How Do You Define Spiritual Abuse? And 29 other questions for shepherds of the church to ask themselves

Spiritual abuse is a topic that is getting more attention these days. Perhaps in some people’s minds, that term is reserved for religious cults and their leaders. Perhaps in your mind, you think that it is a new phenomenon that is sweeping through the church as a result of the spirit of our age. This new, Millennial, victim-mentality is just a worldy thing that the devil is using to disgrace and divide the church. It’s just part of the #MeToo movement, you might say. I hope not.

Below is a list of thirty questions for the shepherds of the church of Jesus Christ to ask themselves personally when they look in the mirror and corporately as they look at each other. Every question deserves an answer. You deserve an answer. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, deserves an answer.

I am by no-means an expert on the subject, but I have some insight. Without going into a lot of sordid details, I can tell you that I have seen enough of it first hand to know what it is. I have studied the matter at great length, and I know enough people who have been victims of it.

Fear is the dominant and controlling virtue of an abusive pastor’s leadership philosophy, coupled with charm and self-importance. The three key words — whether declared or implied — to remember when dealing with a spiritually abusive pastor are: Obey. Obey. Obey.

Warning signs of an abusive pastor who isolates his prey would be statements like:

“Never remind of what I’ve said.” 

“Don’t tell anybody I said that. I will deny it.”

“If you talk, it will be bad for you. It won’t be bad for the church. It will be bad for you. Do you understand?

That list could go on for miles, but these are just few that I have personally heard.

There are plenty of resources out there to give you a better understanding of the topic. For brevity sake, I offer two resources to start with. The first is a podcast from Mortification of Spin titled Overstepping Authority. The second is a book titled, Let Us Prey: The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About It, by Glen Ball, Darrel Puls and Steven J. Sandage.

Jesus had serious warnings and woes for the leaders in His day. (Matt 23:13-32) Peter tells us that “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.” (1 Pet 4:17), and those “who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1).

Everyone reading this is encouraged to copy and tailor these questions for use in your church. Give a copy to your pastor and elders, and require answers.  If they don’t want to answer the questions, then find a new church.

  1. Do we believe that spiritual/pastoral abuse is a real thing?

 

  1. How does the [CHURCH NAME] session define spiritual/pastoral abuse?

 

  1. If there were spiritual/pastoral abuse at [CHURCH NAME], how would the victim(s) know how to report that?

 

  1. When we hear reports of abuse, do any of us on the session instinctively take a defensive posture towards those who come forward?

 

  1. Are the alleged victims required to exercise Matthew 18 with their alleged abuser before going to the session? If yes, what is the rationale? Would such a requirement be placed on women (or men) who were sexually abused?

 

  1. What are the steps to reporting spiritual/pastoral abuse?

 

  1. Does any member of [CHURCH NAME] know those steps?

 

  1. Is there some kind of published BCO for parishioners to refer to for guidance?

 

  1. If yes, do [church name] members know where to obtain a copy in print or digitally online?

 

  1. For the shepherds, what are the steps with handling reports of abuse?

 

  1. What are the steps for investigating abuse?

 

  1. For churches who have ministers serving “out-of-bounds” from their presbytery, how will [CHURCH NAME] session handle abuse cases involving [DENOMINATION] ministers who have their own procedures for handling abuse?

 

  1. Will the session immediately report the allegations to the denomination of the ministers serving out-of-bounds?

 

  1. If there were any future cases of spiritual/pastoral abuse, will [CHURCH NAME] contact the [PRESBYTERY] if it involves a [DENOMINATION NAME] minister, or does [CHURCH NAME] believe she has the right to shield [DENOMINATION NAME] ministers from oversight of their own denomination?

 

  1. Will the [CHURCH NAME] session conduct their own investigation, or leave it completely in the hands of the [PRESBYTERY NAME]?

 

  1. Is the opinion of the [CHURCH NAME] session that it is improper for [CHURCH NAME] members and/or elders to report abuse regarding [NAME OF MINISTER SERVING OUT-OF-BOUNDS] to their presbytery?

