Maybe this time they could avoid being on the wrong side of history?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2012/03/05 06:01 -05:00, original URI:

This blog today is my personal opinion and should not be taken as being on behalf of anyone else. It is me spending some time on the Soapbox....

The information in this blog you are reading right now is arriving to you late.

Really late.

Like more than ten days late.

I feel somewhat inclined to give myself a break for my tardiness since the issue being covered is itself almost 500 years too late.

You can read about it on the Native News Network in the article World Council of Churches Disowns the Doctrine of Discovery:

Native Brief: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – In a gesture that may be almost five hundred years too late, the World Council of Churches Executive Committee last month released a statement that denounced the "Doctrine of Discovery." The Doctrine was used to subjugate and colonize Indigenous Peoples, including American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Executive Committee issued a statement calling the nature of the doctrine "fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus".

The statement was issued in a meeting from February 14-18 in Bossey, Switzerland, urging to repudiate this doctrine, which has permitted the enslavement of Indigenous Peoples in the name of Christianity.
The origin of the doctrine goes back to the papal bulls issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 and 1455 respectively, allowing the invasion and killing of the Indigenous Peoples.

These historical church documents titled "Dum Diversas" and "Romanus Pontifex" called for non-Christian people to be captured, vanquished and to have their possessions and property seized by the Christian monarchs.

I tend to read about papal bulls like Dum Diversas and Romanus Pontifex with a bit of a skeptical eye.

it was just a few years ago when I was in India that I did a semi-impromptu talk doing a comparison/contrast of the somewhat more hands-on (i.e. move in) imperialism of countries like England/Spain and the somewhat more hands-off (i.e. tax snd leave) imperialism of countries like the Netherlands/Portugal. These two papal bulls and others came up rather prominently.

My conclusion at the time was that the distinction was pretty artificial, and the various policies of both church and government tended to be harmful under even the kindest of circumstances.

And there weren't many kind circumstances anytime between then and now.

I mean I was aware of the ridiculously self-serving justifications of "Manifest Destiny" that led the US to the things like the Trail of Tears before long before I met anyone who was more directly involved with that embarrassing chapter of our history.

And I can't help but think about how FAITH, the unindicted co-conspirator in all of this, has a lot to answer for here.

I don't care about the Doctrine of Discovery or all of the atrocities that it led to.

Wait, strike that

I mean, I do care.

But I don't care about churches around the world deciding to recognize the mess they have helped to cause for both Native Americans and African Americans here, for their contributions to the still terrible situation in the Middle East for their also still terrible contributions to the situation in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Nice of them, to be sure.

But now there are newer and fresher problems with some churches (in some cases the same churches) that prove themselves willing to be on the wrong side of history yet again.

I would rather they just apologized for the past and then chose to pay it forward to head off the terrible decisions that we'll all acknowledge 100 years from now were wrong -- and the World Council of Churches Executive Committee will admit was wrong 300-500 years from now.

They could just admit it right now and work hard to be a part of the solution to current problems.

Rather than being on the wrong side of history, again....

Okay I'm off my soapbox now. I'll get back the technical stuff tomorrow.

It's not so simple on 5 Mar 2012 8:27 AM:

In Latin America, the Church preserved and protected, to the extent they could, the natives from both exploitation and linguicide.  From very early in the conquest of Mexico, they were concerned to recruit Native priests who could be educated and then preach in Native languages, rejecting as wholly impracticable the effort to teach everyone solely in Spanish.  They also pushed back hard (though not successfully) on the enslavement of Indians, on the grounds that Christians ought not to enslave other Christians.  (Pagans were a different story, but the Church hoped to convert all of those, and pretty much succeeded, at least nominally.)

Indeed, the reason that Guaraní is co-equal with Spanish in Paraguay is that Paraguay was basically ruled by Jesuits, and not incorporated into the secular Spanish government until just before the wars of colonial liberation from Spain.  After independence, Paraguay quickly went its own way, rejecting influences from other ex-colonies.  The result was a unique situation in the Americas: an indigenous language came to be spoken by many non-indigenes.

BTW, the WCC is a basically Protestant organization.

Richard Deeming on 5 Mar 2012 11:21 AM:

"... the papal bulls issued by ..."

Isn't there a "hit" missing from that?

cheong00 on 6 Mar 2012 1:40 AM:

Some out-of-topic thought:

Except Confucianism, is there any other religion that does not wish to destory others' religion, but to embrace them?

JamesNT on 8 Mar 2012 5:16 AM:

I gotta say:  I thought this blog was ALWAYS your personal opinion!!


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