Peace on earth! (not at Wounded Knee Creek though...)

Is character never really known until no one is looking? As I read history after history on genocides and atrocities I conclude that what men do in secret is irrelevant about their character. The true test of character is what is done with power. Dee Brown’s history, Bury my heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian history of the American West, 1970 & 2000, chronicles America’s use of power over tribes in the 1800’s. It ends with a Christmas story. The U.S. cavalry had captured Big Foot’s Sioux tribe on their way to Pine Ridge to dance the Ghost Dance with the Oglala Sioux under Red Cloud. They wanted freedom of religion. They had been forbidden this dance of anticipation of Christ’s return and resurrection. The tribe was herded in the severe cold and snow to Wounded Knee Creek. There were, by the soldiers count, 120 men and 230 women and children. The next day, as they confiscated all the Indians’ firearms, one Indian rifle went off. The soldiers had placed field guns on rises above the Indians’ tents the night before. After that one shot the field guns were fired, a shell a second. Many fought, many fled, but only 4 men and 47 women and children were re-captured by the soldiers, 153 were killed outright and many more died in the blizzard. The captives were brought to an Episcopal mission to spend the night. Brown writes,
It was the fourth day after Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 1890. When the first torn and bleeding bodies were carried into the candlelit church, those who were conscious could see the Christmas greenery hanging from the open rafters. Across the chancel front above the pulpit was string a crudely lettered banner: PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN.
Jesus did indeed come to bring good news to the poor. 
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread throughout the entire vicinity. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, being acclaimed by everyone. 16 He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He began by saying to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4 (HCSB)
Jesus believed in good news now and in the future. His kingdom is now and not yet. His kingdom can be enjoyed now by anyone, but in the future by those who receive him.

Many tribes accepted Christ and many didn’t. It seemed their affiliation with the same god did little to change the racist patronizing relationship the whites had with them. The only group that consistently gets recognized by historians for a Christlike attitude toward Indians was the Quakers. After one purging of the corrupt Board of Indian Affairs so many Quakers were hired the agency was accused of being an arm of the church. Occasionally American soldiers recognized the full humanity and dignity of their charges/opponents/enemies and resorted to interacting with Indians as equals. Man after such man found their military careers short-circuited. The issue always came down to money with the Indians and land. A reservation would be set apart by treaty and whites were forbidden to enter it by the same treaty. But whites were hardly ever subject to enforcement on that part of the treaty and they would settle and farm or ranch or mine then cry for justice when the Indians wanted them off their land. The government would swoop in and make a lowball offer with the threat that if the new treaty wasn’t accepted the land would be outright taken, a classic protection racket. The promised money paid in food and goods over a certain length of time was never kept in full. Instead, corrupt whites would take cuts from the supply en route and leave a trickle for the Indians who had sold for a fixed price. If that weren’t bad enough, invading whites would complain about the lazy Indians who didn’t work but lived on handouts from their taxes. However, if whites had sold millions of acres to the United States and received monthly payments they would have no incentive to work either. The concept of payment for land had morphed into welfare for savages, something to be weaned from.

Human rights might begin with us giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Not every perceived slight is done with malice. Not every story is that simple to analyze. Not every problem is due to skin color or politics or religion or history. What I want to know is what makes the Quakers different? What I want to know is when will Christians en masse embrace the Christmas story in Luke 2?
8 In the same region, shepherds were living out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for you see, I announce to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 because today in the city of David was born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! (HCSB)
I hope as you read my posts on human rights and native americans and other book reports you are moved toward bringing Christ's peace with you to others throughout the year.


dmarks said…
Great post

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