Navajo culture and beliefs remind me we all have different ways of looking at the world. It’s important to respect those differences.
“But the Lord is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.”Habakkuk 2:20
Navajo Culture and Beliefs About Eclipse Viewing
“Someone donated special glasses so our students can watch the eclipse,” a staff member announced at a staff meeting.
“If the kids come from traditional homes,” our Navajo math teacher said, “their parents won’t want them to watch it.”
“Really?” another staff member asked. “Even with the special glasses?”
“Even with the glasses,” he said. “Navajo parents teach their children to go inside during an eclipse and to not eat or drink. They just stay respectful inside.”
“Well, I want to see the eclipse,” another staff member said as if that settled the matter.
“This is a situation where we should ask the parents’ permission,” the principal suggested. “We shouldn’t show disrespect for Navajo culture and beliefs just because they don’t align with what we think.”
The Navajo employees nodded their heads in agreement. We finished the staff meeting with a plan for making sure students could watch the eclipse safely if they wanted to and had their parents’ permission.
Different Doesn’t Mean Wrong
I’ve since learned each tribe has differing beliefs about viewing eclipses. Some agree with the Navajo culture and beliefs that one should not watch an eclipse (lunar or solar) because it represents sacred rebirth or an intimate relationship between the sun, moon, and earth. Other tribes don’t have taboos about eclipse watching.
And not every member of every tribe will know the reason for the taboo or choose to follow it. Ancient cultures developed traditions to explain the worlds they lived in. Without high-powered telescopes, astronomers, and advanced math, the average person had no idea when an eclipse would occur. Nowadays, you can find out far in advance when kind of eclipse will take place as well as where to view it.
Rather than look at Navajo culture and beliefs as uneducated and outdated, we can learn from them. Do we teach our children to respect and have reverence for nature? What would happen if we stopped assuming everyone who didn’t believe exactly as we do is savage and in need of civilizing? What would happen to our efforts to spread the good news about Jesus if we started from a position of humility with a desire to learn? (I challenge you to read Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss.
Father God, help me to spread the Good News about Jesus like honey—sweet and sure to stick. All too often, I assume my way of thinking about you is the only way and everyone else’s culture and beliefs are of little value. Forgive me. Help me learn with humility and discover how others worship you to help them better understand the Good News.