 

  1. Can a victim come forward truly feeling safe and assured that the session takes cases of spiritual/pastoral abuse seriously?

 

  1. Will our track record prove that?

 

  1. Will any member of the session accuse the alleged victim of causing trouble?

 

  1. Will any member of the session label any alleged victims as “Millennial cry-babies” who are part of the #MeToo movement?

 

  1. Will he/she/they be accused of being messengers or instruments of Satan?

 

  1. Can members of [CHURCH NAME] or attendees have full confidence that the session will do all it can to protect the sheep from abusive shepherds and not the other way around?

 

  1. Is the session truly prepared to deal swiftly and aggressively with a shepherd no matter what the celebrity status of the shepherd?

 

  1. Can the session truly say that it will discipline or even defrock a shepherd if that shepherd is in any way abusive to the sheep, no matter the perceived fame and draw-power that shepherd may have at [CHURCH NAME]?

 

  1. In short, will the [CHURCH NAME] session allow celebrity status to protect a shepherd at the expense of holiness and righteousness?

 

  1. Is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, jealous to protect the legacy of [FAMOUS PREACHER/CHURCH] or is He jealous to protect His sheep from abuse at the hands of under-shepherds no matter what the PR implications may be?

 

  1. In light of victims who have already come forth, has [CHURCH NAME] session asked the question, “Is there anyone else in the congregation who is afraid to come forth?”

 

  1. Would the [CHURCH NAME] session consider an internal investigation to find out if there are other victims of pastoral abuse? If not, then why?

 

  1. If yes, would third-party ministries such as Peacemakers, Blessing Point Ministries, and the like to be called upon to investigate to ensure public trust?

 

  1. Regarding past, current, and possibly other cases, can each member of the [CHURCH NAME] session stand before the Good Shepherd and expect to hear the benediction, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”?

 

Yes, it is long list, but I think each question is deserving of an answer. If churches have yet to create safeguards and policies concerning spiritual/pastoral abuse, now would be a time to start.

 

 

No Wonder

Whipple

“I know of no other instance in history where a great nation has so shamefully violated its oath. Our country must forever bear the disgrace and suffer the retribution of its wrongdoing. Our children’s children will tell the sad story in hushed tones and wonder how their fathers dared so to trample on justice and trifle with God.”

The above quote was penned by Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, the first Episcopalian Bishop of Minnesota, advocate for Native peoples, and negotiator for the U.S. He earned the name “Straight Tongue” from the Native people he tried to reach. Those sobering words were in response to the flagrant U.S. violations of the Fort Laramie Treaty with the Lakota (Sioux) people.

My purpose in highlighting these haunting words is not to revisit the violations of the treaty, but to point out that Bishop Whipple and other churchmen of the day actually believed that “to trample on justice” is to “trifle with God.” Do we believe that today?

Another sobering reality is that Whipple’s prediction that “our children’s children” would somehow “tell the sad story in hushed tones and wonder how their fathers dared so to trample on justice and trifle with God.” The sad reality is that the children’s children don’t know the story. As a country and a church, we are have mostly forgotten about our Native neighbors. More than that, people today in this country don’t even know what to forget—they never knew. And our Native neighbors know that about us.

Ancient History?

Many people are actually surprised to know that Native Americans still actually exist. And most of those Americans who do know that Native Americans exist view their first neighbors according to stereotypes created for them by Hollywood, U.S. public and private school education, headlines, and good old mascots.


Reel Injun

If you are willing to take a hard look at the main source of our “knowledge” of Native America, then you must watch Reel Injun a 2009 Canadian documentary film directed by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes that explores the portrayal of Native Americans in film.


The seemingly dominant view of Native American history begins with the Pilgrims and ends with the so-called Indian Wars, which ended at the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890. In the minds of most Americans I speak with, there is a clean, bold line of demarcation separating the past from the present — a that-was-then-this-is-now paradigm that ignores the entire 20th century’s continual assault on Native peoples. We are stuck on the false notion that all the injustices happened a long time ago, and the Native Americans today simply refuse to get over it.

What was so bad about the 20th century?

