The American Family Association should apologize to Native Americans

Crosswalk and the Christian Post published this article last week but I want to put it up here too. The American Family Association refuses to comment officially on the supremacist views of Bryan Fischer but I believe they should. In this article, I quote some evangelical leaders who comment on Fischer’s views. Here is a powerful one:

Fischer’s revision of history is offensive to Rev. Falls. Referring to Fischer’s articles, Falls asserts, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”

Read on…

Should evangelicals apologize to Native Americans?

Yes, we should.

It is past time for evangelicals to express remorse and regret to Native Americans for the mistreatment they experienced at the hands of Christians throughout the history of the nation. Although President Obama signed a resolution of apology in 2009 on behalf of the nation, evangelical groups should also follow suit.

It is a sad fact of American history that Christianity, at times, conspired with the government to colonize and nearly eradicate a proud and free people. Sadly, in the present, those wounds have been reopened by a representative of that same belief system, in effect, blaming the native people for their demise. In February, Bryan Fischer, Issues Analyst for the American Family Association wrote on the AFA website that Native Americans were “morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil” because of “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality.”

Fischer followed up by suggesting that Americans should be proud of the “displacement of native American tribes.” Finally, he wrote that if the native people had converted to Christianity, like Pocahontas did, then “their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless.”

Such assertions are offensive to Native American Christians. One such leader, Rev. Emerson Falls, counters Fischer, telling me that some Indian tribes, such as the Cherokee, assimilated into white Christian ways only to be displaced by federal policy at gunpoint and marched from the deep South to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears (1838-1839). Falls added, “It was only after their forced removal on the Trail of Tears that they began to question the validity of Christianity.” 

Ironically, Fischer’s assertions about Native Americans come at a time when some Christian groups are attempting to address wounds, never fully healed, among Native Americans.  

The first weekend of March, Southern Baptists hosted a conference in Oklahoma called “The Gathering” where Native American Christians reflected on reasons why their peers are not more receptive to Christianity. Randy Adams, Church Outreach Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, described barriers past generations of Christians created for native people. “At times, mission agencies were complicit with the government mistreatment of native Americans,” referring to government removal of native people from their home lands.

Furthermore, Christians conspired with the government to Americanize native people in the name of religion. Rev. Falls, first Native American president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, explains: “The church partnered with the government to run boarding schools that took Native children out of their homes, cut their hair, changed their clothes, and denied them the right to speak in the own language. This led to an attitude that equates Christianity with cultural genocide, an attitude still prevalent today.”

Both Adams and Falls said that recent months have brought a resurgence of interest in Christianity among native people. Fischer’s views, they said, coming as a representative of the religious right, could be a significant barrier to this movement.

“Fischer has a simplistic and convoluted view of history. Native Americans were deceived and lied to. To suggest that such treatment was noble or praiseworthy is just wrong and destructive,” Adams said.

Adams said that the pain of this history is never far from the native Christians he knows, saying, “What they suffered and what they lost, it is still a part of who they are.”

There are numerous instances of deceit and trickery being used to take native lands, but perhaps the prime illustration is the policy of forced removal begun under Andrew Jackson and continued during the term of Martin Van Buren. White settlers wanted the tribal lands and pushed the Jackson administration to remove native people. Beginning with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the United States engaged in a systematic displacement of the inhabitants from their lands.

The effort culminated in the brutal Trail of Tears which led to the deaths of approximately 4000 Cherokee as they were marched from several Southern states to what is now Oklahoma. Families were uprooted with little more than the clothes they were wearing and forced to travel through harsh conditions to a place they had never seen.

Fischer’s revision of history is offensive to Rev. Falls. Referring to Fischer’s articles, Falls asserts, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”

Rev. Falls is right. Stereotyping is often used to justify differential treatment. Christians should have no part in the illusion that Native Americans deserved their fate. It is time for Christians to reject historical revisionism, remove barriers and build bridges. Furthermore, I call on the AFA to correct the false information they have promoted and express regret for the pain they have caused.

If you want to express your agreement with the US apology to Native Americans, go to this Facebook page and hit the Like button.

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  • Teresa

    They wanted not only the land; but, the gold that had been discovered in Georgia. The 5 great tribes, called, sometimes, disparagingly “civilized tribes”: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole were most all displaced West of the Mississippi. The Seminoles managed to elude the government and settle in the Everglades of Florida.

    The ironic thing about this is that these Nations had pretty much accepted and adapted to their white ‘neighbors’, living very much like their white ‘neighbors’. The problem remained, they were not accepted as ‘good enough’, inferior really from the get-go. Unfortunately, at the time; and, perhaps, even now, there wasn’t the possibility of ‘change’ for these peoples. They couldn’t pass as ex-Cherokee, or post-Cherokee.

  • ewe

    you should apologize to gay people.

  • Richard Willmer

    ‘Christianity’ generally has a pretty dreadful track-record when it comes to doing the exact opposite of what its Founder (insofar as that Person was ever interested in ‘founding a religion’) intended.

