taking the words of Jesus seriously

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article on “The American Way” is the first in a 4-part series to deconstruct the Western, settler-colonial worldview and to #ResurrectEloheh

The American, Western way of thinking and living, though replete with problems, is not completely evil. Unfortunately, though, the “American Way” (the current social-religious-economic systems in operation and the foundations that undergird those systems) is incapable of leading us past the current major hurdles we face such as climate change, racial strife, and assumed patriarchies. What is the root problem? The problem is moral and spiritual but even more, it is one of worldview.

Our current American, settler-colonial, cultural morality and spirituality are developed from a particular worldview. For example, how we understand nature is firmly rooted in the particular ways in which we view the world. From a Western worldview, nature is to be studied, harnessed, developed and exploited. From an Indigenous worldview, humanity is formed by nature — not the opposite. In an Indigenous worldview we are intricately related to all other parts of creation. This worldview, when it was the dominant worldview on Turtle Island (America), generally produced harmony and a relatively light impact on the earth, at least up until the spread of settler-colonialism and modern capitalism.

When considering the damage done to Indigenous peoples by settler-colonialism, there is an informed historical critique to be made. Colonial powers throughout the world disregarded the human rights of Indigenous peoples, committing murder, rape, and untold atrocities. Both the government and settlers alike stole our lands, extracted the earth’s resources, and framed the Indigene as either noble and naïve at best, and as godless savages in the worst cases.

The attempted genocide committed against Native Americans was rationalized and defended, oftentimes, from the Christian scriptures. Christians — both Protestant and Roman Catholic —
were often not only complicit in these acts but even served as the engine driving genocidal crusades against Indigenous peoples. To say the very least, the church benefitted momentously from our Indigenous misery and justified it all through the Doctrines of Discovery and other theological-social rationale such as Manifest Destiny, Residential Boarding Schools, and harmful Indian policy.

White supremacy and “cowboy theology” isn’t something just of the past. My family and I established Eloheh, an Indigenous learning center, community and farm in 2004. We were bursting at the seams hosting weekend schools for about 50 people, running job training for Native people, recovery groups, leadership, etc. All that came to an abrupt end. Within a few years, we were driven out by a group of white supremacists with a .50 caliber machine gun. We lost everything and are just now beginning to fully recover, relocating again, and restoring the Eloheh/Eagle’s Wings vision of an Indigenous learning center, regenerative farm, and spiritual community.

The weapon of colonization was driven primarily by the sin of greed. Today, with the same genocidal trends, capitalism — especially as fueled by modern industry and the practices of corporate extraction on a global level — has been the preferred weapon of warfare against Indigenous peoples all around the world.

More so, this underlying anti-Christ philosophy has become a weapon of mass destruction aimed at the earth itself. Blaming an abstracted causality such as humanity or blaming humanity through theological justifications such as sin is easily and often flippantly done. And perhaps, in some ways, it is just as dismissive for Indigenous peoples to blame the church for its complicity. If harmony is to be restored, we all must assume responsibility.

What is at stake now is not one person’s problem nor one organization’s task to fix; not the churches alone, nor even the responsibility of one individual government. The problem to solve now belongs to all humanity.

READ: How Making Friends with Indigenous People Changed My Life

Humankind must rethink what it thinks it knows, and act differently than it has in the past. We must see things as they are; namely, that the whole community of creation is our relative, as is each race and gender on earth. Our relationship and our concerns go even deeper when we consider the present status is not one consisting primarily of love, but one expressed through the acts of genocide, fratricide, patriarchy, and ecocide. These weaponized philosophies are not acts of love and do not reflect the God of love.

Humanity must stop denying our culpability in our present relationships and face reality. To the earth and our eco-systems, for example, we must begin to accept our current status as it is. In the eyes of the earth and all her creatures, we are criminals of the worst kind. We are the rapist of the earth, and we are complicit in the murders of whole species of plants, insects, birds, and animals at a widespread and unprecedented rate.

Men must treat sisters as equals. White folks must treat people of color with the same dignity they afford themselves. The wealthy must give to the poor and empower them as needed. This is not about socialism or capitalism or any particular system; it is simple love, and it is what Jesus taught.

While there is plenty enough room for blame to go around, I do not wish to dwell on that; only to say, the dire situation demands we must all accept responsibility now if we intend to make a change. We must see beyond the self-reflecting mirror pointing to our culpability and be willing to see the monster standing behind us, namely, the monster of the Western worldview.

Incremental successes are not nearly enough to make the drastic changes needed now. We must seek radical change and enact it immediately. In order to not make the same mistakes of the past, we must examine the DNA of the worldview that made us captive to our genocidal tendencies. We must ask ourselves, what monster would turn those who say they follow Jesus, those whose life and death may be understood as the very definition of love, to kill, steal and destroy in his name?

Randy Woodley and his wife Edith are co-sustainers of Eloheh/Eagle’s Wings, www.eloheh.org in Oregon. He has written several books including Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision. The Woodleys are currently in a campaign to “Resurrect Eloheh” so they can purchase land in the American Southwest for the new Eloheh Farm, Indigenous learning center, and spiritual community. Please consider supporting their efforts at www.gofundme.com/ResurrectEloheh.

About The Author


Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley is an activist/scholar and distinguished speaker, teacher and wisdom keeper who addresses a variety of issues concerning American culture, faith, justice, our relationship with the earth and Indigenous realities. His expertise has been sought in national venues as diverse as The Huffington Post, Moody Radio and Time Magazine. Dr. Woodley currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Faith and Culture and Director of Intercultural Studies at George Fox University/Portland Seminary. Dr. Woodley has presented at a number of distinguished lectureships including the Hayward Lectures, the Stoutemire Lectures on Diversity and the Augsburger Lectures in Mission. Besides dozens of book chapters, magazine and journal articles, his books include "Decolonizing Evangelicalism: An 11:59pm Conversation" (Wipf & Stock, 2020), "The Harmony Tree: A Story of Healing and Community" (Friesen, 2016), "Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision" (Eerdmans, 2012), and "Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity "(Intervarsity, 2004). Randy was raised near Detroit, Michigan and is a legal descendent of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. Randy is also a past member of the Oregon Dept. of Education American Indian/Alaska Native Advisory Board.

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