When I was at Standing Rock, one of the main events was when 500+ clergy gathered around the Sacred Fire for a formal repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery. This Doctrine is Pope Alexander VI’s 1493 theological rationale for colonialism. It basically means that the newly discovered continents and their inhabitants were fair game for any kind of predatory exploitation that a Christian nation wanted to exercise. It is the root reason why companies today think they can do whatever they want with the land and people, especially Native land and people.
The fact that this pernicious doctrine was promulgated by a Christian leader, adopted by Christian States, rationalized and exploited by Christian churches, and continues to enrich many Christian people is a big problem. It automatically puts Christians on the side of the petrochemical industry and the government and militarized police they have bought.
The church’s rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery has to be more than making denominational statements and burning pieces of paper. The same 2016 Presbyterian General Assembly that voted formally to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery, also voted not to divest from the fossil fuel industry. This means that while I was standing on one side of the barricade blocking highway 1806, my denomination, for all its indignant and righteous words, had its/my money on the other side, with the pipeline builders. We talk all post-colonialism and anti-imperialism, but our investments continue to underwrite gross injustice and ecological degradation. Instead of paying attention to the implications of our repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, MRTI chose to cynically manipulate the GA process in the name of Big Oil. This makes us disgraceful hypocrites.
At some point we as a denomination are going to have to put our money where our mouth is. Otherwise, all our wonderful talk and inspiring visuals about inclusion and justice will be revealed as little more than window-dressing.