Absolutely necessary, incredibly thorough, essential reading if you want to understand what decolonizing Christianity looks like, understand the violent history of missions in this country, and the beauty of contextualization and storytelling.
Dr. Richard Twiss, Sicunga Lakota, was an Indigenous leader and organic intellectual, who passed away in 2013. His book was published posthumously; the fruit and labor of his dissertation. He addresses the violence of damaging, genocidal four-hundred-year history of colonization in North America, including the erasure of Native and Indigenous cultures, rituals, traditions, ceremonies, languages, and music and dance, to name a few. The violent imposition of Christendom and White Supremacy forced assimilation and loss of their Native identity. He shares history, and his own story, in addition to the stories of others he spoke to and listened to for his dissertation research, which he includes.
The reader gets to listen in to a conversation of Indigenous leaders from different tribes following their experience together in a sweat lodge ceremony. They share common stories of mystic encounters with Jesus and their experience integrating their faith in Jesus with their Indigenous, First Nations traditions. Another sadly too common thread was the experience of conservative evangelicalism (which Twiss calls Fundamentalism’s first cousin) continuing to function oppressively and calling their sacred traditions and culture demonic. Native pastors and non-native leaders alike resisted contextualization that would integrate their holistic traditions with an integral mission that brings shalom, healing, and liberation.
He says, “I also believe critical contextualization must theologically–and specifically hermeneutically–include a view towards justice, notions of shalom, harmony, and spiritual well-being.” (p 105)
He makes it clear that he is challenging “the status quo of Native ministry, mission, theology, and ecclesiology that had been circulating for many years.” (75)
It is important that we, as American Christians, even those on the fringe of Christianity or as followers of Jesus understand this history so that we can do better. We must decolonize our ideas of ministry, mission, and church. It is essential.
Additionally, for those who are familiar with liminal space, or occupy the fringe, margins of Christianity, it has a message for us too. To be encouraged in our pursuit of a deconstructed, decolonized faith, in pursuit of shalom, wholeness and liberation for all. Culture and differences matter and should be celebrated for “the gospel dignifies every culture.”
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