A Destiny Denied… A Dignity Restored.
Now available on line from:
My publisher – http://bit.ly/Destinybook-WWPG
or Amazon – http://bit.ly/destinybook-USA and http://bit.ly/destinybook-UK
My overall stimulus for writing this book is one of obedience, closely followed by something akin to a compulsion. When the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians about reconciliation, he says, “For Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14) It is as if God puts something in your heart that becomes a driving force in what you do. This has certainly been my experience, and it is in part a telling of my story, a journey that God has brought me on.
As a follower of Creator God, who has been involved in UK and Irish reconciliation issues, since the early 1990s I became acutely aware that much had also been done detrimentally to other people groups around the world in His name, that had not been sanctioned by Him. The history of Ireland, my homeland, through its relationship with England and Scotland, is a sad testimony of that! Finding that our ancestors, “with the sword in one hand and the Bible in the other,” had suppressed people groups all over the world during the centuries of Empire expansion, has motivated a growing body of people in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to reach out and seek the healing of those ancient wounds—reconciliation! There was also an awareness that such negative actions of my forefathers had become a barrier, a “stumbling block” to people finding God. (2 Corinthians 6:3) Even in more recent times, missionaries have sadly heard, “Why should I follow your God when Catholics and Protestants are fighting in Ireland?”—unaware of the finer nuances of life here and that the words Catholic and Protestant also carry with them other political and cultural connotations.
My ancestry on my mother’s side is English and is culturally Ulster Scots on my father’s. I’m from a Protestant background! I did not grow up overtly sectarian, though Catholics were different, somehow inferior, and we didn’t play with “them.” I believe that there is sufficient in my DNA, physical and spiritual, to identify with the wounding, which both streams of my ancestry committed on Irish and American soil.
In writing this book, I do not want in any way to put myself forward as an expert, there are too many historical and sociological complexities for that! So, this is not a definitive history but rather a record of my journey, one in which I have sought to embrace God’s heart and what I sense He has been saying to me regarding my own tribal identity or that of the Irish, Native and Euro-Americans. Nor do I want to appear to stand on the eastern seaboard of the Atlantic and point the finger of condemnation at the later. That is not my place! I write having deeply searched my heart.
Our histories are profoundly connected. My people went to America bringing with them much that was good, but they also brought some spiritual, political and social belief systems that were and continue to be wrong and extremely detrimental to the First Nation Peoples. They brought their cultural hurts, wounds, etc., (often because of persecution at home) with them. These were not only detrimental to themselves but also consequently to us, their descendants today, as we continued to live out of them in Ireland and America. Many left the shores of what is now the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic, with their own destinies being denied, through persecution. Yes, they brought their Christian faith with them and led many Indians to a living faith in Christ, but it was the wrong packaging of that faith that also led to conflict, land removal, genocide, meaning that many Native Americas had their destinies also denied. One only needs to examine the effects of broken treaties; go unto the Sioux Reservations in South Dakota or speak to people who continue to suffer the pain of the Residential Schools.
God has been taking me to America for more than 12 years now, to listen and learn. I can identify with Nehemiah when he writes, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept… and prayed before the God of heaven, ‘I confess the sins we… including myself and our father’s house have committed against you…’” (Nehemiah 1:4, 6-7). I can truly say, “I am sorry for the wrongs that my tribe brought with them to America, and I have at times experienced a profound sorrow in my heart for what we did to the Native tribes.” Whatever else God has for me in the future, regarding this, I do not know, but I sense this is but the beginning of a journey for me. If what I have written in this book becomes a catalyst to drawing others, White and Native Americans into a healing process, I rejoice and give thanks to our Creator. One thing is sure: ownership and repentance are needed by individuals as well as our spiritual and political leadership on both sides of the Atlantic. If the spiritual and political foundations are wrong, then what we have built on them is wrong!
Over these years, I have not only sat with people who have a heart for reconciliation—both White and Native, but I have also been reading widely: many “histories” of the Scots; the Scots-Irish; the Puritans; the colonies; Native American tribes and the growth of the United States of America. This has included the European roots of those histories and the effects these have had (positively and negatively) on the Native American tribes. I have found that over the centuries a variety of interpretations of the details have been recorded, new documentation becomes available, and at times the revisionists have moved in, all of which makes accuracy in writing impossible. I can only hope through my reading and research that I have gained a broad sense of the history of the peoples I am writing about.
