Archive for the ‘cultural narratives’ Tag

Narratives   2 comments

Postmodernism has changed American politics and not for the better. The United States was founded by early-modernists. They believed that there was truth and that truth could be discovered, examined and embraced. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is a modernist statement.

The Founders (by and large) believed in God as a part of reality. They thought faith had a place in the world. Congress held prayer meetings, a church met in the Capitol for many years, our public buildings are inscribed with Bible verses.

Under no circumstances will I ever argue that Christianity is not the best worldview that any human can have. If God exists and if He created you to have fellowship with Him, you are out of sync with reality if you do not have fellowship with Him and believe that He doesn’t exist. That’s a truth claim that is as certain as the 20-story fall because the Bible doesn’t give you a no-fault opt-out if you don’t want to believe. You come to God on His terms or you perish … eventually. No compromise. Your choice.

On the other hand, the Bible is also pretty clear that Christians can’t force others to believe as we do. Dead men cannot become believers and becoming a Christian believer is not about saying some rote prayer or standing/sitting/floating in some special building while some guy or gal in ecclesiastical robes splashes special water on you. Salvation is a change of heart and mind that comes only when we admit to intimacy with God. We were created to have intimacy with God. Since we, as a species screwed that up, we’ve been out of sync with Him by our own choice. Since we were created with free will, the choice is ours whether we will allow Him to touch us and draw us near to Him once more. He will leave us with the dignity of our choices if we wish to choose wrongly.

My parents’ generation grew up with a national narrative that embraced manifest destiny – bringing Christianity and western civilization to the Indians and then onto the Pacific and Africa. These endeavors were seen as good and approved by God. I’m not going to argue that there were no genuine conversions through these efforts. I know there were because my great-great-grandparents left diaries that show them as people who were honestly in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and happy to assimilate (for the most part) into American society. THEY didn’t see it as being forced to give up something. THEY saw it as a net improvement with some complications. I base that evaluation on the 30 years of diaries both of them kept, detailing their ordinary lives.

The Postmodern narrative is that white man came and oppressed the brown man, took away his glorious culture and gave him this god that wasn’t his and doesn’t serve his needs. That comes down to our political discussions and educational system as America, the imperialist power and rapist of the world. “We”, they say, “enslave the world and use up all the resources while not doing anything worthwhile.”

Yes, I’m painting with that broad brush again, but there’s truth in what I’m saying. I’m told, as an American Indian, that I’m a victim of white imperialism and I’m owed something – a whole lot of something – for the loss of that superior culture at the hands of the useless white race that has contributed nothing worthwhile to history.

I call “BUNK!” Neither narrative is completely true. America was not true to our ideals when our forebears steamrolled the Indians in their march westward. Our societal ancestors were not true to our ideals when they enslaved the blacks or when they treated free blacks as second-class citizens, when we interred the Japanese-Americans or fought in Vietnam. We were true to our ideals, as much as possible in war, when we fought to end Hitler’s concentration camps or when we brought the gospel to Pacific Islanders … and American Indians. The excessive use of our power in some instances did not negate the rightful advancement of principles where they occurred.

History is often written by the winners, but the history my children are learning in public school was written by folks who want to believe that if you’re brown, you’re a victim and if you’re white, you’re an oppressor. That narrative leaves us with no option for compromise and no options for societal healing until a generation is born in America that is more brown than white and then — well, who becomes the oppressor then?

I was raised by a mixed-race couple. I loved both of my parents and I’m proud of both of their cultures. I don’t see my dad as an oppressor and my mom as a victim, probably because my mom never saw herself as a victim of racism. It wasn’t that she never experienced it. It was that she didn’t pass it on to us kids … maybe because her mom didn’t pass it on to her kids and her mom’s mom didn’t pass it to her. The first convert to Christianity in our Indian family (Joseph) eventually led his father to Jesus and heard his father’s confession – of scalping white settlers, raping the women, carrying the children off into slavery. Barazai was clear to Joseph that these were acts of deep and shameful sin in his own eyes. Who were the victims in those attacks? White men were the ones dying, white women were the ones raped and white children were the ones enslaved. That doesn’t mean that in other places and times it wasn’t white men killing, raping, or enslaving Indians. Neither side of my DNA is pure as the fresh-driven snow.

Is it possible that both sides were wrong?

For me it is! It’s the only intellectually honest stance to take, really – for me – because the other way, I have to hate some portion of my DNA and that sounds too schizophrenic for me. If my ancestors were all humans and prone to the human condition, then I’m free to admire that which is admirable and regret that which is regrettable.

I’m told this might make me a post-postmodernist. I think that makes me sane and a potential reconciler.

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