September 21, 2014
Some eras are of awareness, others action. The Christian Doctrine of Discovery is in an era of awareness. As denominations, the United Nations, and World Council of Churches take a stand on the Doctrine of Discovery, folk are slowly beginning to question what it is and how it affects them and their neighbor. Knowledge of the Doctrine of Discovery calls for action, but until enough folk understand the historical and modern ramifications of the Doctrine of Discovery there will be no meaningful action. That is to say, there is significant action in bringing folk into awareness, but meaningful action—action that changes lives through societal structural change—is ahead of us, but not now.
When the era of action occurs depends on how well this generation helps folk understand the impact the Christian Doctrine of Discovery (DOD) has had on their life, the life of their children, and the life of their neighbor. Such awareness takes time.
My high school years were those of the early seventies; the Red Power Movement was at its height; Vine Deloria Jr.’s 1973 book God is Red had just published; and I took an elective class on American Indians. I and many folk read God is Red and learned about the DOD in the seventies, however structural changed never occurred. Bottom line, even though folk knew about the DOD, few had the ears to understand Deloria’s words. It took me another thirty years and life on the reservation before I began to grasp what Deloria was getting at. This inability to hear occurs because folk come to the DOD with a normalized mindset that does not lend itself to accepting ideas that may call them to change existing conditions. This crawl to awareness can change, but folk will need to engage in discernment of the DOD’s effects in their communities.
A first step is to understand the Christian Doctrine of Discovery affects the wellbeing of every person. The DOD damages everyone because it has embedded—and continues to enhance—racism and its multiple effects in world communities and cultures. The insidiousness of the DOD is it has become so deeply embedded in community structure that it has become normalized in folks thinking. This normal keeps folk from recognizing the DOD is thrashing the creative identity of indigenous people, people of color, differently abled people, and white folk.
The question is: In the midst of a DOD developed normal, do people have the courage to risk exploring and questioning the normalcy of their lives, their community, and their world? If they do, if we do, then it is time to take those first steps toward raising our awareness of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery. Done well, we will develop the tools needed to effectively bring awareness to our community
Success means changing the landscape so our children’s children will live in landscapes where they are fully and wholly their created selves.