“Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war?. . . What is the cause of your jealousy?” ~Wahunsenacawh (aka Chief Powhatan) to Captain John Smith
“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race… We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade… Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. …It is this tangled web of prejudice from which many Americans now seek to liberate themselves, without realizing how deeply it has been woven into their consciousness.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, 110
An Inconsistent Insistence
When it comes to racial justice many people ask, Why bring up old stuff? Why don’t you just get over it? I wonder the same thing every time July 4th rolls around.
Many people minimize the histories of people of color and insist that we peacefully wait for incremental progress then light up the skies to celebrate the violent overthrow of British oppressors. Why don’t they get over it? Wasn’t that a long time ago? The tyranny the U.S. founders fought against was nothing compared to the tyranny they inflicted on Native Americans and Africans enslaved in America.
The inconsistent insistence on the need to focus on, yet forget history is one of the symptoms of a diseased imagination with paranoid tendencies. Many American evangelicals have aimed this paranoia at CRT, when the real problem is GRT. If not for the original Great Replacement Theory, there would be no occasion for Critical Race Theory. While not arguing for or against its merit at this time, CRT is merely one of many attempts to combat racism.
What if. . . ?
If there weren’t racialized power structures traceable throughout American history, CRT wouldn’t have had any fuel or oxygen to catch fire no matter how many intellectual sparks flew in the halls of academia.
If evangelicals would have taken the lead against racism, they wouldn’t find themselves outside of antiracist movements throwing stones.
If evangelicals were the head instead of the tail in race relations, they would be winning over antiracists who are glad to see followers of Jesus listening to and tangibly loving their disenfranchised, disinherited, disenchanted neighbors.
If evangelicals would stop trying to medicate spiritual impotence with the stimulant of political power, they could revive the power of attraction in their communities.
If evangelicals were practicing the power of love, the Bible says fear would be cast out of their hearts. They would have nothing to fear from the gates of hell itself, let alone academic theories or cultural critiques. So why are so many American evangelicals literally up in arms when we’re told that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal; neither do we wrestle against flesh and blood?
Metanoia and the history of the present
Many American evangelicals are suffering cultural paranoia because they refuse to submit to metanoia. Metanoia is the biblical Greek word for repentance. It’s basic meaning is to turn around – to realize you’re on the wrong trajectory and make a U-turn. The historical failure to do so is one of the main reasons that no matter what some religious spokespeople argue, America is not and never has truly been a Christian nation. Rather than repentance, we have a track record of retrenchment; regressive devolution instead of progressive revelation.
Centuries of squelching the nation’s collective conscience has created irrepressible inner conflicts. Christians who truly seek racial reconciliation must practice metanoia to overcome the growing paranoia expressed by what is hopefully only a loud minority. This begins with an honest appraisal of the history our present is built upon. As Peter d’Errico writes:
“It is not the history of the past but the history of the present telling us where we are. . . and how we got here. The fact that U.S. law is a precedent-based system means that legal history is always a history of the present. Each contemporary case rests on interpretation of previous cases. Therefore, a problem in a precedent case sends shock waves through subsequent cases.”
The ecumenical evolution of the Great Replacement Theory
The original Great Replacement Theory was a religious pandemic that was evangelistic and ecumenical in nature. GRT’s common ground wasn’t based on any classical declarations of faith, but in the subliminal, evolving metanarrative of white supremacy. The theory’s documentation begins with 15th century papal bulls regarding the plunder of Africa and the Americas, spreads through most of Protestantism, and continues through 21st century Supreme Court opinions about Indigenous rights. As we sample documents from the last 500 years, we see Christian Imperialism emanate from Rome and mutate into Christian Nationalism in America.
Protestants and Catholics of various European ethnicities had deadly disagreements about many things over that period, but one thing they held in common during the “Age of Discovery” and beyond was Christian Supremacy. As it metastasized, this Supremacy began discovering its own Whiteness as it contrasted itself with the melanated masses of “pagan,” “heathen,” and “infidel,” people of the world.
The Doctrine of Discovery was and remains the real Great Replacement Theory. It maintains that European Christians are superior to everyone else on the globe and are entitled to claim their land, compel their labor, and coerce their conscience. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the law of love and compassion, yet professed followers sought to justify their larceny and conquest in His name.
