On her blog, Rachel Held Evans has had a fascinating series called “Ask A…” in which her followers supply the questions they would like to have answered by an “expert”. Ask a Feminist, Egalitarian, Messianic Jew, Funeral Director, etc…
This week, the perspective is of an “indigenous theologian”, synonymously called Native American or First-Nation.
Dr. Randy Woodley, a teacher, a writer, a missiologist, an activist, a poet, an historian, a former pastor, a Cherokee, a Christian, and a missionary.
A legal descendent of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Randy has been active in service among America’s indigenous communities since 1984. Randy and his wife Edith (E. Shoshone/Choctaw) lead a local Native American gathering at their home in Newberg, Oregon under the auspices of Eagle’s Wings Ministry.
From Travis: How has your ethnic heritage shaped the way you see the Gospel?
Travis, thanks for your question. At first it didn’t. By that I mean the gospel I learned at age 19 told me to ignore my ethnic heritage because it was “of the flesh.” This is often the case in instances where there is a dominant culture so closely associated with the gospel, especially under a colonial past. Because Euro-Americans contextualized the gospel so well, (see the “White Jesus” on the wall), Euro-Americans became confused over what is gospel and what is culture. To most mission-sending agencies, even today, they don’t make the distinctions well, so everything that does not fit into Euro-American ideas of culture is suspect or even demonic. That confusion was passed on to our Indian people and we simply began to mimic the Euro-Americans with a poor imitation of a bad model.
Back in the mid-1980s I spent three years in seminary trying to find alternative models of presenting the gospel that would not be oppressive to our Native American people. Fortunately, in an historical society’s archives, I came across twelve boxes of original journals and letters from a missionary named Evan Jones and his Cherokee co-worker, Jesse Bushyhead (1821-1871). I found in this team an understanding of how Jesus could be expressed through our Keetoowah Indian culture contextually. When I got out of seminary in 1989, I “hit the ground with my feet running” and I’ve been on that journey ever since. My feeling is that if Jesus cannot be expressed equally in and through every culture on earth, then we are not sharing the real Jesus, but rather some foreign religion.
For the remaining questions and response, find the full article at rachelheldevans.com