Today is Thanksgiving, continued again.

As a Christian, one now belonging to a reformed denomination, public confession is new to me.  I didn’t grow up with people speaking together, in unison, about the wrongs they’ve committed, or the sins they’re connected to.  I heard a lot about what Jewish people did to Jesus leading up to his crucifixion and at it, but I didn’t hear a lot about the ways that Christians literally and figuratively all but crucified other people over the centuries.  Even the cheery idea of Squanto acting as an interpreter between Native Americans and settlers is tinged with the horrors of slavery.  He knew English because he’d been trapped and taken to Spain, purchased for the purposes of evangelization by monks.  I don’t have Native American lineage that I know of, so their story is not one that I can truly share.  But, I am a Christian, and I can share a more honest version of the history of my ancestors.  In Matthew 4:19, when Jesus said to follow him and become fishers of men, I don’t believe this meant to enslave people and force them to become Christians.  This completely goes against his perspective on loving your neighbor as yourself, which is second only to the command to love God.  Though the Pilgrims in our traditional Pilgrims and Native Americans Thanksgiving story were not Puritans, it was only a decade or so later that the Puritans did arrive and eventually formed the oldest Presbyterian church on North American soil.  The names of Puritan pastors are referenced along with some history regarding the construction of churches on its website.  The native Shinnecock name for the area is mentioned.  Though I’m sure of the church’s good intention, that token observation combined with the absence of people of color in their photographs feels disingenuous.  This one congregation of Christians currently has a membership of about a quarter of the number of registered Shinnecock people.  I recognize that the present-day members did not play a part in the deaths of the Shinnecock people’s predecessors, but their ancestors likely did.  It is wrong to ignore this.  There are Presbyterian churches across the United States, and those Christians who helped give us the denomination we have today did contribute in some form or another to the loss of Native American life, the enslavement of Native American people, and the replacement of Native American faith with their own.  Those who laid the foundation for the churches we worship in now may have been following the greatest command to love God first as best they could, but their application of the only slightly lesser command was misguided at best.  If we don’t publicly acknowledge this, connect what our current Thanksgiving celebrations are denying, and admit that people are still suffering for the actions of our founders, we are leaving a legacy that goes against our very own Book of Confessions and against Jesus. This is a public confession we must make repeatedly, because this hurt will continue if we do not.  Many of our ancestors were not loving to Native Americans, and neither are we.  Our willful ignorance is evidence of this. There are negative parts of our beginnings that need to be told.  Intentionally welcoming the truths we wish weren’t without defensiveness or incredulity is, what I believe, the start to repenting and truly doing what Jesus called us to do.

2 thoughts on “Today is Thanksgiving, continued again.

  1. Very well said! I love Jesus, his word, teachings and the warmth he had for his followers and people in general. I despise the fact that many churches/denominations have twisted those word for their own gain for centuries.

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