Posted by on Apr 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

A Demand for Respect for Indigenous Beliefs

By: Ruth Hopkins

Man has shown himself to be a spiritual being.  Every culture, for time immemorial, has held a belief in a higher power(s), communed with those deities by means of prayer and ceremony, and based on that belief system, established core values that promoted virtuous life practices.

Sounds great, right?  So where’s the controversy?  Well, humans are flawed.  Over time, people have twisted belief systems, born of grace, love, and sacrifice, and manipulated them so they may be used to strike fear into people’s hearts.  Combined with wealth and power, religion became a viable means of controlling the general populace.  Indoctrinated fear, coupled with ignorance, breeds hate.

Worldwide, the topic of religion is a lightning rod.  Serious discussion of religion and spirituality between people of differing religious faiths often leads to an impasse or worse; anger, and condemnation.  Mankind wages war in the name of ‘God.’  All the while, each side claims to have his blessing.  I wonder what The Creator God thinks when individuals from opposing sides pray to him, and then set out to kill one another in his name?

This disconnect is particularly evident in Christianity, in all its incarnations.  Ancient text written by ardent Disciples of Christ was interpreted by monks living in the dark ages.  Translations are fallible.  Books were excluded.  Even so, the Bible holds meaningful passages.  Here are just a few:  “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Mark 12:31) “Love never fails,” (1 Corinthians 13:8a) and “The truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

Unfortunately, some Christians focus on other passages and interpret them in such a way that it affords them province over nature and ‘unbelievers.’  The verse, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man cometh to the Father but by me,” (John 14:6) is used by factions of fundamentalist Christians to justify persecuting others who are not Christians.

What do we get as a result of a religion that believes it alone has the power to decide who goes to heaven or hell, if such places do indeed exist in the afterlife?  The Spanish Inquisition.  The Salem Witch Trials.  Manifest Destiny.  Genocide of Indigenous peoples.  The Doctrine of Discovery.  Boarding Schools assigned the task of ‘killing the Indian and saving the man.’ Environmental devastation on a global scale, by a people who believe they have dominion over every living creature on the surface of the planet.  A culture of fear.  ‘God Hates Fags’ signs at military funerals.  Governmentally mandated rape by vaginal ultrasound.

Apparently they’ve forgotten another verse, which speaks to hypocrites:  “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5)

There’s been a rash of racist flyers distributed in South Dakota lately.  These flyers exemplify my concerns about the need for tolerance and respect for the spiritual beliefs of others.  It’s been said that the flyer I’m including here has been circulated by Christian church members.  The flyer calls the sacred Lakota rite of Yuwipi, as well as hand games, ‘satanic,’ and claims our sundancers suffer from ‘mental illness.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.