I am part Native American, through my mother so it counts. For those who might not know many Native American tribes have matrilineal decent, similar to Jewish tradition. My mother was a half-breed and her mother was a full-blood member of the St. Francis Abenaki band. What that means is I can claim to be Native American though I was raised as a white man.
In my early years I was aware of this heritage. Once as a child I was enamored of some frontiersmen on a television show I was watching. When I started pretending to be one of “Roger’s Rangers” my grandmother told me in no uncertain terms that they were murderers and butchers. After that I was always the “Indian” when playing war.
When I got older and started wondering about why we were here, Native American culture was a natural part of the journey. I had heard about Christ from my stepfather’s side of the family (being introduced to Christ as an early teen) but now I was reading “Black Elk Speaks” and “Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions”. One of my favorites was Vine Deloria Jr., the author of “Custer Died For Your Sins” and “God Is Red”. So when I heard he was going to speak at Harvard back in the early ’70s I naturally went to see him.
He was something of a hero to me so it was great to be there and listen to him lecture (I even managed to get a handshake by waylaying him on his way from the Dean’s residence). After the lecture there was a question and answer session, and this man stood up and asked my hero a question. The guy was a minister from some denomination or other, I can’t even remember which. What I remember is how completely Mr. Deloria creamed him by the answer and in the brief exchange that followed. Did I say creamed, it was worse than that. It was like watching someone beat up a dummy, or hit a punching bag. There was absolutely no effective resistance.
When it was over I remember thinking to myself there has to be more to Christianity than what that guy was trying to sell. I mean the white people were running the country! One of the legends I had read was how the Great Spirit met the white man on the shores of the new world and said he (the white man) was welcome if he (the white man) would respect the land and treat his (the Great Spirit’s) red children as brothers. They said they would, but obviously they lied! Did the Great Spirit not know this? Was he powerless to stop it? Was this “man of straw” any kind of representative of this foreign God, who did to my ancestor’s god what Vine Deloria just did to him?
So I started looking.
I realized there had to be only one God, One True God, so to the degree the Great Spirit was a god at all he had to be a manifestation of the One True God. To shorten the story a bit through this and other events I came at last to give my life to Christ, as my Lord and my Savior.
Still, I have never forgotten how foolish that minister looked trying to argue with Mr. Deloria, but the thing I remember most about it is how it made me realize I had to look for myself.
The point is, for this heart and mind at least, Mr. Deloria was ultimately beaten by that straw man. It was the utter lack of effective resistance that raised the question in my mind.
Isn’t the universe a wonderful place. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.