“God is Red” excerpt

I’m reading Vine Deloria Jr.’s God is Red: A Native View of Religion this weekend. I’m working on some questions about whether Native American spirituality and the Christian tradition are in any way compatible, and if so, how. Deloria’s book is biting, funny, sarcastic, and equally critical of both what he terms the fundamentalist religious right and the “tired” mainline Protestant denominations. I find him a bit generic and overly sweeping when he talks about the Christian tradition, but the one-liners are definitely enough to make the book enjoyable, even if I disagree with some of what he says about what Christians believe. (Like a lot of others, his vision of Christian theology has been overly shaped by the 70s and 80s evangelical movement, in which Culture Wars politics dominated properly theological concerns. They still dominate properly theological concerns in some quarters.) Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some passages from God is Red with brief comment.

On the meaning of the Civil Rights movement and why Indians rarely joined it:

What happened in the 1960s and 1970s is that, in all probability, the logic of Western culture and the meaning of the Christian worldview that supported the institutions of Western culture were outrun by the events of the time. The brotherhood of man may be a noble ideal, but can it be achieved in any society that is not homogeneous? Probably not, we discovered. At a certain point in the struggle for realization, it became apparent that the goals of the Civil Rights movement could not be achieved because people did not subscribe to them and because the goals were, after all, abstract projections of an ideal world, not descriptions of a real world.

The collapse of the Civil Rights movement, the concern with Vietnam and the war, the escape to drugs, the rise of power movements, and the return to Mother Earth can all be understood as desperate efforts of groups of people to flee abstract articulations of belief and superficial values and find authenticity wherever it could be found.”

– Vine Deloria, Jr., God is Red: A Native View of Religion, 52-53

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