and I guess I'm a self-appointed preacher. And maybe the whole Native American religion thing kinda gets a free pass. I find people are not only tolerant, they are interested, accepting, very supportive.
I'm really quite grateful for that because I see other religions (yeah, yours) getting hashed, bashed, trashed. And I probably shouldn't even say this but in our religion, bashing somebody else's religion is like a cardinal sin (even though we don't really have an exact equivalent for "sin"). It was told to me very sternly:
"We are all seated in a circle, we are all facing the center, looking at the light. And each of us can only see the side of the light that we are facing. And none of us knows, none of us can know what the light looks like to the person on the other side." (Tom Bedonnie, Dineh Nation)
People seem to like it when I sing and I'm not sure they even know but most of those songs are prayers and singing them is an act of worship. The songs are prized beyond compare. They are as precious to us as life itself, they are life itself.
One cool thing, I wrote pastor Baldwin one time when he was describing his whole Dakotas thing was pastor, is there room in your people for one such as I of a different religion? He wrote back two words: yes, absolutely. And that just made me glow inside. Kinda makes me mist up.
The native relationship to Christianity is complex to say the least. It's the "dominant religion" in the same way many natives call...you guys for lack of better words the "dominant culture". But all over the place you find Christian indians. And Christianity seems to settle right on top our our tradition so...easily. Even the great Chiricahua warrior, one of the greatest warriors of all time, your name for him means "death from above", Goyanthley, Ge-Hron-Im-Aho, Geronimo said:
"In the old ways we hoped that familial and tribal relationships would be restored in the next place but we had no way of knowing. It seems that Christianity is a more direct path to the Great Spirit."
He didn't die happy but he did die a Christian. I can't wait to meet this guy.
My personal position? I'm very curious about all religions (though I'm quite happy with my own) and it seems that faith forms a common bond almost globally. And it seems that if you understand a bit about a person's faith that makes them at the very least PREDICTABLE. You kinda know how to act and what buttons not to push so you can get along better.
Respecting someone's faith, giving them time and space to pray, never put any object on top of a bible, koran, book of Mormon, whatever sacred text, never touch a Hasidic woman not even to shake hands, do not let your shadow cross an elder in a hogan, these little things go such a long way to fostering trust. These days I'm seeing it's all about trust. Somehow trust is the value of the future.
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