Question: Enclosed is a copy of Native Reflections, newsletter of the Wesleyan Native American Ministries, Fall 1997. What I read in it was disturbing to me. I am a full-blood Indian and I was saved and delivered from all these false beliefs that these men are now advocating. Could you respond to this in your newsletter?
Response: The newsletter refers favorably to “the sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe” which according to Lakota tradition (now embraced by Phil Jackson, Chicago Bull’s coach, who rejected his Christian upbringing) came from “the White Buffalo Calf Woman [who] brought a holy message to the people...on how to live in ways that respect and honor the interconnectedness of all things....” All things are not interconnected, nor did White Buffalo Calf Woman bring a “holy message.” This myth is an unholy message of false gods. The newsletter condones paganism in order not to offend Native culture.
The newsletter mentions “Rev. Richard Twiss” (a Lakota Indian) and his concern that native Americans (also known as First Nation people) have rejected the gospel of Christ because it has not been presented to them “within the contexts of their spiritual, traditional, and ceremonial life experiences.” But for the gospel to be presented in the context of paganism and idolatry is to confuse and pervert the truth of Christ. Nowhere in the Bible do we read of God’s truth being presented in the Old Testament in the context of the paganism all around Israel, nor in the New Testament in the context of apostate Judaism or in the context of the false religions of the pagan Roman Empire. Rather, the gospel opposes these religions.
The emphasis throughout the newsletter is upon the alleged need to honor “the God-given culture and way of life of the First Nation people.” Typical is the statement that “It is time to affirm the Native American culture and way of life.” Twiss is in the forefront of what is described as a “new movement God is setting in motion ...[a] new and exciting era of evangelism among the First Nation people....”
But Native American culture with its superstition and idolatry is no more “God-given” than is Western culture with its high-tech hedonism. Native drumming is no better than hard rock. The Bible says “all have sinned” (Rom:3:23). Native Americans were involved in sinful practices long before the white man came along, as was the white man before coming to America. Furthermore, Native culture is loaded with occult beliefs and practices, including the worship of rocks, trees and sky and of the spirits that allegedly live in these things: the very perversion Romans condemns—worship of the creation instead of the Creator.
Twiss is touted for having “worked with International Bible Society [and] Promise Keepers...[and] is a consultant on racial reconciliation for Promise Keepers.” It is also stated that “Promise Keepers asked Christian Native American men to host the ‘Standing In The Gap’ gathering in Washington [D.C.] on October 4.” Those who watched the event noted participation by a Native American in full headdress (an Indian war bonnet). Wearing the eagle feathers has a pagan and anti-Christian religious (not just cultural) meaning. Joseph Epes Brown, biographer of Sioux medicineman Black Elk, explains:
The Indian actually identifies himself with, or becomes, the quality or principle of the being or thing which comes to him in a vision, whether it be a beast, bird, one of the elements, or really any aspect of creation. In order that this “power” may never leave him, he always carries with him some material form representing the animal or object from which he has received his “power”....
In wearing the eagle-feathered “war bonnet,” the wearer actually becomes the eagle, which is to say that he identifies himself, his real Self, with Wakan-Tanka [the Great Spirit which Wanbli Galeshka (the Spotted Eagle) represents]. (Joseph Epes Brown, The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 7,45).
The newsletter declares, “When we come to Christ, Jesus does not ask us to abandon one sin-stained culture only to embrace another sin-stained culture.” The newsletter complains that missionaries to Native Americans made the mistake of calling the latter’s culture pagan and trying to get them to adopt the white man’s culture.
It is wrong to impose “white man’s culture” on anyone. It is essential, however, to abandon paganism. Oddly, the flawed thesis of the newsletter is exposed in its own explanation of the difference between Indian culture and Western culture: “A Native American worldview sees life with God and the supernatural as something that surrounds them all the time...their sacred ways are felt to be inseparable from the ordinary....In Western culture’s compartmentalized view of life (sacred vs. secular, natural vs. spiritual), religion is a segment of life, where for Native people it is a way of life.” (Emphasis in original)
Thus the newsletter admits that Native culture is inextricably linked with native religion. Native religion is pagan and it permeates native culture. Clearly, then, the pagan elements in the culture must be abandoned if one is to come to Christ.
Abraham was called out of paganism. The Old Testament makes a clear distinction between the paganism of the nations surrounding them and the holiness to which Israel was called. Israel was condemned for trying to mix its God-given worship with the idolatry of its neighbors. There is never a hint that any culture or religion or way of life of any peoples outside of Israel was “God-given,” as the newsletter claims for Native American culture/religion.
The book of Acts records the gospel being given to various cultures and always there is a clear break from paganism: “...how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God” (1 Thes:1:9). There is never a suggestion that Christianity was to adapt itself to any pagan culture, as the quoted newsletter demands by way of special respect for Native Americans.
Here we see just one more problem with Promise Keepers. We praise God when the gospel is preached and 1 million men fall on their faces in Washington, D.C. to repent; but there is confusion because of compromise. Not only does PK embrace Roman Catholicism as the true gospel, but in its zeal for “racial reconciliation” it embraces elements of Native American paganism as well.