Also, in any of the issues mentioned, I have tried to keep in mind that I am writing to the average person on the street and to those who are engaged in intercession and reconciliation in the UK, Ireland, and the United States. This is purposely not an in-depth academic study, but if you have been stimulated to dig deeper, scholarly works are out there in plenty. Regarding the historical content of this book I also hope that all the quotes and references are correct. I have also submitted sections of this book to others in the UK and America for their critical input. Grace is needed if my interpretations of events are in any way different from yours!
One key slant, that I seek to bring in this book, is to take our thinking a step further on from the historical and sociological into the realm of the spiritual, to ask: what has taken place in the spirit realms as a result of the interactions—positive and negative—between the various people groups? This is based on the premise that God made man, in all the multiplicity of people groups, ethnicities and tribes, in His image. Each is unique in His eyes; each has something special to bring to the whole, and each has its boundaries set. “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact place where they should live” (Acts 17:26). Unfortunately, what God wanted us to reflect of Himself through this diversity was marred in our rebellion—with help from God’s archenemy, Satan! We were created to live in perfect harmony with Him, with our fellow man, and remarkably, with ourselves—the rebellion recorded in Genesis 3 changed all that! We are now players in a spiritual battle between God and Satan!
We need to bear in mind that none of our leaders, both White and Native, have been able to lead us perfectly into our personal and national destinies, as they have at times also made wrong choices. Added to that we also need to be aware that we have so often tended to operate solely on the horizontal plane, forgetting that God has instructed us that our earthly battles and struggles are primarily not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Through our imperfections, we have inadvertently given Satan legal footholds into our lives and communities. (Ephesians 4:26) If these are not appropriately dealt with, they will affect not only our yesterdays but also our tomorrows and generationally the tomorrows of others.
In the light of that, when I read authors stating in their writings, that the Puritans and Scotch-Irish were only doing in warfare against the Native Americans what other European nations were doing in the Americas; that we should no longer drag up the past but need to move on, “get over it,” this does not sit easy with me. If they acted in ways that were not God’s ways, then that has to be acknowledged and not rationalized away! As an associate of mine once said, “We can only truly move forward after we have truly looked back!” Or to put it another way, my Navajo friend Mark Charles recently wrote: “Until we deal with our past we will remain incapable of walking into a better future.”
Through my travels, research and reconciliation work, I have become acutely aware that so much of what I have observed comes down to a clash between culture and God’s Kingdom. Sadly, for too many, both are synonymous! I have needed to ask myself: “Can I, as a Christian look at my culture, my upbringing, my denomination, the experiences in life that make up ‘me’ and with the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and my interaction with other people, determine what is truly of God and what is not, and respond to it were necessary, with repentance and subsequent change of action?” Along with a growing number of people here in Ireland, I have grappled long and hard regarding the negative intertwining of history, culture and so much of what makes up Catholic/Protestant nationalist and religious identities.
As I grew up, a lot of my Protestant identity was defined by what we weren’t, leading to the production of a list full of do’s and don’ts. At the same time, it was deemed by many Christians as an honorable thing to be a member of the Orange Order or a Masonic Lodge. If a Catholic became Protestant, they were rigorously submitted to this framework, and all too often paraded around as “trophies of grace.” Except for reconciliation purposes, I don’t particularly like being identified any longer as “Protestant.” We are in a desperate need of a new identity, a new Reformation!
One of the challenges in this current part of my journey has been to try and discover what is redeemable, signs that God was already at work in a culture: issues related to how we do mission, of contextualization and syncretism (e.g., Paul at the Areopagus, Acts 17). Part of this is, I am sure, connected to having lived for 18 years in a residential community of reconciliation, with Christians from other traditions and cultures—that was, to put it mildly, extremely transformative! I now know, love and respect so many wonderful Catholic Christians, and there is so much of what was identified culturally as “Catholic” and Irish, their music, dance, etc., which I now like and feel I was deprived of as I grew up. Can I not be Irish and Christian—period? Can Native Americans not also be Native and Christian? I sense this is also the experience of many white American Christians labeled as “Evangelical,” regarding what God is doing in their hearts, as they get to know their Native brothers and sisters in Christ. There is mutual enrichment and growth available to all who embrace this journey together.
The overriding message of the Jewish and Christian scriptures is one of God’s desire for our restoration. Through the title of this book, “A Destiny Denied… A Dignity Restored.” I want to reflect on that. Aspects of our destinies can probably never be fully restored; some things will have been lost forever, but I do believe that our dignity can be restored IN HIM! I also believe that out of all the pain of our individual and corporate histories, God can also give us a new sense of our identity, again IN HIM! He can redeem and restore us as we bring our pain, woundedness, anger, disappointments, and bitterness to Him!
