Wednesday 17 May 2018 3:00 p.m. The Rev. Bruce Bryant-Scott – “Unsettling Theology: Beyond Genocidal Theologies”

How might we decolonize ourselves.

We need to look from a post-colonial theology. How do we get away from the imperialism of the western colonizers? The colonizers have never left. So, how do we deal with the issues of decolonizing when we are still here?

We have done good work around reconciliation, recognizing the genocide perpetrated by our ancestors. But a lot of this is being done on the surface level. We have failed to look at the theologies that got us into our genocidal behaviour.

This is not to practice “presentism” – judging the people of the past by the standards of the present.

It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habitating so closely in these schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards the final solution of our Indian Problem.
(Department of Indian Affairs Superintendent D.C. Scott to B.C. Indian Agent General Major D. McKay, DIA Archives, RG 10 series 12 April 1910).

How did we ever get to the point where it became possible for us to justify genocide? How do otherwise good people get to support genocide?

How did we as a church, with the best intentions, come to enthusiastically support Residential Schools?

What were the theologies, or theological concepts, that may have been used to justify the setting up and operation of Residential Schools?

1. The Great Commission justifies the conquest and enslavement which manifest as the Doctrine of Discover. We are going to evangelize those people “over there”. What could possibly be wrong with proclaiming the “good news of Christ”?

But, when they encountered resistance those who brought “good news” labelled anyone who resisted as “savages” and therefore felt themselves justified in pushing these “savages” off the land making space for the land to be populated by “civilized believers.”

2. God wants us to tame and develop the wilderness. God’s plan is for people to domesticate wild spaces and everything in those spaces that they have come to occupy.

3. We are struggling with Evil. Indigenous people are the “other” who threaten us. Any moves against them are justified.

4. Christianity is the highest form of religion. At the end of the 19c. a hierarchy of religions had developed with Christianity at the top and “primitive” religions at the bottom. God wants progress. The higher religion is destined to replace the lower.

5. The Gospel is best communicated in “civilized” languages. Residential schools became a tool for destroying indigenous language in an attempt to establish the only language in which it was believed the Gospel could be effectively communicated.

6. Providence – the rule of the world by Europe is God’s plan. If populations are killed off by disease, this is part of God’s plan to make room for “civilized believers”.

7. Eschatology – we need to achieve “the evangelization of the world in this generation”, so that Jesus will return or the kingdom will be established here on earth.