of Jesus’ life (most likely born in Nazareth, etc) to fulfill the prophets of the OT, Elijah et al. So He had to be born in Bethlehem, his mother had to be of the house of David, etc. This isn’t new. And though it might be a more particularly pungent form of illiteralism we need to acknowledge that it has grown alongside modern thought like a cancer.

    Plus. This is how Fischer makes his living. He doesn’t mean a word of it.

  • Jayhuck


    I disagree with you about the so-called “compilers” of the NT – but I think you have the sentiment right. Fischer is an abomination 🙂 If you want to get into a discussion about theology, we should probably start another thread

  • Teresa

    Jayhuck said, If you want to get into a discussion about theology, we should probably start another thread.

    Would you be willing to start that thread, Jayhuck; especially, with hermeneutics as our tool?

  • Richard Willmer

    PLEASE … some hermeneutics!

  • Teresa

    Agreed, Richard. Now, you start, OK?

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, where does one begin? Perhaps with some ‘general observations’ about the four Gospel accounts?

    Each Gospel was written primarily to ‘make a point’ about Jesus: I would aver that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the Suffering Servant; in Matthew’s, he is New Moses and the Fulfilment of all the hopes of God’s people, of the Law and of the Prophets; in Luke’s, he is the Saviour of the World; in John’s, the Human Face of God. A proper analysis of the Gospels takes these themes (which are related to the social and historical context in which each account was written) into consideration; if we want to understand the messages they carry, we need to be aware of the linguistic, cultural and historical aspects, otherwise we are going to ‘miss’ things, or get things wrong (even more than we already do!).

    Of course, the proper application of hermeneutics does not give us ‘neat answers’ (and perhaps one of the key psychological impulses behind fundamentalism is the desire for ‘neat answers’); instead it throws up real questions, with which the faithful must engage. For example, how should we understand the Mosaic Law in the light of the Sermon on the Mount (and vice versa)?

  • David Blakeslee

    Stay on Target! (quote from Star Wars, Commander of the Y wing assault on the Death Star, fundamentally applied).

    In keeping with my nature to blame systems for the co-creation of problems highlighted by the bad behavior of a “leader,” let me suggest the following:

    Christian Universities with highly qualified departments of Education, Psychology, History and Missiology could quickly and easily disqualify the absurd assertions of someone like Fischer.

    Only recently have Christian Universities been willing to authorize funding for Public Policy centers to address such issues with Intellectual Rigor.

    Please note the Public Policy Center which was recently created at Grove City College.


  • David – Yes, indeed.

    You are making a sound observation here. Most of the advocacy groups who get into trouble when making public policy statements do not have an advisory board of academics who can help evaluate the accuracy of the claims. People who have no training in evaluating the studies they cite can make significant errors.

    Often even when people with advanced degrees are brought in, it is because they already are sympathetic to the position taken and bend the science to the fit the desired conclusion.

  • Jayhuck

    Ooops- I meant OT obviously 😉

  • Jayhuck


    I would not be qualified, and as David B suggested, we should probably stay on target 😉 BTW, David, I enjoyed your SW reference 🙂

  • David Blakeslee

    @ Jayhuck,

    I applied no hermenuetics, cultural framework or historical context for my quote of the Y-Wing Leader.

    Nevertheless, his words have profound implications in these troubled times.

  • David Blakeslee


    There is a justifiable reason to use ideology to interpret science and public policy. It is nearly unavoidable on all sides of the debate.

    World views effect the way we interpret science, the way we set up scientific inquiry and this is even more true of public policy.

    “Twisting” science to fit a world view seems unavoidable…but it can be acknowledged or “confessed.” In so doing the consumer is protected.

    Need to post on Obama’s reversal of DOMA.