What most Americans are unaware of is that the 20th century was one of the most harmful centuries to Native American and First Nations in our history together. People wonder why there is so much brokenness among Native America and First Nations people. The is answer is quite simple: Because they were broken.

One of most important chapters in that story of brokenness happened during our lifetime. The boarding/residential school experiment took Native children away from their family and communities, beginning in 1878 at the Carlisle Indian School. The boarding school movement spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, lasting for a century.

To learn more about this dark stain on our history, see my two posts below to hear Native people in their own words:

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 2

If you thought that all of the problems in Indian country were a result of casinos, government handouts, and some kind of genetic propensity towards alcoholism, then you will have to re-adjust our equation. They live with realities that we just don’t understand. They live in a story that was written for them by a dominant culture that tried to “civilize” and “Christianize” them. Now we as modern-day Christians wonder why there is so much distrust among our first neighbors towards Christians.

In order for us to be good witness for Christ, we need to be good neighbors. Let’s give Jesus a better witness in Indian country. Let’s go in meekness and love. Let’s get some genuine understanding of our Native neigbors before we ask questions like, why don’t they assimilate? or why don’t they just get over the past? Let’s just meet them where they are at and love our Native neighbors.

New Wonder

We have a vast and diverse mission field underneath our feet (I never say “our own back yard”). Perhaps the Lord will give our children’s children a sense of wonder when they look back on us as we followed the Lord of the Harvest into His field in Native America. Perhaps it will be Native children’s children that will be evangelizing our children’s children one day. We cannot predict the Lord, but we must obey Him. I believe is calling us into Native America to discover what He is already doing. Let’s go.

Recommended readings:

Dear Missions Commitee

RECONCILIATION: It’s Not as Black and White as It Seems

Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions

Native Americans: Reached, Unreached, or Mis-reached?

Now You Know: Answering the call to Native America

Let’s talk at GA booth #249.

Patrick Lennox

IMG_20180206_153328710

Patrick & Regina Lennox

Missionaries to Native America

Mission to the World

Phone: 407.416.1482

Email: LennoxLetters@gmail.com

Blog: www.lennoxletters.com
Facebook.com/patrick.r.lennox
Twitter: @patricklennox

Instagram: @patrick_lennoxletters

Now You Know: Answering the call to Native America

Not Feeling It?

freedomWhat motivates you to give to a particular missionary or ministry? We continually ask people to pray to see if the Lord is calling them to join our team. The question is, what would it take for the Lord to show you that you should be a part of this effort to reach Native America? What is keeping you from giving?

For some people, it is simply a matter of finances. Money is tight for a lot of folks. We understand that. Really. We’re feeling it, too.

For other folks, it is a matter of simply not feeling it. But what does “feeling it” feel like? Do you give based on a personal benefit or fulfillment that you get from a particular ministry? Do you receive educational/edifying materials and/or a sense of community from that ministry? Simply put, do you get something out of it?

Or do you give based on a sense of urgency about a particular mission field such as feeding the hungry or giving medical attention to the poor? Or is it adventure based? Are you driven to give to a missionary based on an element of danger like venturing into a hostile nation or perhaps going deep into uncharted parts of the world?

The Home Court Disadvantage

I believe the Native American mission field is suffering under a home court disadvantage. For many folks, it just doesn’t seem like a valid mission field anymore. It’s too close to home. For more than ten years, I have heard Christians question the legitimacy of missions to Native America. Much of mainstream Christian America simply doesn’t recognize Native Americans as distinct people groups. Comments like, “They’re Americans, aren’t they?” or “Why don’t they get off the reservations and come to our churches?” or “Make them assimilate?” or “They have their casinos. They’re doing fine,” or perhaps the saddest of  them all, “Do we even have Indians anymore?” The worst part about those comments is that they are uttered in our churches. But I can assure you, there is still a harvest in Indian Country.

forest picture frame on dry ground texture Nature Conservancy co

Greener on the Other Side?

