Christianity and the Subjugation of Native Americans

In reading books about white guys exploring the western US, you can’t help but have to deal with Native Americans and their plight.

In the biography of John Wesley Powell, who charted the Colorado River and Grand Canyon region, there is much about Native Americans. Powell viewed Indians as human beings, not as the majority of that time who viewed them as subhuman, worthy of nothing but extermination.

The author claims that it was, no doubt, Powell’s Methodist upbringing that led to the view that all people were created by God and worthy of respect. Even though Powell walked away from his childhood religion, it seems as though that stuck with him.

The problem with getting Indians to get out of the way so Whitey could take over, is that each tribe of Indians had myths, stories and religious meaning tied in with their geographic surroundings.

If you moved Indians from their land, you displaced them not only geographically, but you also messed with their heritage and religion.

That being the case, some ingenious white guys devised a plan to treat this particular inconvenient problem.

“He [President U. S. Grant] listened to a group of reform-minded Protestant ministers who asked that, henceforth, agents be appointed from their ranks to bring the kindly moral power of Christianity to bear on the Indian problem. If the natives could be made into Methodists or Quakers, it would take the fight out of them.

“Grant went along with the request, and the Methodists assumed jurisdiction over California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; Baptists were put in charge of all agencies and reservations in Nevada; while the Presbyterians had responsibility for the Indians of Utah and Arizona.”
(excerpt from this book, page 267)

I never knew there was such a systematic plan for the Christian church. (It also appears as though Baptists got a raw deal here. What’s up with that?)

This, I believe, is a classic entanglement with affairs of this life the church is to avoid. Being used as a tactic to subdue people for the government is not the best usage of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I suppose there is resulting peace that can come from Christian revival, but to use that, to make the peaceful end your end, rather than the care of souls, seems cheap.

As you may have noticed, it didn’t work very well. The Church never wins when it becomes a pawn in the hand of human government. Note the gross doctrine that came out of the Roman Empire’s Church.

Not only that, but the world doesn’t win when the church is a pawn either. The true mission of the Church and the spread of the Gospel will be entangled in all sorts of other stuff. Note the hostility toward right-wing Christianity brought about by the Moral Majority and other Christian/Political organizations. To share the Gospel, we know have to talk politics for half an hour.

It’s Christ alone. Not Christ and nation building. Not Christ and political gains. Not Christ and subjugation of people you don’t like.

It’s Christ. Christ and Him crucified. Anything else is a muddying of the waters to our own destruction.