Defying Power Elites: In God is Red, Vine Deloria explains how Christianity is the root cause of this great weakness of the US, the inability to respect or tolerate those who are different

In God is Red, Vine explains how Christianity is the root cause of this great weakness of the US, the inability to respect or tolerate those who are different.

When engaged in warfare the US has always applied the principle of overkill and mercilessly stamped its opposition into dust…this country has never made a successful peace because peace requires exchanging ideas, concepts, thoughts and recognizing the fact that two distinct systems of life can exist together without conflict.  Consider how quickly America seems to be facing its allies of one war as enemies.

The future of humankind lies waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up their responsibilities to all living things.  Who will listen to the trees, the animals, the birds, the voices of the places of the land?  As the long-fogotten peoples of the respective continents rise and begin to reclaim their ancient heritage, they will discover the meaning of the lands of their ancestors…that for this land, God is red.

As Tink Tinker said: Vine Deloria spelled out the communitarian-individualist difference between Indian and Euro-western cultures.  These category distinctions are now the foundation for any genuine, analytical understanding of any particular Indian culture and for Indian intellectual thought in general.”

VD, p. xv.  “In those days before interstate highways when roads were often two ruts along the side of a fence, it was possible to observe the places up close and so indelible memories accrued around certain features of the landscape because of the proximity of the place and because of the stories that went with them – details that other people had missed or never knew.  I came to revere certain locations and passed the stories along as best I could…It seemed to me that the remembrance of human activities at certain locations vested them with a kind of sacredness that could not have been obtained otherwise.  Gradually I began to understand a distinction in the sacredness of places.  Some sites were sacred in themselves.  Others had been cherished by generations of people and were now part of their history and, as such, revered by them and part of their very being.”

Xvi: Reflecting back on the old men I observed as a boy and the utter sincerity of their belief, their humility and hesitancy to rush forward with answers to important questions, in writing the book I was led back to a great appreciation of our religious traditions.  I’ve gradually been led to believe that the old stories must be taken literally if at all possible that deep secrets and a deeper awareness of the complexity of our universe was experienced by our ancestors, and that something of their beliefs and experiences can be ours once again.

(reminding of Papua New Guinea book/story of initiation)

Sacredness is not restricted to any particular group of people and their beliefs.  Yet an examination of tribal traditions will show that Indian paths to an encounter with the Great Mystery of life were generally straight and fulfilling…bevy of stories about how the people used spiritual powers to live, and these powers are almost always made available to us in a sacred place where time and space do not define the terms of the experience….As I have gained knowledge and seen others share their visions with me, I conclude that our ancestors lived in a strange condition in which they were in touch with the spirits constantly, and I see that as a goal for our present activities.  Space, as defined in this book, is determinative of the way that we experience things.  Time is subservient to it because to have time, there must be a measurable distance to travel during which time can pass.  Thus to say that the world has many sacred spaces—worlds under or within…It is this unbroken connection that we have with the spirit world that will allow us to survive as a people.

p. 4 The Passamaquoddys and Penobscots of Maine still possessed a letter from George Washington that he sent at the beginning of the Revolutionary War asking them to please side with the colonists.

p. 70 it would seem likely that whereas religions that are spatially determined can create a sense of sacred time that originates in the specific location, it is exceedingly difficult for a religion, one bound to history (and judgment) to incorporate sacred places into its doctrines.  Space generates time, but time has little relationship to space – as close as we can come – eventual distillation of concepts and symbols.

p. 72  We are inevitably involved, whether we like it or not, with time; but when attempting to explain the nature of our experiences, we are often not necessarily involved with spatial considerations once we have taken time seriously.  Ethics – involve principles but not people. Ideology…

Spatial thinking requires that ethical systems be related directly to the physical world and real human situations, not abstract principles, are believed to be valid at all times and under all circumstances…If time becomes our primary consideration, we never seem to arrive at the reality of our existence in places but instead are always directed to experiential and abstract interpretations rather than to the experiences themselves.

The meaninglessness and alienation discernible in our generation results partially from our allowing time to consume space.

p. 73  Ecology, the new left politics, self-determination of goals by local communities, and citizenship participation all seem to be efforts to recapture a sense of place and a rejection of the traditional American dependence on progress—a temporal concept—as the measure of American identity.

Regional development authorities/schemes

Theological considerations have fluctuated from Fundamentalism to social gospel and back.  If we consider the social gospel and activist church involvement in social problems such as Civil Rights as an indication of concern with the problems of this world and land, we can find even in the theological movements of the past generation a movement away from temporal considerations (removed from the land and concrete realities).  It is doubtful if American society can move very far or very significantly without a major revolution in theological concepts….(search for exotic/Eastern religions and) rejection of traditional mainline denominations for the simplicity of Fundamentalism all seem to indicate that a comprehensive effort to derive a new religious conception of the world is badly needed.

p. 74.  While Christianity can project the reality of the afterlife—time and eternity—it appears to be incapable of providing any reality to the life in which we are here and now presently engaged—space and the planet Earth….In a very real sense, the quest is for the religious insight of American Indians and the feeling of authenticity that Indians project

p. 75…retracing the steps taken centuries before by Indian tribes as they attempted to come to grips with this land.

Intro to second edition published in 1992:  It is time for the people to gather and perform their old ceremonies and make a final effort to renew the earth and its peoples—hoofed, winged, and others.  Many of these ceremonies are performed on behalf of the earth, all humans, and the other forms of life…the struggle is between a religious view of life and the secularization that science and industry (and deification of the needs and lifestyles of the elite) have brought.

I felt that the various Indian protests had a much deeper meaning than simply securing additional lands for reservations.  At the bottom of everything, I believed then and continue to believe, is a religious view of the world that seeks to locate our species within the fabric of life that constitutes the natural world, the land and all its various forms of life.  As long as Indians exist there will be conflict between the tribes and any group that carelessly despoils the land and the life it supports.  At the deepest philosophical level our universe must have as a structure can best be understand as a recognition of the sacredness of places….It will take a continuing protest from an increasingly large chorus to reprogram the psychology of American Society so that we will not irreversibly destroy the land we live on.  Today our society is still at a primitive aesthetic stage of appreciating the personality of our lands, but we have the potential to move beyond mere aesthetics and come to some deep religious realizations of the role of sacred places in human life.

Natural peoples and hybrid peoples….peoples from the Near East—the peoples from the Hebrew, Islamic, and Christian religious traditions—first adopted the trappings of civilization and then forced a peculiar view of the natural world on succeeding generations.  The planet, in their view, is not our natural home and is, in fact, ours for total exploitation.  We are today reaching the “nth” term in this sequence of exploitation and face ecological disasters of such complete planetary scope as to surpass our wildest imagination.  Only a radical reversal of our attitudes toward nature can help us…It is extremely disturbing to see so many Americans wanting to clear cut the ancient forests, overgraze the remaining grasslands, and use the precious water of the continents for frivolous consumption purposes.  In the US we stand but a few dry years from ecological disasters that we cannot begin to fathom.  Yet we see our government busy authorizing the destruction…

p. 305  It remains for us to learn once again that we are a part of nature, not a transcendent species with no responsibilities to the natural world…We may well become one of the few species in this vast universe that has permanently ruined our home.

Appendix 1, p. 297