For some people that journey starts when a person goes in a spirit of humility to somebody from the other tribe and confesses, “I am sorry for what my people did to yours… those actions of mine and my people were wrong.” I have seen that happen time and time again in Ireland and in the United States as I have gone in that spirit to people from Catholic Nationalist or Native American backgrounds. They have needed to hear it! Other aspects of the healing process may follow, including reconciliation, restoration, restitution, etc. Repentance is key to the opening of a door for a new journey to begin!
I have been very conscious in my research and writing, that I am not just dealing with facts and figures. We are dealing here with people, families, nations, cultures. Many years ago, when I was a Clinical Nurse Tutor, I pointed out to the students that the patient in the bed was not just a Hospital Number with something wrong with their body. I also encouraged them to ask questions. What was going on in the patient, physically, mentally, spiritually? They also had brothers, sisters, children, friends—what were they experiencing during this time of hospitalization? Some patients would either die there or at home because of their illness. If they died from injuries sustained in the ethnic violence we were experiencing daily—what were the repercussions for their family and society? Many today, decades later, still live out of the anger, fear, hatred that has been stirred up. Wounded places that Satan can use, that God wants to heal!
My desire, living in Ireland and traveling in and out of the States, is to see the healing of our nations. It is multi-directional: the ongoing need for healing here in Ireland (North and South); between each of the nations in the United Kingdom; those nations towards the United States; the internal healing of the USA regarding its own historical development, especially between the Native and Euro-Americans.
Part 1 A Destiny Denied
In the first section of this book, there are some ‘thumbnail’ sketches of relevant history. These are grouped as three main threads:
1. The unpacking, in Chapters 3-5, of a key issue—the Doctrine of Discovery—as it developed in the Catholic Church in Europe and then traversed the Reformation to undergird the expansion of the British Empire. The Holy Wars of Europe were, by extension, being played out in North America!
2. In Chapters 6-10, the beginnings of British colonization: the Company’s established; the development of Puritanism in England and Ireland; the critical role this played in forming the early colonists and their early contact with the local Native American tribes.
3. The Ulster-Scots, Chapters 11-14. Looking at their roots in Scotland and Ulster; what made them into the ideal frontiers people in the American colonies; how their negative relationship with England in Scotland and Ulster was central to England’s defeat in the War of Independence.
For many white Americans, these are your roots, the history of your ancestors, your political, cultural and spiritual foundations—what makes you tick!
I have also included specific chapters on Manifest Destiny, the Residential Boarding Schools and some teaching on prayer. These have been significant milestones on my journey in understanding God’s heart and the need for reconciliation.
In all of these, what was key, is how my ancestors perceived the Native American tribes, the primary inhabitants in the land and how they dealt with them on it. Principles of engagement were being established. Every negative encounter on both sides was giving Satan footholds regarding future encounters. The fruit lives on!
Part 2 A Dignity Restored
Here are some of the issues explored:
• Repentance, Reconciliation, Restitution–God’s idea!
• What if you don’t get all the land back? Justice—what if there is no justice, but dignity is restored. A higher way: You-in charge; 2nd-mile people; Brother offends-go!
• God and covenant. The real thing!
• Dignity. It’s there for all.
• A new destiny! Being part of the ‘body of Christ’ is two ways! We are one—all expressions!
• Knowing our identity; Building your part of the wall is ok!
• Issues related to syncretism and contextualization—worshipping Creator in culturally relevant ways!
• The Doctrine of Discovery—overview
• The Fort Wayne Acknowledgement.
• A repudiation document regarding the Doctrine of Discovery, by the Episcopal Church.
Lastly, as you read this book, I ask you to read it with your hearts and minds open to God. In Chapter 19, “Reconciled to reconcile,” I quote the Apostle Paul, who wrote to us, as followers of God’s way, that we…
“… should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:15-18).
The words in bold tell us who we are, this is our calling. If you find yourself negatively reacting to something I have written, be open to asking yourself, why? I am still on this journey—so it may be that you are reacting to something I have misunderstood, some errors in my thinking. On the other hand, you may be coming across new information to be processed. You could also be “face to face” with a particular cultural or theological belief that is a “stronghold” in your life, “a worldly point of view” that needs to be submitted to Christ? I know this happened as people read my first book “Heal not Lightly.” Some were set free, reconciled with God, others and themselves, to become reconcilers; others, at times have strongly dismissed it!
So, here goes!
Available on line from:
My publisher – http://bit.ly/Destinybook-WWPG
or Amazon – http://bit.ly/destinybook-USA and http://bit.ly/destinybook-UK