I’ll make this one short.
During her address to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s National Convention 2015, Commissioner Marie Wilson named the original denominations directly involved in the TRC’s residential school movement — Catholic, Anglican, United Church of Canada, and Presbyterian. She thanked the #ELCIC for engaging in reconciliation of its own desire, because we were not directly involved in the abuse and genocide of the Canada’s indigenous peoples.
While her thanks are well received, I believe it’s because we are coming to know more and more the widespread systemic racism against indigenous peoples, the intergenerational trauma Christianity has burdened thousands with decade after decade, and the incredible hegemony white people have to control our ability to blind our eyes that has compelled the #ELCIC towards the need for reconciliation. Have we been perfect? No. In fact, we have been complicit — active even — in our silence and our violence.
As brothers and sisters in Christ — one family with One Spirit, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and ancestors — we are coming to learn that we are all responsible for the horrors perpetrated by our historical and current leaders. Whether political, religious, educational or corporate, we have taken the power to write history, created a culture where the marginalized can easily be demonized, and we even absolve ourselves of involvement of Canada’s cultural genocide.
We need this.
We need to change and be changed.
Before the names of “Canada” and “The United States of America” were even coined, Puritans brought genocide, forced capitalism, destruction and disease to the original tribes of Turtle Island in the name of fleeing religious persecution. Puritanism flourishes to this day, despite the annihilation of peoples such as the Narragansett Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe in the 1600s. Make no mistake, modern-day evangelicals — especially those who espouse faithfulness to Puritanism — are complicit in the deliberate destruction of indigenous peoples of Turtle Island both then and now.
And yet our churches are some of the loudest voices in claiming we are not responsible. Our hyper-individualized focus on personal salvation and responsibility holds incredible power to justify the washing of our hands.
That’s only one example.
Churches that preach through the “pointing the finger” method (“THEY are alcoholics”, “THEY” abuse money given to them, “THEY” have the choice to be better people, “THEY” choose their own poverty, “THEY” hurt white people too, “THEY” need JESUS), only whitewash truth, and any hope of reconciliation. Privilege means we can make such devastating statements and face no repercussions for them.
So when Christian denominations take active steps to engage in the reconciliation process, I am humbled. We open ourselves to being made uncomfortable, grieved, frustrated, angry and yes, desiring more denial still. But come we must. The stories are being shared by the original authors of this land and God is ushering us to listen. Not to listen to be heard, but to listen to be changed.
Hear Commissioner Wilson speak her story, Canada’s truth, & calls to action for Christians.