The table with Native Americans

November 30, 2009

activism / church / emergent

In The Justice Project, there is an image that I didn’t mention when I initially reviewed the book. It speaks of the various issues between Native American culture and dominant American culture and the church that exists inside it, and is written by Randy Woodley. The section speaks to us about the issues facing Native American cultures today, and about a theology of the land that is needed in American Christianity.

But the image that haunts me is his request to us, specifically as Emergent followers of Jesus and generally as the American church, to “come to the table” as equals with Native Americans, and listen to what they have to say, knowing that it should and will be, at times, painful and offensive for us. Not to come with the desire to do justice for them until we are willing and able to do justice with them.

This image haunts me because of the truth that I know is there. The injustice that has been done, and is still being done, to Native Americans is so overwhelming to me that it makes my head spin. There is so much to grieve there, and yet of course grieving won’t fix it. I desperately want to know how I can come to the table that he mentions. I wish I felt like this request of his could be a start to our desperately needed conversation, and I hope it will, but I feel like so much has to happen before I, and we, can even come to the table.

I have no desire to be anything more or less than an equal, and have no illusions that I have a right to say anything. But there are things I wish I knew. Where can we put this table? Is it virtual? Is it real? Is it metaphorical? Are there folks that I can invite to it? Will they come if I invite them? The chapter here suggests that this is his way of inviting us to this table. How can I come to it?

So in essence, I think this image is powerful. The relation that it obviously has to the Eucharist and the boundary-breaking that Jesus has always asked us to do at that table is so strong I can feel it. I have been unable to get this image out of my head, and I think that’s a good thing. I want to throw it out there that I want to come to this table, wherever and however it happens, and that I hope others will do so also.