Never Settle for a Lack of Knowledge
The whole Flat Earth Theory started me thinking about how, throughout history, people have espoused theories without testing them for truth—and ended up hurting other people. Take the theory that North America only had a few people living on it in the 1400s and needed a new race to settle and tame the land. I learned that theory back in grade school, and nothing in my high school or college classes taught me anything different.
But, what if the theory proved false? What if the consequences of the belief in the theory prove horrific? Do our responsibilities to our fellow humans change when we learn new information? I’ll let you decide.
My journey started six years ago when I began my job as a high school English and history teacher at a school for Native Americans. I wanted to understand what makes my kids’ lives so different from mine. My reading list that first year included Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Both books helped me understand the reality of growing up on a reservation: Hardscrabble and violent come to mind.
Next, I spent five weeks in North Carolina learning about the Trail of Tears from a Cherokee’s perspective. Sure, I’d heard about the event—every history book has the obligatory paragraph and one sad black and white photo of a painting depicting a mother and child huddled under a blanket. My understanding started to shift in ways that I never expected. I had learned history from the aggressor’s standpoint. That’s like only listening to the rapist’s point of view in a trial.
A White Man’s History of the World
When I read Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, I came to understand how little we actually know about the ‘New World.’ The theory that a pristine land of opportunity awaited enterprising people willing to risk disease and privation in order to settle it lost a lot of its luster in the face of reality.
Of course, I assured myself, these histories pertain to secular white men. They don’t involve me. I hold no responsibility. But then I read Massacre at Sand Creek: How Methodists Were Involved in an American Tragedy, which opened a whole new vista of violence.
This time, ‘good Christians’ in Colorado (both males and females) perpetrated the violence. The book, commissioned by the Methodist church leadership, sought to explore the question of how a Methodist minister could mastermind one of the most heinous (unpunished) crimes in the United States. It served as a springboard of apology and reconciliation between the Methodist church and the tribes affected by the Sand Creek Massacre.
The next stop on my eye-opening journey involved a book titled The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History. This book chronicles the longest war on U.S. soil. I can no longer hear a careless call of, “Geronimo!” without cringing and wondering what the caller knows about the one whose name they invoke.
I recently finished reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (ReVisioning American History), which once again made me evaluate all I thought I knew and learned about history.
What Does it Mean?
In our attempt to settle the land we ran roughshod over those who owned it, used it, loved it, and called it home. We justified our actions with a mix of religion, science, and superiority complex. Our aggression and greed found release in violence, carnage, subterfuge, and inhumanity.
And so, I have arrived at a point where I don’t know what to do with my knowledge. I know we have done great wrong, but from whom do I ask forgiveness? Will my tiny voice make any difference to those whose ancestors my ancestors raped, pillaged, and oppressed?Will my tiny voice make any difference to those whose ancestors my ancestors raped, pillaged, and oppressed? Please forgive me. #nativeamerican Click To Tweet
All I can do is hope that it does. I am sorry. Please forgive us. Furthermore, please hold us accountable when you see us rushing to settle disputes between other nations . Especially if we haven’t first taken taken care of our problems at home.
Remind us that Jesus died for each of us—regardless of our creed, religion, skin color, or happenstance of birth. We all hold equal value. If we devalue someone in any way because of their creed, religion, color, or happenstance of birth, we devalue ourselves.If we devalue someone in any way because of their creed, religion, skin color, or happenstance of birth, we devalue and degrade ourselves. #Christianity Click To Tweet
May history never repeat itself.
A Battle Cry for Today
Today, we need to set aside “Remember the Alamo!” and pick up the cry, “Remember the Cross!”
The cross will never lead us to violence, prejudice, racism, or rejection. Instead, it leads us to reconciliation. It symbolizes vertical reconciliation between us and God, as well as horizontal reconciliation between us and everyone else who lives on this planet.The cross will never lead us to violence, prejudice, racism, or rejection. Instead, it leads us to #reconciliation. Click To Tweet
Q4U: Who do you need to reconcile with?