We’re not trying to replace you
As we trace this historical trail, it is not with a view to replacing anyone. Rather, to borrow from Charles Lattimore Howard in The Bottom: A Theopoetic of the Streets:
“Our experience is marginalized, and we exist in the margins of influence and control far from the center. Yet, we seek not to displace the existing. . . power structure, but rather to introduce other marginalized voices into the center as well.”
If your religion or philosophy revolves around love, compassion, and empathy, shouldn’t it have space to embrace a reconstructed center that includes those formerly pushed to the margins?
If loving your neighbor as yourself is central to your beliefs, shouldn’t you get acquainted with your neighbor’s story?
How can we move forward as neighbors if we’re unwilling to see how we became neighbors?
The trail behind – the map ahead
The following are a few historical snapshots of how we became neighbors in the Americas. They show who’s been in the center and who’s been marginalized. These excerpts remind us of the trail behind, but don’t show the map ahead.
Just as these documented moments brought us to our present state of disparities and paranoia, through metanoia we can define momentum toward a future established on equal justice, resulting in more domestic tranquility and blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Records that must be reckoned with for reconciliation to be real
“We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] …with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate… pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be… and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the… possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his…use and profit.” Dum Diversas, 1452 by Pope Nicholas V
“We have indeed learned that you… had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands… not hitherto discovered by others, to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants…by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth… give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors… all their… islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered… “Let no one, therefore, infringe, or with rash boldness contravene, this our… gift, grant… mandate…. Should anyone presume to attempt this, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.” Inter Caetera, 1493 by Pope Alexander VI
“Acknowledge the Church as the Ruler and Superior of the whole world…and the high priest called Pope… If you do so, you will do well… and we…shall receive you in all love and charity… But if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully… make war against you in all ways and manners that we can… we shall take you and your wives and children, and shall make slaves of them… and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can… and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault.” Juan López de Palacios Rubios, El Requerimiento, 1513
“Be it known and made manifest that we have given and granted…to our well beloved John Cabot… to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands… or provinces of heathens and infidels… which before this time were unknown to all Christians. John and his sons… may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands… thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess.” Patent Grant, 1496 by King Henry VII
“it is impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, & cover the whole Northern, if not the Southern continent with a people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, & by similar laws: nor can we contemplate, with satisfaction, either blot or mixture on that surface.” Extract from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1801
“On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire… And the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendancy. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new, by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity.”
John Marshall, 1823, Johnson v. McIntosh
“We maintain, that the principle declared in the fifteenth century as the law of Christendom, that discovery gave title to assume sovereignty over and to govern the unconverted natives of Africa, Asia and North and South America… Our claim is based on the right to coerce obedience… Without its assertion and vigorous execution, this continent never could have been inhabited by our ancestors. To abandon the principle now, is to assert that they were unjust usurpers; and that we… should in honesty abandon it, return to Europe…” (Tennessee Supreme Court Judge John Catron, State v Foreman, 1835)
“there was one thing in which they all agreed, that of almost entirely disregarding the right of the native inhabitants to these regions… It thus became a maxim of policy and of law, that the right of the native Indians was subordinate to that of the first Christian discoverer.” (Henry Wheaton, Elements of International Law, p. 166-7)
“It is well settled that…the tribes who inhabited the lands of the States held claim to such lands after the coming of the white man, under what is sometimes termed original Indian title or permission from the whites to occupy… This position of the Indian has long been rationalized by the legal theory that discovery and conquest gave the conquerors sovereignty over and ownership of the lands thus obtained.” (US Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed, Tee Hit Ton Indians v United States, 1955)
“Under the ‘doctrine of discovery…’ fee title [ownership] to the lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign—first the discovering European nation and later the original states and the United States…
“Given… the Oneidas’ long delay in seeking judicial relief… we hold that the tribe cannot unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty, in whole or in part, over the parcels at issue… This long lapse of time, during which the Oneidas did not seek to revive their sovereign control through equitable relief in court… preclude OIN from gaining the disruptive remedy it now seeks.” ~City of Sherrill v Oneida Indian Nation, SCOTUS, 2005, Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Subscribe to ThreeFifths.online to automatically get part 2 in next month’s edition
By Carl McRoy