Monday, August 22, 2005

i heart James W Loewen

This book - Lies My Teacher Told Me - is fantastic. It's too bad I am going to only get through part of it before I have to return it this week (it's already well overdue), but I fully intend to check it out of the library again once we're settled into Boston.

For now, though, I wanted to share with you a particularly poignant point he makes in his book, in a rather amusing way: first, he quotes, verbatim, a high school history textbook entitled The American Way, as it describes Native American religion:

These Native Americans [in the Southeast] believed that nature was filled with spirits. Each form of life, such as plants and animals, had a spirit. Earth and air held spirits too. People were never alone. They shared their lives with the spirits of nature.

Loewen then goes on to point out how this is such a flat and rather "make-believe" description of what is a rich and deep and meaningful religion to the Native Americans. People say "aww, that's cute" and "what a quaint and impractical idea" when they read something like that. So, with a little humor, Mr. Loewen continues: "Let us try a similarly succinct summary of the beliefs of many Christians today" and presents us with:

These Americans believed that one great male god ruled the world. Sometimes they divided him into three parts, which they called father, son, and holy ghost. They ate crackers and wine or grape juice, believing that they were eating the son's body and drinking his blood. If they believed strongly enough, they would live on forever after they died.

Loewen isn't trying to make Christianity sound absurd (although he certainly succeeds!) as much as he is simply trying to point out how flat and simple-minded that religion sounds, too, worded the same way the first description was. He points out that many a Christian alive today would immediately jump to argue that their religion means so much more to them than that, and has so many more facets...and yet we dealt and still today deal the Native Americans these same, biased cards and expect them not to feel offended, pushed aside, dehumanized??

There are so many times I wish we could go back in time and change everything. (Even if maybe that meant I wouldn't be who I am, anymore.) But since we can't, we have really got to start working to making things better for everyone. And the first steps would that would be really nice would be tolerance, acceptance, respect.

I'll keep dreaming...

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