fatten and die

Yet another reason for christendom to appologize:

The Indian population between San Diego and San Francisco declined from perhaps 72,000 to as few as 18,000, victims of poor food, poor treatment, and European diseases fostered by overcrowding. ‘They live well free,’ a puzzled friar said, ‘but as soon as we reduce them to a Christian and community life…they fatten, sicken and die.’

– Geoffrey C. Ward, The West, Little, Brown, 1996, pp. 20-1

(seen on delanceyplace.com)

  • I can’t say I agree with this statement. From a cause and effect standpoint I don’t see a connection. Christdom isn’t about the causes of fattening nor the cause of sickening nor the cause of death. The cause and effect don’t line up here.

    Now, if one were to try to associate the fattening, disease, and death with several different causes then I could look at this. Like, the fattening is part of western/american culture. If westerners brought them christ they may, also, have brought bad eating habits. How is this something that is christdoms fault and not the fault of western culture?

    Or, the disease. How is christdom responsible for the disease.

    Please explain this to me. I often see christdom blamed for things that aren’t it’s fault but everyone just seems to nod their head in agreement without critical analysis and looking what at the real cause.

  • Matt,

    Thanks for jumping in. I appreciate Ward’s statement because it reminds me of the tension between Jesus–who we see time and time again healing people without the urgency to ‘brand’ them–and the religious sects–who regularly dismissed people’s well-being over theological concerns. I am willing to consider Christendom worthy of blame because of its similar preoccupation with orthodoxy over orthopraxy.

    Whether the church created disease and bad eating habits, or just brought them along for the ride, I don’t think it is reasonable for the church to just write-off their effects and lay blame elsewhere. I believe the church’s main pursuit should be that of Christ-likeness. That is why is hard for me to see Christ reflected in the part of the church that would round up a people-group, force them to confess belief in something, and impose any other kind of culture on them.

    I agree that it isn’t fair to blame Christendom for sins it hasn’t perpetrated. But in this case I do see a correlation.

  • Those are some pretty strong words… you said, “I believe the church’s main pursuit should be that of Christ-likeness. That is why is hard for me to see Christ reflected in the part of the church that would round up a people-group, force them to confess belief in something, and impose any other kind of culture on them.”

    I would be very interested to know how they “forced” them to confess belief in something and how they “imposed” a kind of culture on them.

    Do you have any references?

    We are often quick to blame christians when they may not have been to blame. When christdom did something wrong I am all for apologizing. But, we over blame christdom for things where it wasn’t the cause. This over blame ignores the real culprit and makes christ people look worse than they deserve.

  • The rest of this citation from “The West” by Geoffery C. Ward can be found here.
    And most searches for Conquistador will reveal the sad story of the things done to peoples considered pagans by the catholic church. I am not suggesting that this is the only story of the church, but I do believe it is one we should admit to and be willing to humbly ask for forgiveness from God and humanity.

    David was rebuked for lusting after Bathsheba, taking her as his wife and subversivley having her husband killed. Those are not activities that reflect ‘a man after God’s own heart’ but repentence is.

  • repentance sure is something after Gods heart.

    I guess this leaves me with a question. Should we repent to God for our sins or the church (an organization) repent to the world or both? And, if the church repents to the world how many times over how many generations is enough?

  • I think we need both.

    For me this is an issue of heart. Ideally, Christians reveal the Good News of God’s unconditional, once-for-all grace and forgiveness both individually and as a community. Of course we fail at this. But if our constant presence in the world is one of humility, love, service, peace-making (Christ-likeness)–and when we fail at that, repentance–then I think the world will much more readily listen to our message of a God who loves them and desires their trust.

    Is there any generation that shouldn’t approach both God and humanity this way?

  • A couple months ago I was talking with a friend of mine about the church and it asking the world for forgiveness from the things it has done wrong. He thinks the church needs to now ask for forgiveness for things such as the crusades and wrong doings during the crusades. Is it the responsibility of the current church to ask the current world for forgiveness from those now? If so, is that something that should happen at every generation? Why? Does God command it? Will good come of it?

  • Do you mean an official proclamation by an official church body?

  • or by an individual? When do we stop repenting to the world for the transgressions for those who came before us?

  • I don’t know that there is ever a time when we shouldn’t approach people and or the world with a posture of humilty, grace, and repentance.

