This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wildgoose 2: Richard Twiss.

            I first ventured over to the Coffee Barn to hear Richard Twiss, a Native American ex-evangelical whom I had heard of.  The Coffee Barn venue was where presenters were encouraged to tell their own personal stories.  This is what Twiss did, beginning with his grandparents who were taken from their families at age 5, according to federal policy at the time, and made to attend boarding schools where the teachers and staff attempted to literally beat their Native American language and heritage out of them.  There were horrible documented abuses in these schools for generations.  And, though funded by the federal government, many of them were run by Christian churches.  “This was our introduction to the good news,” quipped Twiss.  It is no wonder that Christianity still gains little traction in Native American communities.  Twiss had little good to say about missionaries and mission-trips coming onto reservations even today.
            Twiss entered adulthood virulently anti-Christian, and got involved in the American Indian Movement in the 1970’s, participating in a takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington.  But then, while under the influence of various chemicals, he had an experience of Jesus Christ which changed the direction of his life.  Having been claimed by Jesus directly, Twiss figured he now needed to hang with other Christians, so he became an evangelical.  But he found that this community also demanded that he reject his Native American heritage and culture.  After a few years of this he left evangelicalism and set out on his own new path of integrating Native American spirituality into his faith in Jesus.  He prefers to call this “the Jesus Way,” rather than “Christianity,” which still has so much bad baggage.  He says he found that being a “Christian” complicated and even hindered the experience of following Jesus.
            Twiss asks where Native or Indigenous spiritualities fit into the story of biblical faith.  For one thing, he sees the Trinity as a radical community expressed in diversity.  The whole of creation beings and ends with diversity.  In fact, unity is only possible where diversity exists.  This is contrary to dualism, which divides the sacred from the secular. 
            Twiss encouraged his audience to repeat the litany, “I am ethno-centric and narrow-minded, with limited vision,” as an antidote to the normal arrogance and self-righteousness of Western Christians.  There are no exceptions.  We absolutely don’t know anything absolutely.  We need each other’s understanding of the Bible.  Until we can come into relationship with those who are different, we can’t know how God is present with them.  In an Indigenous way of thinking, we are all relatives.  And in this confession, Twiss includes all living beings.
            Twiss’ talk was accompanied by two costumed Native American dancers, with recorded music.  He noted that in his tradition, dances are prayers.  He himself ended his talk with a chant in Lakota.    

1 comment:

Cornelia Seigneur said...

Richard's great man of God- thanks for sharing

cornelia seigneur