I firmly believe if we were talking about the indigenous people groups in foreign lands like Brazil, Central America, or somewhere in Asia, it would be a different conversation. There would be a greater sense of urgency and adventure. But here at “home,” I truly think there is an apathy and cynicism towards missions to our indigenous neighbors here in the U.S. and Canada. Perhaps Native America is not exotic enough for us. Have our Native neighbors become too familiar? Are they not “indigenous” enough anymore?

What We Thought We Knew

hollywood-staaapPart of the problem is that most Americans believe they have a real working knowledge of Native Americans and have relegated them to the past. I can assure you that if your knowledge of our Native neighbors comes mostly from a high school text book (Christian or public), news media outlets (conservative or liberal), and movies (Hollywood or otherwise), then you have an impoverished understanding of your Native American neighbors. And that was no accident.

I am certainly no expert on Native America. Even with my intentional studies over the last few years, annual trips to Cherokee, NC since 2006 (and other reservations), friendships with members from many tribes, I remain simply an informed novice. The real history of Native Americans and their continuing story is much more than what we can passively glean from our cultural sources.

What We Do Know

We already know that Jesus wants to make disciples from among Native American and First Nations peoples. He said “Go, therefore to all nations…” (Matt 28:19). There are 567 in the United States and another 634 in Canada. So there is no shortage of harvest. But there is a shortage of workers. They are few, so we are told by the Lord of the Harvest to pray for workers (Luke 10:2).

Here is a thought: Perhaps when you first began hearing us talk about our mission to Native America, you didn’t think the Lord was calling you to support this ministry. But let me challenge you a bit with our original question: What would it take for the Lord to show you that you should be a part of this effort to reach Native America?

Consider this:

  • Have you been awakened to the need for missions to Native America in a way that you didn’t know before?
  • Have you been convinced that Jesus’ name was mis-represented in some very significant ways in Native America?
  • Are you convinced Jesus wants to do great things among the Indigenous peoples of North America unlike any other time in history?
  • Do you actually believe that the Lord wants to build up His church and expand it in Native America?

How much of your knowledge of Native American providentially came from reading our posts? Whenever we speak to people whether in churches or privately, we hear the same response, “I just didn’t know.” If you have been reading just a fraction of what we have posted on our blog, LennoxLetters.com (which itself is very little), you most likely have learned more about Native American/First Nations peoples than most people you know.

Now You Know

Perhaps before you didn’t know, but now you turn knowledge into actionknow. What will you do with this knowledge? There is a ripe harvest out there in Indian Country and there are Native Christians who are being raised up at the Mokahum Ministry Center. We have received a call to lock arms with Christian Native leaders to make disciples and raise up leaders from among the 1,201 federally recognized nations on the North American continent.

Billy Graham said it years ago that he believed that Native America is a sleeping giant. There is good reason to believe the awakening has begun. The Lord is doing it, and he has given us the call to join him. Now you know. What will you do with that knowledge?

If you have obeyed Jesus by “earnestly praying that the Lord of the Harvest would send laborers into His harvest” (Lk 10:2), then rejoice! We are a partial fulfillment to that prayer. Now that He has answered your prayer, please consider joining us as we answer the call to Native America as we prepare more laborers for the harvest.

Please Let Us Know

If you believe the Lord is calling you to join our support team, please let us know. If you have read this entire post, congratulations, you have endured more than most readers. This proves your concern. We need your support.You can contact us anytime. Call, text, email, Skype, FB Message, however. Let’s talk about you coming aboard our support team and be part of the harvest in Native America.

To Contact Us, click here.

To Give, click here.

All for the Kingdom!

Patrick & Regina

 

*For more about cynicism and apathy towards missions to Native America, read my post Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions.

*To learn more about Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans and its affect on American culture, watch the documentary Reel Injun.

Confessions of a Materialist Book Junkie

books-2

A few of the keepers

Yes, that’s me. I admit it. I am now a recovering materialistic book junkie. Knowledge puffs up, and no better way to get a fix than reading the latest book on a profound theological issue or movement.

As we are preparing to move to the field, I have been going through all the books I have purchased over the years – all of them good, and easily “justified” purchases for a seminarian, writer, ministry director,  and now missionary – but in the end, I will never read most of those impulse purchases at the seminary book store and national conferences. I could add up hundreds – yea, thousands – of dollars that could have helped a missionary or two on the field or fed a child somewhere in the world. And that is only books! What else have I wasted my money on?  