  • Have you listened to the Speaking of Faith episode with Wang Maathai??? Most of the program is about her work with women and the environment, but she tells a story that fits with what you’re thinking in this post. She talks about growing up in Africa where a certain type of tree was respect and revered because the villagers believed it was the tree of the gods.

    BUT THEN the missionaries came, converted everyone to Christianity, and told them to cut down the trees because it was idolotry to honor the trees.
    Now the village is tree-less and dealing with serious consequences – errosion, no firewood, no shade, etc.

    http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/plantingthefuture/index.shtml

  • JulieVW… if they worshiped the tree is was idolatry and cutting it down may have been a good thing. Following God isn’t always nice, comfortable, or easy…. in truth many times it is the exact opposite. Though, I would have told them to cut down the tree I would have helped them plant new trees to help them with the impact on their lives while removing the idol they had been worshiping.

  • Julie, thanks for the link!

    Matt, what you described is, I feel, part of this same error of Christendom. The assumption that making people believe right (orthodoxy) and live right (orthopraxy) will somehow save them, or convert them, or make them good enough for God’s grace. It would make much more sense for me if the missionaries had spent more time demonstrating God’s love, and grace, and healing presence in their community. As the villiagers learned more about the God of the missionaries, they could have explained that our God is not only the God of the trees, but of the water, and land, and animals, and all people.

    Does the God you believe in seek the destruction of any part of His creation?

  • Keith

    Jumping in – really interesting discussion. two things though – in the past (Conquistadors, missionaries, etc) never seemed to think of the consequences of their actions. I believe that this is a current problem as well – very few people are thinking of the whole system – they are thinking of the immediate. if I can convert one person, or a whole village – my job is done, and I’ll get a place in heaven….not realizing that converting a village may turn them away from a warlike lifestyle and the whole village/tribe may be destroyed. Even today I see and fear for those who speak the Word, but don’t care about the World. Yes – we must be separate from the World, but we still must live in the World and be stewards of the World. I’ve seen far too many Christians who believe that God will provide and so i don’t have to recycle, or worry about global-warming, etc, etc.

    the second thing I’d like to say is this – I think what Thomas is saying above is close to what Paul told the Romans. yes, you pray to Apollo, and Zeus – but the God I pray to is greater than those gods…and so you don’t have to destroy those statues, or temples…but turn your belief to the greater God (or something like that – it has been awhile since i’ve read the apostles).

    so – my two cents…

    interesting side-bar about mission work. In Japan, when a person became a Christian – no one in the Church really believed it until after five years or so – by that point it showed that the new believer was committed.

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  • You know, I’m not sure biblegod cares as much about the destruction of creation as we think he ought to.

    He seems to destroy stuff often – particularily when he’s angry.

  • JulieVW, except that he kept on promising not to destroy ‘that way’ again, and made his final promise when he destroyed his son on the cross.

    I believe that was his last action of destruction. Both the prophets and Jesus then spoke of the renewal and restoration of God’s kingdom, which of seems to be in a state of always-not-yet until the new creation of heaven and earth.

    But even when God was going about executing his wrath against his creation, I don’t know that I would be willing to say that he desired that destruction. Maybe? I don’t know.

  • Well, what I was getting at above is more of the idea of… if your right hand causes you to sin then cut it off. If there is an idol that they worshiped for generations will keeping it around cause some to sin? Yes. Then is it worth it to cut it down?

    One thing I have noticed many people do is equate following God with comfort, easy of life, safety, and long life. Cutting down the tree may not be the safe thing to do. Following God causes many to die sooner than if they had not. But, that can still be good. I would rather die today following Christ than live hundreds of years and not be a Christ follower.

    It is better for those people to die young in a relationship with Christ than to live a long life. Often times we forget that because it is very different from the teachings of western culture.

  • dydimustk, what you say sounds lovely – but can you back it up with anything? (And how would you explain the post-cruxifiction deaths of Ananias, and Sapphira? I’d say they were pretty well destroyed).

    I fear that Matt is right; if a person really takes christianity seriously, they’d have to cut down the trees, even if it means destorying the planet. You can’t hide behind a “Greenpeace Theology” of it’s-wrong-to-hurt-creation when it’s wrong-er to offend a jealous god.

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