In today's contentious world an owl taboo taught me about why I should make the right choice to respect other's beliefs. #owltaboo #owl #devo #devotional #christianwalk #respect #NativeAmerican #culture 3differences #humankind

In today’s contentious world an owl taboo taught me about why I should make the right choice to respect other’s beliefs.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14
In today's contentious world an owl taboo taught me about why I should make the right choice to respect others' beliefs. #owltaboo #owl #devo #devotional #christianwalk #respect #NativeAmerican #culture 3differences #humankind

Respect is a Right Choice

“Oh, look!” the ranger said, bending to pick something up from the forest floor. “An owl pellet! How cool is that?”

Standing at the back of the group of students, I noticed two immediately turn and look the other way.

“Don’t you want to see?” I asked.

“We can’t,” one said in a respectful whisper, “we have an owl taboo in our Native culture.”

I looked at the other Navajo students, engrossed as the ranger pulled apart the pellet and exposed a mouse skeleton inside.

“We’re traditional Navajo,” the other one explained. “Not all Navajo respect the taboo.”

I nodded in understanding. My first year working with Native American students had shown me I had so much to learn from them. After the ranger-led activity, I found the math teacher, a Navajo man, and asked him to explain more about the owl taboo.

“Owls are considered bearers of bad news,” he explained. “But from my research into Navajo traditions, I think originally they were considered bearers of warning. They warned you to pray and proceed with caution.”

“So, if I hung a picture of an owl in my classroom,” I asked him, “that would be culturally insensitive because I would constantly remind traditional students bad news was coming?”

“Yeah, probably,” he said.

A Taboo Shapes My Behavior

I don’t often see owls when I go out birding, and each time I do, I consider myself very fortunate. Over the years, I’ve taken dozens of photos of different owl species. But I’ve never enlarged them or hung them on display in our home.

Students, and sometimes even parents visit our home on a regular basis (I work at a boarding school). I want to make the right choice to respect their cultural traditions. It doesn’t matter that I am not Navajo (not all Native cultures have an owl taboo—some venerate certain owl species).

As a Christian, I want to show respect and understanding for people around me. Not because I believe in owl taboos, but because I want to show my respect for other cultures. Paul counsels Christians to not eat meat sacrificed to idols if doing so would cause a weaker Christian to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:1-15).

Nowadays, we don’t have to worry about food sacrificed to idols (at least in the United States). But we have myriad right choices we can make about how we respect those different from us. I know some Christians who feel as if the beat of certain music causes their heart to beat erratically. And others who think ‘Christian rock’ is an oxymoron. When they visit my house or ride in my vehicle, I refrain from playing music I know will offend them.

If the conversation ever comes up in a natural way, I’ll happily share my opinions and beliefs. But I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable, unseen, unloved, or unheard by my actions or words. So I don’t hang photos of owls in my house when I work at a school where many of the parents and students believe in an owl taboo.

Have you worked with someone from a different culture and made decisions to show respect for that culture?

In today's contentious world an owl taboo taught me about why I should make the right choice to respect others' beliefs. #owltaboo #owl #devo #devotional #christianwalk #respect #NativeAmerican #culture 3differences #humankind

5 Comments

  1. Anita, this is so interesting and was enlightening. I had never heard this taboo. I love to see owls in the wild and have seen many even a pure white owl perched on a limb over the Peace River in central Florida years ago. Great insight to know and I especially believe in being sensitive to a few in order to influence the many! xo Loved this series – good job, A.
    Susan+Shipe recently posted…Write 28 Days – 2022My Profile

  2. “As a Christian, I want to show respect and understanding for people around me. Not because I believe in owl taboos, but because I want to show my respect for other cultures.” Yes! If only we all could show such respect all the time (speaking to myself too)…
    Lisa notes recently posted…End Well {Mantra 27}My Profile

  3. What excellent examples of handling our freedoms in Christ in ways that don’t offend others or act as stumblingblocks to another’s faith. Christians today tend to think their freedom of conscience trumps everything else. But love is considerate of others and their consciences.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…How Well Do We Know Him?My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

You may also like

%d bloggers like this: