American Family Association Issues Analyst Brian Fischer believes that Native Americans lost their lands because they were "morally disqualified" to keep them. His first column on the subject was blasted by a Native American advocacy group, his enemies and even his co-workers - one AFA attorney called it "wrong and disturbing." Fischer's claimed that his readers were not mature enough to handle a discussion of his thesis and removed it from the AFA website.
Then last week, Bryan Fischer, found a morally qualified Native American to write about. Fischer claimed that Jamestown's Algonquian princess Pocahontas showed her fellow Native Americans the way to relate to the British - convert to Christianity and learn their ways. Fischer then asserts that her people did not follow her which led to their demise. On point, Fischer wrote (italics):
It's arresting to think of how different the history of the American settlement and expansion could have been if the other indigenous peoples had followed Pocahontas's example. She not only recognized the superiority of the God whom the colonists worshipped over the gods of her native people, she recognized the superiority (not the perfection) of their culture and adopted its patterns and language as her own.
In other words, she both converted and assimilated. She became both a Christian and an American (technically, of course, an Englishman). She melded into European and Christian civilization and made her identity as a Christian and an Englishman her primary identity. She was the first manifestation of what became our national slogan, "E Pluribus Unum," "Out of many, one."
Had the other indigenous people followed her example, their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless. Sadly, it was not to be.
It is true that there was no seamless and bloodless history. But it is not true that indigenous peoples completely rejected Christianity.
According to real historian Mark Noll, the Native Americans were responsive to Christianity after Pocahontas. Prior to 1675, pastors John Elliot and Thomas Mayhew evangelized in Massachusetts leading to converts among the Algonquians and a translation of the Bible into their tongue.
Another example of evangelism described by Noll in his book, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, was the work of Moravian David Zeisberger in Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1748, Zeisberger saw the native people in central Pennsylvania converted and organized into peaceful villages. Fischer clams Native Americans were nomadic. In a way that was true of early Christian Native American converts, but not for the reasons Fischer claims. For instance, Delaware people converted through Zeisberger's work had to relocate multiple times at the insistence of European settlers. During one move in Ohio, savagery was the downfall of a portion of Zeisberger's colony, but the perpetrators of the atrocities were Americans who brutally murdered native men, women and children. After this tragedy, Zeisberger's group found refuge in Ontario and thrived as a Christian settlement.
Fischer's thesis is most clearly devastated by the experience of the Cherokees in the south after the Revolutionary War. The Cherokees signed a treaty with the federal government in 1794 and then settled into a peaceful period where they built roads and villages. They welcomed Christian missionaries which led to many converts among the Cherokee in Northern Georgia and Tennessee. In his book on American Christianity, Noll describes "a slow but steady acceptance of the Christian faith." Noll continues the sad tale (in italics):
During the administration of President Andrew Jackson, however, the evangelism of the missionaries and the work of selective cultural adaptation by the Cherokees both received a fatal blow. After the discovery of gold in Northern Georgia about the time of Jackson's election in 1828, the lust of the White settlers for Cherokee land grew even stronger than before. Jackson and his agents for Indian affairs were eager to give it to them. The result was a forced removal of the Cherokees from Georgia to the West. Despite the fact that the Cherokees had adapted to American ways with remarkable skill, the removal proceeded with ruthless finality. The missionaries, who had come to the Native Americans as bearers of civilization as well as of Christianity, faced a terrible dilemma. They now were forced to watch their country, supposedly the embodiment of Christian civilization, turn violently against a people that had responded to their message.
The United States, bearing the gifts of Christian faith and republican politics, destroyed a tribal people that was working to accept those gifts. Some missionary spokesmen, unlike Worcester, Butler, and the Joneses, played a signal part in that destruction. Such spokesmen were good culture Christians. The agents of Andrew Jackson's Indian policy were democrats. Together they did the devil's work in the name of the Lord and of his "chosen country."
Noll's description is haunting. He repeatedly demonstrates that the Cherokee and other native peoples followed the way of Pocahontas but they were not rewarded with Fischer's "seamless and bloodless" assimilation. Instead, men, women and children were uprooted and brutally forced to march hundreds of miles, many to their deaths, because they were Native Americans. At the time, some Christians, seeing the evil, engaged in civil disobedience to try to prevent the forced relocation. In the present, why can't the American Family Association stop revising history and acknowledge this sad and painful chapter in our history?
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About Dr. Warren Throckmorton
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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