Last week I attended the screening of “We Were Children” and also had the privilege of hearing the stories from those whose parents had gone through residential school. The film follows the story of two Aboriginal children, Lyna and Glen, as they endured residential school in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, respectively. These schools aimed to “kill the Indian in the child”. The effects of physical, emotional and sexual trauma they survived through persist into all aspects of their adult lives. It was such a heavy film to take in…I’m still processing…but here are some thoughts:
The First Nations “problem” we perceive to have today is just the symptom of the incredible brokenness the residential school survivors carried. Many of these children were separated, sometimes forcefully, from their parents from the age of 4 to 18. The schools forbade touching, provided no affection, taught no social or life skills and the rich family-oriented culture they were taken from was effectively erased. In addition, attacks and abuses were heaped on physically, mentally and spiritually. No one believed you even if you told them you were abused because “why would the priests do that”? So you carry the shame, the hurt, the guilt, the anger, the injustice, the rage, the helplessness and hopelessness in silence. Upon “graduating” you were tossed back out into the world but now have no idea how to cope with the new freedoms. No ideas how to be in relationship with others. No idea how to be a husband or a wife or a mother or father. Many turned to alcohol to numb the memories. Many took their own lives. Many left their own wounded children in their wake. And the children of residential school survivors are the First Nations elders we have today. They’ve faced abuse of all sorts simply because their parents (the survivors) didn’t know anything else and many have passed that brokenness on…so the generational curse really does reach into the third and forth generations.
One lady from the Haida tribe shared about her memories from before she was taken into residential school. Their one tribal law was to respect and honor each other. And so they did…everyone’s conduct hinged on this law. Families were tight and loving. Homes were clean and decorated with flowers and seashells. Everyone took care of each others needs. It was a happy time.
Apparently, the atrocities seen in this film is still considered to be a mild version of what some have experienced. I can’t imagine. Also, I was horrified to learn that Hilter’s concentration camps were inspired by the Canadian residential schools. And even more sickened by how these schools were run by various “Christian” churches. What terrible terrible representation of God and His love!! But I am reminded that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) The end of the Story has been written and Christ will conquer. All who trust in Him will not be victims but victors.
Back to our First Nations…how does healing begin?? How does healing reach those wounds from generations back? For those of us bearing Christ’s name, how might we be agents of reconciliation today? The end of the Story might already be written but right now we get to be part of the action. Hearing the stories from Christian First Nations that night bore witness to the incredible power of healing from God. How do we fit into this picture, this journey of healing? That’s what I want to know…and be part of.
Something we’re learning in marriage is that we need to make things OURs. It might be his or my way of doing something…but we need to find OUR way of doing it. Even if it most closely resembles his way. The point isn’t that OUR thing needs to be different from anything in the past but rather that OUR thing is decided upon together in mutual agreement.
When we had gotten married and I first moved to Edmonton, we went through this process in finding a church to call home for a while. Skywalker was previously attending a large, multicultural and vibrant church. It was exactly what he needed in terms of community and ministry in that period of life. But with me in the picture, he couldn’t say it’s what WE needed. So we shared what we value in a church community and then we visited a few before settling on one that we BOTH felt drawn to.
When I had first moved to Vancouver I found a fantastic place of worship. It was the perfect setting for where I was in life. I loved the tight community, the simplicity and the sound teaching. But now that we’re here TOGETHER, I cannot assume it’s the place Skywalker feels right at home in. It might be the place but until we decide on it together, it’s not. So we’re searching.
And we’re trying to not be consumeristic about it…”What’s in it for US?” “Does it have the programs WE like?” “Does it meet all OUR needs?” “Does it suit OUR tastes?” Me me me me. That said, it is important to find a place where WE feel comfortable and where WE can see ourselves serving. It takes a fair bit of self checking to make sure we aren’t sliding into a shopping experience but are instead, really letting the Holy Spirit lead. We are searching and we are praying.
I shared a news article with PRCow about how faith and church is in serious decline in America. Two viewpoints were shared, out of many more I’m sure, but they have good points. Here are my reasons for why I think faith is declining:
- Spiritual teaching of Biblical truth has been so watered down, made politically correct and as inoffensive as possible that it offers nothing, not even conviction, for people to be transformed. And you don’t need organized religion remain as you were…so why believe?
- Other teaching falsely promises that everything will get easier/better with Jesus but when life gets harder instead Jesus seems like a liar.
- “Christianity” has become a culture rather than a relationship with Christ. It’s like how some identify themselves as Jewish but do not actually practice or believe in their faith.
- “Christian” also seems to be an indicator of what political bent you are rather than to mean Jesus is your only Lord and Savior.
- “Christian” is also most strongly associated with negative sounding terms like “anti-homosexual” or “anti-abortion”…and not much else. It’s hard to say what Christians stand FOR because you only ever hear of what they stand against. (Another post for another time.)
- “Christians” also get a lot of negative press…usually related to crazies who carry out heinous activities “in the name of Christ”…or related to hateful, mean-spirited, unloving, ungracious, miserly people who call themselves “Christians”. And so all Christians get painted with the same broad brush.
- And then there’s the “because the Bible says so” types who really haven’t even read/studied the Bible or given their faith any critical thought. Their speech and actions reveal their faith is not much more than mere superstition. Or worse, they use faith in their own self-serving agendas.
- God or religion is seen as a crutch. In a nation of incredible wealth (compared to the developing world), we have no need for God when we’ve got our bank accounts, university degrees and social assistance.
The “Christian” brand is pretty unattractive isn’t it?
Though at the same time, it’s supposed to be unattractive. C.S. Lewis said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” The hollow “health and wealth” promises of some preachers do not line up with Jesus calling His disciples to “take up their cross daily”. He never tried to make His message appealing to His listeners…which is why they opted to crucify Him in the end.
(I know nothing is sounding appealing about the Christian faith at all…but this is just one side of the story. There’s more for another post at another time.)
I’ve always known this in my head…that in the end, more reject than accept Him. It’s just sad to see it happen. Sad to know in my heart this is the reality of things. But Jesus knew.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” said Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14
“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” ―Revelations 3:16
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” ―Matthew 7:21-23
What’s scary is that these verses aren’t necessarily about the separation between believers and nonbelievers…rather, there will be a great sorting of those who have a transformational relationship with Christ and those who just brandished His name like a good luck charm or prestigious social club card. My responsibility is to draw near to Him in relationship and live in a way that will draw others to Him as well. I pray I do Him proud.