Regrets and Redemption

There is an unforgettable movie scene that ever haunts me. It’s the one at the end of the movie Schindler’s List where Schindler learns that the war is over. In that moment, the bottom falls out from under him when he realizes that he could have done more, but he didn’t. He realized that the ring on his finger or his expensive car could have bought back so many more Jews from the death camps. That scene comes back to me again and again when I consider my own efforts for the kingdom throughout the years. But it is not over. Jesus has already won the war for us, but unlike Oskar Schindler, we still have time and more resources than most people in world history. Great is His faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:23). Let’s live in mercy and not regret.

Warning:  At this point, someone may be tempted to think I hate books, and that  I am trying to guilt people out of buying books and giving all the money to missions instead. Resist that temptation. This is not either/or. Christians need to study more, and they need to give more to missions. Based on my own personal sin of literary gluttony and from observing other personal libraries, my argument is that we are way too quick to buy books we will never read, or, even worse, we will buy books that are redundant. Let’s be honest. Many of us collect books like baseball trading cards.

For a short list of books I recommend to those are interested in learning more about our Native neighbors, see my post Talking Leaves.

The End is Near!

Actually the end of our fundraising season is near.  We need to be on the field by July 2017. If you are looking for place to invest in the kingdom of God with your year-end giving, we implore you to consider us. In fact, would you consider us for the next four years? That would be considered a pledge that would move us to the mission field. Learn what a pledge is here.

Like most missionary efforts, our ministry, is focused on smaller segments of societies that are not noticed by most people. But I believe that the Lord takes pleasure in small beginnings (Zach 4:10). Unlike the big ministries, we have nothing to offer our supporters as far as goods and services are concerned, no books, no DVDs, no conferences. All you receive are reports from the field, gratitude from the missionaries, and a benediction from the Lord “well done thou a good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). Will you dare to join us? 

Be Bold in Your Prayers – Our God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps 50:10)

If you have prayed for us but have not yet pledged, include yourself in that prayer. Ask the Lord if He wants you to be on our team. Have you prayed that way yet? Go for it. No, really. Pray that right now. He just may surprise you with the funds to fulfill your desire to pledge.

We need you to join our team and send us to serve the Lord in Indian Country at the Mokahum Ministry Center. We have received the call. They are waiting for us. The Lord has cleared a pathway for us. Will you put down a paving stone with a pledge?

The learn more about the best ways to give, click here.

To give right now, click here.

To contact us, click here.

All for the kingdom,

We Need Not Wait

The St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels.

The St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels.

We need not wait for another. The Lord has come, and He has commissioned us to go forth into all the world to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to a world that desperately needs to hear it. The task is huge. There are over seven billion people in this world, and all who are still outside the kingdom are hostile to our message to one degree or another until the Lord changes their hearts. But the Lord goes before us, and He has been preparing us for this impossible work before we were born (Eph 2:10).

An important part of that preparation has taken place in Brussels, Belgium during the month of July 2016. In my little life, it was historic. We trained in the capital of the European Union, more than that it is the seat of the United Nations offices in Europe. But Brussels doesn’t only represent European nations. Many other nations from around the world are represented on the street level. We truly have been sent to the nations this month.

Belgium is rich in history. Everything we celebrate about culture can be found here at every turn. As I beheld the great churches and works of art, e.g. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, I found myself underwhelmed. I have read the books, seen the pictures, and now I have walked the streets, yet my feeling has not changed.

The "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb." Read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent_Altarpiece

The “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.” Read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent_Altarpiece

When I think of historic milestones in the progress of the spreading of the kingdom, my thoughts do not gravitate towards the grand architecture and art of European Christendom, Reformed or otherwise. Rather I think of Jesus’ words in Luke 7:22: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.

From these words, Jesus’ metric of gospel progress is identified in far different terms than our worldly measurements. When I think of kingdom advancement, I think of the churches many of us have worshiped with this past month. Small churches like BethelKerk in Schaarbeek faithfully preaching the gospel tell me that the Lord is here.

