Christianity and the Annihilation of the Native Americans

Hello! I am new to this and I am unsure if I am doing this right… Any how, thank you for allowing me to ask quesstions! Below is a question one of my friends raised to me. Can anybody help me with understanding and answering this question so that I can properly defend Christianity? Thank you again!

"If only a few Christians had taken land away from and annihilated the Indians, why didn’t the majority of Christians stand up for values invoking not harming another human being? Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, there are many different interpretations of one’s “Holy book,” if we take Christianity, I can list about 8 different denominations, and each emphasizes different aspects, and interpretations of the bible - and each one “knows” its version is “right.” "

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Hello Robert, welcome to the connect forum. Look forward to sharing and growing with you. Just wanted to introduce myself, and help you get acclimated to the site. Thank you for the question here but there is also a place to share a little about you in the welcome to connect section.
In regards to your question, I am not certain we can answer the why to that question?
Like why did things happen the way they did with the native Americans specifically?
One would need to ascertain why Biblical Christianity changed from a 1 Corinthians 13 foundation to what it was in the early years of this country.
Did they forget the tyranny they left behind, what about the reformation of the church and its foundational principles? :pensive:

The many mistakes that man made due to our sinful nature may never be fully understood.
One truth we can understand, that when pain and hurt are involved forgiveness is available through Christ and a true believer. That remnant has always been part of this world.
Love them, show them, pray for them, help them to understand we all are just human and need a Savior. Hope and prayer I send your way.:pray:

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@Truthbetold Whenever someone asks me a question like the one your friend posed, I immediately start wondering whether that person has actually read the BIble for him- or herself. This may be a question that you can ask your friend. Beyond that, can you give more context to the question? For example, is your friend an Indian by heritage? If so, what tribe? If not, then what specific people or experiences does he know that may be arousing concerns about this matter for him? Exploring these things can help us to answer the person, not the question.

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Hello Brendan! Thank you for your speedy response. So to give you more context, my friend has a Ph.d in I think Sociology. What I know for sure is that she teaches sociology. She teaches on the topic of how Christianity influenced the settlers to annihilate the Native Americans. I strongly disagreed with that statement because it was a blanket statement. She was essentially saying that Christianity was the reason for their annihilation. I voiced out my concerns to her by saying that Jesus never taught us to annihilate people groups, therefore you cannot judge Christianity by its abuses by man not following the true teachings of Jesus. and thats when she responded to me with what I sent you guys above. I am unsure if she has Native American blood. Thank you!

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@Truthbetold Thank you for the clarification. Does she say the same thing about other Holy Books like the Koran, Hindu writings like the Bhagavad Gita, Buddha’s teachings, and so forth?

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@Truthbetold, I agree and understand both of you. Her argument is a valid point as native Americans did suffer much from early settlers, quote Christians. A very devastating divide was created in the process.The crusades could be another example and many other “Holy wars”. Like @blbossard said why does she feel the way she does perhaps she was hurt or disappointed by a so called Christian? You can present a particular view on history that you disagree with without condemning the people.
From my first post there is a question about why and the only answer is selfishness. It is sad as this still happens, not genocide per say but prejudice is an ongoing problem. Hope I made my thoughts clear.
Mike

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Hi, Robert!
Very good question, and rather tricky to answer, because I do agree with a couple of things she says. But I disagree (like you) with what seems to be her blanket conclusion: that the form of ‘Christianity’ that influenced the settlers to annihilate the Native Americans is true Christianity.

There are many ‘types’ of Christianity, as she mentions, and, given how you read the Bible and interpret it, people can and do come to different conclusions. I would say that the same ‘Christianity’ that was quiet in the face of the waging of war on indigenous peoples was the same ‘Christianity’ that justified and morally propped up the trans-Atlantic slave trade and Jim Crow laws.

This, to me, is an unanswerable question. We cannot answer for definite for other people, esp. when those other people live miles removed from us in time and culture. We can look at societal trends, which is what she does as a sociologist, but, from there, it’s (educated) guesswork.

It’s my guess that this type of ‘Christianity’ – the one that can morally justify violence by certain people on another group of people or person – was, indeed, a ‘majority’ Christianity at that time in many ways, so that even if a minority were the ones actively annihilating the Native Americans, the majority weren’t that concerned. Though I would like to think that another minority was actually concerned, sadly, I can’t think of any off the top of my head. (The Quakers??)

What one really need to look at is the theology of this majority ‘Christianity’ of that time and place and ask, how did they justify these actions? How were they interpreting the Bible and how did they draw these conclusions that led to these actions? It probably won’t take long for you to find some premises you disagree with and to be able to offer how you interpret things differently.

As a P.S. I’d like to add that it’s easy to not challenge those who are committing violence against human beings when one believes that the victims are not fully human.

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Hey Robert @Truthbetold, welcome. Also great start with you explaining to your friend saying that he should not be blaming God for the actions of Man.

Another thing that is important whenever someone asks a question is to understand what their assumptions are. You friend is assuming like many people being a Christian means that you automatically be transformed into a holy person and would not do anything wrong. That is not right. We are far from being perfect. We have to work every day to get better and better. That is exactly why Jesus died for us. The entire OT testifies to that too. So it is terrible what the “Christians” did but it is not the teaching of Christ. Christ would have annihilated the pharasiees instead of being on the Cross if that was the case.

