Acknowledged. Now What?
Know that the Lord your God, who is crossing over before you, is an all-consuming fire! God will wipe them out! God will subdue them before you! Then you will take possession of their land, eliminating them quickly, exactly as the Lord told you. – Deuteronomy 9:3 (CEB)
How do we contend with scripture that not only praises the conquest of indigenous people, but presents it as a divine promise to the conquerors? It’s not just our faith that is built on this conquest. In the U.S., our literal churches are built on conquered, stolen, colonized land. This is not new information. We have known this. Now what?
Some churches and other organizations make Land Acknowledgements, naming the original inhabitants and stewards of the land. Awareness is a start, yet often it doesn’t go beyond acknowledgement. We said it out loud, let’s move on. There’s no engagement, repentance, or restoration. What does it accomplish for those who were and continue to be harmed? Just a feel-good moment for the one saying it, a false sense that something meaningful has been accomplished.
So now what? I don’t have an answer. At least not an answer beyond continuing to acknowledge, confront, and wrestle with this and myriad other harms and sins that have been committed against various people in the name of Christianity. We can acknowledge that this is unsettling and uncomfortable work, yet it is critical. Read, preach, and critique these troubling scriptures. Uncover, name, and repent of our wrongs. Seek authentic relationships with those who have been harmed, listening for calls to repair. Respond in material, meaningful ways and not react with easy words and rituals.
Now what? I can’t say for sure. But I can listen.
Holy One: Pray us through acknowledgement to action.
Chris Mereschuk is an Unsettled Pastor in the Southern New England Conference with a call to transitional ministry.