Changing Our Destiny

Changing Our Destiny

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Given the recent actions of our country – the assassination of a foreign leader justified as necessary to stop a feared attack – it is more important than ever to reflect on how this country sees the world and how we must work to shift that view. It is appropriate to view this current situation through the lens of colonizer and oppressor with attention to this historical moment we find ourselves in – 400 years from the landing of Protestant Christianity on these shores. Until we stop walking the road we paved from the moment we landed – the road whose cobblestones are privilege, entitlement, and Manifest Destiny – we will again and again find ourselves staring at war and asking “how did we get here?” We will continue to pour the concrete of misery and death over the most marginalized in this country and around the world in the name of progress and protection. We will turn further and further away from a God who calls us toward love first, toward preferential options for the poor, toward a new way.
 
As much as we desire to blame one politician, one party, one policy – the truth is that we as a nation operate from a place that was designed for us by our forefathers (yes, fathers). A place that teaches all of us a false construct of who is better, and what is important; of how to live and who is disposable. And much of this understanding of how to be originates in some of the core teachings of colonization and Manifest Destiny. The very idea that our safety, our way of life, our freedom is more important than others, or the earth’s, is fundamentally a colonizing mindset. And it is in direct opposition to the Gospel of servant leadership and sacrifice that Jesus taught and called his followers to emulate. The belief that we are not responsible to one another or the earth – that we have no obligation of reciprocity or restoration – permeates our daily lives. This is a direct byproduct of Manifest Destiny – that if we have it, God must want us to have it; if we put our foot on it, we have the right to claim it by God’s own will for us.
 
The year 2020 has particular historical significance for us, as churches of the United Church of Christ, and in particular as the first churches of the Pilgrims and Puritans. In 1620, the Pilgrims landed, first on Cape Cod, eventually settling in Plymouth as they sought to find a place to practice their religion freely and live as they desired. Now, 400 years later, for better or worse, we are the spiritual ancestors of those European immigrants, who were welcomed to these shores by the inhabitants – the First Peoples of this country. In this year of 2020, I want to call upon our churches to spend some time learning about the impact – then and now – of the way Christians came to these shores. They were in search of freedom and safety, yes. And they came with a sense of Manifest Destiny. Those core beliefs and understandings resonate even today in the way we live and move and have our being.
 
Let us take some time to consider the significance of the year 2020 for us as the church of the Pilgrims and Puritans with an emphasis on our impact historically and in the present on the Indigenous communities we encountered, sought to eradicate and continue to marginalize as a nation. I want to invite us to reflect on how the way we think, behave – even pray – have been influenced by a mindset of colonization and Manifest Destiny. I want to invite us to consider how we as a church and as individuals can think in new ways and learn from those who have been most impacted by our colonizing behavior. To ask how we can begin to repair broken relationships and build bridges of mutuality so we might walk into the next 400 years as church from a place more pleasing to the Holy One. I want to challenge our churches to consider their history and impact on the land in light of the First Peoples who were here before us.
 
So as we turn again to face the possibility of war, I want to invite us to not just react – but to reflect. While we pray and fast and march – all things I plan to do – let us also seek to understand how our lives mirror the road that led us to this place. We must make a fundamental change in who we are in order to change this path we are on. And it must begin with a single step.
 
Let us use this year for deepening commitment to the path of Jesus as we recall the story that initiated the coming of our churches to these shores. Let us look to the stories of Native Americans and the wisdom they would share to reconnect what was interrupted by fear and power mongering. Resources for you and your church to begin learning and reflecting on this history and present will be available soon, linked from this page and announced in Ever Flowing Streams.
 
In the coming weeks we will be continuing this conversation of how we can begin again – taking steps that will hopefully lead us into repentance, restoration and repair. In the meantime, let us denounce the path we are on – pray for peace and work for justice. The United Church of Christ has called upon the churches and individuals to fast and pray for peace that we might not go to war with Iran. Let us pray for open hearts and open minds that we might truly be able to see another way, to make space for wisdom we have not yet honored to echo in our hearts so deeply that we must respond. Let us pray for open space for the voices of those who know the margins, that we can hear the wisdom of those who have survived even in the midst of a nation that seeks to destroy them – Indigenous communities, people of color, people experiencing poverty, disability, homelessness, and all those who do not fall in the center of access and protection. Let us pray for ears to hear, and strength to change. In Christ’s name.  Amen.

Author

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Kelly Gallagher

The Rev. Kelly Gallagher is an Associate Conference Minister for the Southern New England Conference.

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