Now the second question also has assumptions in it that are not correct. Your friend is thinking that different denominations means different teachings. That is true and false. The core of the Christian message is preserved in the main denominations other than the “false teachers.” Anyone can go to the bible and clearly can see that annihilation of group is not okay from a Christian point of view. The difference in the different denomination is mainly on how you worship or how you hold mass, is communion done at certain age, do you have to have a priest or a pastor, can anyone start a church etc. This has nothing to do with the main core message of Jesus.

Also, make sure your friend is not lumping all religions and blaming Christianity for Islam as @blbossard pointed out as well.

I hope this helps.
God Bless.

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Thank you for your response Mike! It was really helpful. I will keep this in my when I talk to her. I will get started on the welcome section for sure.

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Hello Brendan. I haven’t heard her say it but I would assume that she would say the same thing about other Holy Books by the way she poses her question me.

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Thank you for your response. It was very clear, helpful and to the point. Would you happen to know of sources documenting those Christians propping up the trans-Atlantic trade and Jim Crow laws? I am sure of it and have seen it in movies. But I still wanted to ask if you had any sources for it just in case the questions comes up of what Christians justified it.
Also, I agree with you that the “majority of Christians” question being on the unanswerable side. I think it might boil down to theology. For example, what is “false teaching” and what is theologically “right teaching”. I think she might not understand that distinction. That might need to be explained to her more further.
Also, would you mind explaing to me more of what you mean in you “P.S.” statement?

Thank you so much! This has helped me process a lot.

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Thank you! This was very helpful as well. One thing that came up in my mind is that I would assume that she may believe that morality is subjective rather then objective. That can also be an underlining issue here because she emphasizes “know” and “right” in her description of the different denominations. What do you think?

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Yes, that could definitely play a role. People dont change overnight, but by answering one answer at a time, they will come closer and closer. I commend you for all your doing. Keep up the hard work. We are here to help anyway possible @Truthbetold.

God Bless.

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@Truthbetold You have elicited some useful responses. Congratulations on sparking a great conversation!

I have several thoughts after ruminating for a day or so and reading the various responses on this thread:

  • I suspect that your friend has a strongly anti-Christian bias and may be philosophically more lenient to other religions. This seems to be the pattern whenever I hear these types of statements. That is why I asked about how she felt about other religions. I could be wrong of course, but probing this area may help to clear some smoke.
  • In my admittedly finite opinion debating her will bear little fruit. Ask questions with humility and openness to admitting sins committed in Christ’s name, of which there have been many as @KMac, @mgaplus4, and @Danageze have pointed out. Learn from your friend. Ask for references and research them. When you do this, you will show her (a) that you will not defend the indefensible, (b) you are open to learning, and (c) that she would be a cad not to do the same for you in return.
  • Make sure that you do not conflate Christianity with a political point of view in your conversations with her. God is neither conservative nor liberal; Republican nor Democrat; Capitalist nor Communist. The only exceptional kingdom is Heaven. She probably associates Christianity with its political manifestations, all–all–of which have borne bitter fruit. She needs to see what the Bible says, which is that we are a diaspora on Earth whose citizenship is in Heaven. God’s children reside in all nations and cultures at all times. Heaven exists today, without borders.

Do not worry about not knowing much about the history that concerns her. She will teach you about it; and all the while you will be showing her what a citizen of Heaven truly is like.

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Hello again!
A couple of sources that I can think of that you might find interesting are…

  • The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Mark Noll – I didn’t get to finish reading this book, but what I was able to skim was fascinating. The author was attempting to answer the question: How did both sides (Union and Confederate) Biblically justify their position on slavery?

  • I’ve not read Jemar Tisby’s book, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity with Racism, but I hear good things about it.

  • Another good historian to read is John Coffey, who is at Leicester Uni here in the UK. This lecture of his may be helpful…

  • The Jude 3 project is also a good place to go for a number of different conversations on race and Christianity. Their director Lisa Fields interviewed Dr. Katharine Gerbner (Univ of MN) about the relationship between slavery and Christianity.
  • If you can get hold of any of Stephen Tuck’s writings, (Particularly, ‘Evangelicals and Race’ or ‘Deconstructing Evangelicalism’) that’d be a win. He researches the Civil Rights Movement, and has a good bit to say.

  • In an even more niche field, Dr. Sean Lucas teaches a class at Reformed Theological Seminary called ‘The Gospel and Race’. The course syllabus can be found here, which has some more recommended readings. He, himself, wrote a book on the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, and, in one of his chapters, he explores the cultural, political and theological climate in which this particular history was set.

:smile:

As for my ‘P.S.’, yeah, sorry, I really should have qualified it more! (It was late and I needed to go to bed. Ha!) What I was speaking to was your friend’s use of the term ‘human being’ in light of her question: how could the majority stand by while human beings were being harmed. What I was trying to communicate was that it’s possible that they (the majority) can be apathetic about the violence (or, indeed, approving of it) because they don’t really view the victims of the violence as full human beings, worthy of rights or protection. If one can dehumanise the victims, one can justify the violence. (Sort of like how Nazi propaganda portrayed the Jews and other ‘undesirables’.)

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Thank you Brendan! I feel assured that I have a good grip on this topic now that you and the rest of everyone else helped me to process it. I completely agree with your lay out here and love the last part, “The only exceptional kingdom is Heaven”. And, "Heaven exists today, without borders.
My intent is to show as much love as I possibly can when dialoguing with her.

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Awesome! This is a boat load of information im eager to dive into and explore. I wasn’t able to find that much info regarding this topic. Thank you!

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