  • Maazi NCO

    Fischer followed up by suggesting that Americans should be proud of the “displacement of native American tribes.” Finally, he wrote that if the native people had converted to Christianity, like Pocahontas did, then “their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless.”

    Yeah thats right!!! Just as was the case of christianized Black Americans whose assimilation was seamless and bloodless.

    Native Americans were “morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil” because of “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality.”

    Sounds like what the european settlers said to us (Africans) until we dropped our spears and arrows and picked up guns, bombs, heavy artillery and rockets to engage them in armed warfare, which eventually convinced them to give up and—- either accept the authority to the native african peoples and be granted ordinary citizenship rights as a reward or acknowlegde defeat and flee back to Europe. The mistake of Native Americans was their inability to use the instruments of their oppressors to fight the oppressors. You don’t fight someone armed with Hiram Maxim Machine Guns and battlefield cannons with tomhawks, knives, spears and arrows.

    If you want to express your agreement with the US apology to Native Americans, go to this Facebook page and hit the Like button.

    Rather than give feeble apology, why not accept the demands of the native americans that their so-called “reservations” be granted more autonomy than they currently enjoy within the United States. I see no reason why US government cannot allow these “reservations” the right to use a separate passport and even currency if they so desire. Scotland in the UK not only have a separate parliament, they have a separate educational system, a separate national football team and a separate currency. Hong Kong enjoys so much autonomy that one might be tempted to call it a separate state from mainland China

  • Mary

    I wasn’t alive during the time of the Native American issues. I have nothing to apologize for. I can however make a statment today that they way they and numerous other people on the North American continent were treated – poorly. Women, children, enslaved people, and all in the name of some religion. Hmmmm. well …. that isn’t nor ever was my religion.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Mary – In a sense, I agree, but in another sense, what I am really wanting to incite is an awareness that in the name of the religion I like, people did awful things. I want to express remorse and a commitment to call out Christians when they do what Bryan Fischer and the AFA have done.

  • Mary

    I want to express remorse and a commitment to call out Christians when they do what Bryan Fischer and the AFA have done

    I agree with you however, the real distinction needs to be made that Bryan Fischer does not speak for us. We go around apologizing for someone and that makes it seem as though they are one of us. He isn’t – not in my book. He is a mean spirited, ill guided, and prideful man who calls himself a christian. We need to make a distinction – he is not us or at least not my kind.

  • David Blakeslee

    I believe the effect of Native American Boarding schools cannot be considered as “either good or bad” in any monolithic way.

    While visiting the Heard Museum in Phoenix they had a quite extensive exhibit on the subject to include research and interviews with Native Americans from different generations.

    As I recall, they were fairly evenly split on the positive vs. negative effect of the boarding school experience.

    More recently, in Alaska, for example it appears that the results were not monolithic either.

  • Teresa

    Unless, of course, David B., you were one of those with the negative experience. How much damage has to be done, to how many people, before Christians begin to realize one is too many?

    Because we treated half OK, does that pass muster for Christians? Because not all the Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears, is that OK?

    I know you’ll agree with me on this, David; but, your sentence about it “being neither good nor bad” is not exactly true, and can be misleading; at least, in my opinion.

    The fact the many were taken from their homes and put in boarding schools means what? Isn’t that a problem?

    Not all slaves were mistreated; slavery wasn’t monolithic either. So, many preachers in the South extolled the wonders of slavery, and how Biblical it was. Was slavery OK?

    To paraphrase a Martin Luther King sentence: “unless there’s justice for everyone, there’s justice for no one.”

  • Lynn David

    David Blakeslee….. I believe the effect of Native American Boarding schools cannot be considered as “either good or bad” in any monolithic way.

    I have heard from or spoken with Native Americans who were of my parents age in Oklahoma, Arizona, and the Dakotas and all were equal in their condemnation of boarding schools. It was for them as if they were being orphaned from their parents. And the cultural loss was significant. I remember hearing from the Catholic Benedictine fathers from my home in Indiana speaking highly of their school in the Dakotas and yet later hearing horror stories from those who attended their schools.

    There is much that is done in the making of this country which one would rather have been done differently. More often than not that occurred after the cessation of hostiliities. However, there comes a point when one has to simply put it aside and realize that this continent, this country, was fought for and won. Or as Spike, an English vampire, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said:

    I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody indians. …. You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. It’s what caesar did, and he’s not going around saying, “I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.” The history of the world isn’t people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.

    Well, maybe not perfect but somewhat in that vein.

  • David Blakeslee

    Teresa,

    Just saying, monolithic conclusions tend to distort realities. This appears to be true with Native American Boarding Schools.

    Realities with SSA and nearly everything else tend to be varied and nuanced.

    Christian missionaries generally have seen themselves as the cure to cultural problems and have all too often been wrong.

    Christian missionaries seeing themselves as the cure is a “monolithic conclusion.”

    Hubris on all sides tends to hurt.

  • David Blakeslee

    Bryan Fischer s@cks…monolithically.

  • Jayhuck

    Lynn,

    I would like to give you a big, fat virtual kiss for quoting Buffy! :)

    David,

    Well put!

  • Lynn David

    Careful Jayhuck, you can’t be sure where that might lead….

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