Bethelkerk in Schaarbeek, Belgium

BethelKerk in Schaarbeek, Belgium

But what about us? How have we been shaped by this experience? For me at least, CCMI (cross cultural ministry internship) was critical milestone in a journey. We learned a lot. We did a lot. Here we are now on the eve of our departure from Brussels. Some of us are going straight to the field, most of us back to the “campaign trail.” Where ever we are headed, questions for us to ponder are will we be faithful to the call of Christ on our lives? Are we believing that He who began a good work in us is able to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus? He is faithful, so let us trust in Him and see where He takes us.

Note: The article above was written for our in-house newsletter during our cross-cultural ministry internship in Brussels, Belgium during the month of July. Patrick and Regina Lennox are MTW missionaries to Native America and have accepted a call from the Mokahum Ministry Center in near Bemidji, MN.

IMG_20160709_113337378

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 2

Looking unto Jesus

The following post is the second in a two part series, The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity. You are encouraged to read part one here. I understand most thinking folks will question the subtitle of this post, wondering why I chose the word “Christian” rather than “church” or some other term. I know full well that the issue we are dealing with here was not prescribed by Christ, therefore we cannot properly ascribe it as Christian. I chose the term so we (the church) would feel the weight of the criticism as the world sees it. We need to feel it. To answer that criticism, I highly recommend the book This Rebellious House: American History and the Truth of Christianity, by Steven J. Keiller. Keiller does a great job parsing the difference between European/Western cultural expressions of Christianity and the biblical Christianity. Much of missions to Native America was not the Great Commission. It was the Great Imposition, to say the least. Paternalism and colonialism were confused with gospel mission.

This post is simply a list of resources to for you to investigate yourself. A simple Google search using the term Indian boarding School or Indian residential school will give you plenty to grapple with. Below are only a few select resources that I have found. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I am just a guy who believes that the world, especially the church today, should know what happened in this country as late as the twentieth century. More than that, I want the people in Indian Country to know that many Christians are grieved to learn of so much pain was caused in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is a Healer and Friend. We know the pain continues for you.

There will be many of us who will be shocked at what they read, see, and hear. Many will seek to minimize the extent and effects of the boarding schools on Indian people. To those folks, I simply implore you hear the personal stories from the victims themselves. When we consider the hundreds of thousands of Native children who passed through the schools over a one hundred year period (1879 – 1979) in the U.S. alone, not including Canada, it is little wonder why their is so much distrust and pain in Native America. When people ask why there is so much brokenness in Indian Country, the answer is quite simple: they were broken.

Books

Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875 – 1928, David Wallace Adams

Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School, Adam Fortunate Eagle

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences, 1879 – 2000, K. Tsianina Lomawaima and Brenda J. Child

Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900 -1940 (North American Indian Prose Award), Brenda J. Child

Video

There are so many videos worth watching, it is difficult to decide which ones to highlight. If we can get passed our need for big-budgeted “quality” productions, and just listen to the stories being told by the people themselves, we will gain a better understanding of the realities behind the propaganda of the government and churches.

Unseen Tears: The Native American Boarding Schools Experience in Western New York Part 1

Unseen Tears: The Native American Boarding Schools Experience in Western New York Part 2

The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness

Online articles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_boarding_schools

http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=airc_hist_boardingschools

http://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/history/boarding.html

http://www.nmai.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter3.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865

 

I will continue to add to this list as I discover more resources.

 

 

 

The Indian Boarding School Movement: Christian Complicity, part 1

Carlisle_pupils

Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania (c. 1900). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_boarding_schools

“Kill the Indian, Save the Man”: A Few Opening Remarks

Perhaps you have seen the movie, The Education of Little Tree, a film released in the 1970s based on a novel by a white-political activist, and promoted as a true autobiographical account of the author’s life. Although the story turned out to be fiction, sadly the realities of the Indian boarding schools represented in the story were not.

