Wednesday, January 19, 2011


NOTE: Due to those pesky computer gremlins we all occasionally deal's a Wednesday post!

In 2002 Kim and I traveled to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico as part of a unique work camp mission program.  We spent a week working and living among the Dine people.  We learned about the amazing culture with all its traditions and stories.  We learned so much about the similarities between Christianity and the 'Navajo Way'.  Being part of this program has been an integral part of our spiritual growth.

Dr. Carlos Gonzalez
I thought a lot about our dear Navajo friends this week and all Native American tribes people across the country.  I've thought about how, as a collective people, they must have felt proud to see one of their own, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, give the opening blessing at the remembrance ceremony for the victims of the shootings in Tucson last week.

As I watched Dr. Gonzalez perform the blessing I began to feel uneasy.  Not because of anything he said or did, but because he was so wonderfully different.  I felt proud for him, but I remember telling my wife as we watched that I wouldn't be surprised if there would be displeasure with his blessing and just the inclusion of him, a Native American in the ceremony. Naturally, at the ceremony's conclusion the punditry commenced.  The negative reaction and ridicule directed toward this Pascua Yaqui man was, as has so long been the case in this nation, one of ignorance.

Here are some of the specific words that were used by both media and Internet bloggers reacting to Dr. Gonzalez blessing: 'rambling', 'babbling', 'ugly', 'pantheistic', 'paganism' and the one that really bothered me, 'peculiar'.

The blessing referred to Mother Earth and Father Sky.  He called for prayers on all present at the event from the 4 directions of East, West, North and South.  In the blessing he also called for prayers for all of the world's creatures to be blessed by the Creator.  Finally, he asked that peace, balance and harmony be restored to the people and the community that had suffered such a terrible tragedy.

Why is it that when something is different, when something is unfamiliar or is, as a friend of mine recently wrote, 'the other' some people act with disrespect, fear and ridicule.  I'd say it's mostly because of ignorance.

This past Sunday my good friend, Ben Saunders gave a brief presentation at our church about his new
documentary film project, 'Blank Street'.   For most of the summer, Ben traveled around the state of Virginia filming the faces of poverty and misfortune.  He got to know people who are different.  I thought about the significance of his film and his attempt to give a voice to the voiceless or, to put it more bluntly, the ignored.  I thought of my Navajo friends in New Mexico and how so many people don't know the beauty of the Dine people or any of the numerous Native American tribes and their cultures.  They live in this country and are virtually ignored.  I think of how so many people have no idea as to how these wonderful spiritual people, the only fully authentic Americans, have suffered from hundreds of years of hate, ignorance and the ridiculousness because of something called 'manifest destiny'. 

I am so thankful to the Creator that I have such a wonderful friend in my Navajo brother named, John Henderson.  He is without a doubt one of the most proud, spiritual, respectful and peaceful people I have ever encountered.  I am a better person because of his 'way' and his unselfish giving to show me and others the importance of his culture.  Is that 'peculiar'? I think about my friend and all Native American peoples across this land, it saddens me that in 2011 people are still so ignorant of these great people and all that they have to offer the rest of us. 

Kim and I have been so fortunate and blessed that the Creator has seen fit to allow us the opportunity to be among these people and to learn and experience the world and people around us in such a spiritual way.

I thought too of Martin Luther King, Jr. naturally this week and his dream to, " day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." To many then and even sadly, many today, King was and still is viewed as 'peculiar'.  He was eventually murdered by ignorance.

Then I think of Jesus and how he was viewed by those in his day.  The ignorant called him 'peculiar' and he too died because of ignorance, but ignorance was and is forgiven in spite of itself.  Thanks be to God.  Seek the truth and share the goodness of humanity with someone in your midst each and every day.  But be prepared to be labeled 'peculiar'.

I watched this video by Peter, Paul & Mary and felt inspired.  I hope you will too.

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