Christianity in history and impact on indigenous peoples

Hello!

Looking for insights to help with these concerns:

The young people in my life are dismissive of Christianity because they read about how in history Christians have been brutal towards indigenous people groups (one example in the US is the Native Americans and the Trail of Tears).

They see evangelism as a “genocidal” attempt to suppress the culture of indigenous people groups. As a result they don’t want to hear anything about the Christian faith.

Has anyone run into this type of objection before and how have you handled it?

Thank you!

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Hello @otolabe Thank you for asking this important question, that has caused many to stumble. I hope I make my self clear with this answer. Many people have tried to emulate Christ but as we know we can never be a perfect Christ like individual though we endeavor to do so. Christ never forced anyone to accept Him, He simply presented the truth to them and let them come to their own conclusions about who He was. He completely trusted the Father and left it in His hands. Humans have a tendency to view themselves as a failure, if they don’t succeed, therefore they use other means to convince their quarry to change their ways. We forget that genuine Christ love will bring the strongest person to their knees. That is why many fail including myself when we don’t trust the word which says no one can come to the Father except the Spirit draw him. To further share none is good not one, so grace is a gracious gift for the person who failed to show it and feels like a failure to begin with, let alone the guilt or condemnation they feel over what they did. I hope this helps you reach those you care about?

Mike

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Hi @otolabe
This is an important question because it is a hindrance to many. I am not very familiar with the history of the US but will answer this from an Indian perspective.

This is a very common sentiment in India, which parallels the situation in North America and Africa. The common refrain is this - the Christians (British) came and destroyed India by subjugating native Indians and looting India’s wealth.

The problem with this line of thinking is this - the white man or foreigner from Europe or America is automatically equated with Christianity. So when the British came purely for selfish trade-related reasons, to make more money for the empire, it was interpreted as the work of ‘Christians’. Why? Because the British built churches for their own people, they dressed differently and separated themselves for the ‘lowly’ natives. The reality was that these people had no Christian motive at all, they ruled merely for profit.

On the other hand, when genuine Christian missionaries came to India to bring the love of Christ to the natives, the British (and the Dutch) actively discouraged them and were opposed to their activities. When William Carey landed in India, he faced tremendous opposition. When Dr. John Scudder (first medical missionary) landed in Calcutta, he was not allowed to go in. However, these intrepid missionaries persevered and the service they rendered to the country still continues to bear fruit today - whether it was education, health, hospitals, women’s rights, translation of scriptures, making scripts for local languages…the list goes on.

I think it is the same everywhere, whether in the Americas or Africa. This is why I like a statement by Ravi Zacharias - “One does not evaluate a philosophy by its abuse, but rather by the logical consequences of what it leads to.” (paraphrased). Many have abused Christianity, whether it was for the Inquisition or empire building or waging wars. In many cases, Christianity was wrongly attributed to the oppressors as being their identity when this was not so.

Evangelism, properly understood, is a tool for sharing the love of Christ, his redemption, and not for personal agendas. It can be evaluated and understood only based on the Bible and its mandate, not based on popular perceptions, personal opinion and interpretations of history. It requires patient dialogue to make this clear to those who have this question.

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Hi @otolabe!

As my brothers here commented, Christianity was only a label for many of those conquerors. But many really fight for the real Christian values! Here you have a quote from a Church’s History book (it is short and if I could I would share all the chapter! Highly recommended):

There was, however, another side to the church in the New World. Those who carried out missionary work—usually Franciscans, Dominicans, or Jesuits—lived among the people, and knew their plight. The vows of poverty of these missionaries, and the simplicity of their lifestyle, made it possible for them to live among the Indians, and to see the disastrous results of colonial policies. Thus, many friars became the defenders of the Indians against the depredations of European settlers. In the early stages of the enterprise, the Dominicans took the lead in the defense of the Indians. In the eighteenth century, that defense was one of the factors contributing to the suppression of the Jesuits, first by the Spanish and other rulers in Europe, and eventually even by the pope (see Vol. 2, chapter 19). And all the while, far above this church that showed concern for the poor, there was the hierarchical church, led by those who owed their posts to their contacts in the Spanish court. Thus, from the very beginning, there were two faces to the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish America: on the one hand, most of the hierarchy and of the diocesan or secular clergy, and some friars, supported the exploitation of the native population for the benefit of the Spanish settlers, while on the other hand many friars criticized such exploitation and became defenders of the oppressed native population.

González, Justo L. . The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (pp. 450-451). HarperOne. Edición de Kindle.

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Thank you! This is very helpful. I will also read the book mentioned on the other response as a reference.

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A “Christian” is a person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.

It is not a person who goes to church every Sunday or writes “Christianity” in answer to “Religion:__ “ on a form.

Sin exists. People who attack Christians are people who have turned their back on God and find it easier to blame Him (in the form of His followers) for all the ills of the world without knowing anything about Him.

Tell them you will pray for them.

I am from Nagaland in the remote region of of North East India. I belongs to one of the tribal communities known as the Nagas. My forefathers were headhunters. Some outsiders assumed that the Naga people also practiced cannabalism but this is not true. Several of those headhunters are still alive and they have tattoos to indicate how many heads they have taken. The Nagas are now almost 100% Christians. One main factor which converted us to Christianity within a comparatively short duration of time is the fact that we believed in a supernatural being who created everything and who is able to give life. We believed in spirits some of which are evil and some of which are good. We also believed that death is not the end and there is life after death. These similarities with the Christian faith accelerated our acceptance of Jesus Christ. The initial persecution of the first converts did not last long.

The impact of Christianity, therefore varies depending on the people who evangelized to the indigenous people as well as their motives.

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Well said Tony,

It is a blessing to hear your perspective as it sure does place a balanced truth over the topic. Imagine how Peter felt when Jesus rebuked him for not favouring the fact that the Christ must suffer, die and raise again:

“Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but on man’s.” Mark 8:33b NASB

Often we, mankind, would rather chase after the winds of human desire then submit to facing the hard road of the narrow life style that Jesus calls us to. And many people will wear a christian banner to further their own goals. And not everything that claims to be christian has even something to do with Christ.

Ken

@SelieVisa Thank you for sharing your story of how Christ has transformed the Naga people!

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