For the next couple of posts, we will focus on a critical piece of Native American/First Nations history that most people simply don’t know about – the Indian boarding school era. It was a social experiment  of the U.S. government and Canada designed to eliminate the Indian culture, understood then and now as cultural genocide. The driving doctrine for the U.S. was “Kill the Indian, save the man” — a term coined by Gen. Richard Pratt. That philosophy was to educate the Native child to the end that they would forsake their Indian ways and be productive members of Christian American society. The means by which that was carried out will be left to Native voices to tell you (see video below).

To say the least, it is a very painful part of their past, and as we shall see, their present reality. But this long ugly era cannot simply be relegated to NA/FN history. It is very much a part of U.S. and Canadian history. And sadly, as we shall see, it is also part of church history. This is not common knowledge to many people, so much of what will follow with be a shock to many people. There was complicity by the churches. But as Christians we should never be afraid to take a hard look at ourselves, then and now, and learn from our mistakes that Jesus may be better represented among the nations.

The past is the past, right?

So why bring all this up now? Isn’t that all in the past? What does any of this have to do with Christian missions to Native America today?  My purpose is not to stir up anger, but to give perspective. To many Native Americans, Christianity represents a destroyer of a people at every level of their existence. Because of that, it hinders missions today. Another thing that I believe hinders missionary efforts is an apathy on our end. After all that bad history, do we really believe that Native America has great value and potential for the Kingdom? Are the fields still white for harvest?

Taking a hard look

It is no secret that there are many hard issues facing Native Americans. It is no secret that suicide rates rank highest among Native Americans, twice the national average, more than any other ethnic group. It is no secret that alcoholism, drug addiction, unemployment, violence, sexual assault, high school drop out rates, and teen pregnancies are higher in Indian Country than anywhere else in North America. None of these things is peculiar to Native Americans, but what is alarming is that all these things rank highest among one segment of society on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border.

So what is the problem?

The simple biblical answer to the question is sin. But we all have that problem (Rom 3:23). So that does not really answer the question concerning Native America in particular. Typical answers to the question are, “They are stuck in the past while refusing to move on.”  Or “That is what happens when you give people government handouts. They don’t want to work, so they sit around getting drunk all day.” Or the less political, more scientific answer, “There is something about Indian DNA that makes them prone to alcoholism.” And the list could go on. Each of those simplistic answers is fraught with assumptions stemming from an abundance of myth, lack of facts, devoid of context, and full of condescension.

Actually there is a problem in the question itself, what is the problem, as if there were only one problem to be solved that would be the key to end all problems. Again, let me affirm that the only answer to the world’s problems is Jesus. That is the only thingBoys praying I can say with absolute confidence.

The rest I submit to you is only part of a deeper problem that has led to so much collateral damage, which NA/FN people suffer under today. How much damage? Only the Lord knows the scope and magnitude, but one thing I can be confident in is that most (if not all) non-Native people I have spoken to have no idea about the reality and ramifications of the government sponsored, mostly Christian-run, Indian boarding movement.

In Their Own Words…

When informing people of Native American/First Nations issues, I prefer to use their sources, their voices, their own words. The first video clip, Truth & Reconciliation: Stories from Residential School Survivors, is one of many that shows the life of First Nations people in Canada at the residential (boarding) school. It is important to know that Canada has recognized her grievous sin imposed on First Nations people.

The next video clip, Unseen Tears: The Native American Boarding School Experience in Western New York, part 1, tells identical stories in the U.S. If you would like to see the following parts, they play sequentially once part one concludes.

What’s next?

There are so many more videos that could have been selected, but these should give you a better understanding to Native American/First Nations peoples. I hope this gives Christians perspective. I hope we realize that their history did not end in some Indian War out on the plains during the 1800’s as most public school text books would have us believe. They have remained – and survived – yet the ramifications of abuse and neglect on generations of hundreds of thousands of people also remain. Let’s show them the real Jesus whose arm is not too short to save and is willing to heal their wounds by His stripes (Isa 53:5).

You can read part 2 here.

Patrick Lennox is a MTW missionary to Native America. Currently he and his wife, Regina, are preparing to serve at the Mokahum Ministry Center located in Cass Lake, MN.