Richard Twiss: Getting comfortable with ambiguity
Written by W. Evan Golder
July 2, 2011

Photo: W. Evan Golder

Theologically speaking, Richard Twiss describes himself as a recovering evangelical and a former Catholic. But, he says, the labels don’t matter as much as the life a person lives.

A member of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, Twiss travels the world, asking the question, What does it mean to be human, especially in the light of Jesus and his teachings? He puts forth a vision of native persons being accepted as co-equals in the life of the church.

"My intent is to rescue theology from the cowboys," he says, to the laughter of the audience.  "They want us think about theology the way they do."

"I ask, Why?"

One question he asks goes straight to the heart of the problem.

Can the myths, stories, legends and texts of indigenous societies be considered as valid and credible as the myths, stories, legends and texts of the Bible in explaining the origin of the world?

When many in the audience shouted out, Yes!, he added, "When Columbus arrived, wandering lost around the Caribbean, the God of the Bible, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was already here."

"Do I believe in the story of Noah and the ark?" he asked. "Yeah. But do I believe it archeologically? I don’t think so." He added, "In indigenous cultures, we’re totally comfortable with ambiguity."

"You worry about what to call us," he said. "Indians? American Indians? Natives? Native Americans? First Nation peoples? Indigenous persons? Aboriginals? But how about us? What are we supposed to call white people? Whitey? Caucasians? Anglos? Palefaces? Euro-Americans? White Americans? Honkeys? Q-tips? Caspers? What about pigmentally challenged?

"The main idea is that in our differences, that’s what makes us all beautiful."

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W. Evan Golder
Editor Emeritus, United Church News
,
evandeb@sbcglobal.net