July 13, 2021 Editor

This entire country is haunted

Alicia Elliott: As we’re seeing more and more every day, this entire country is a real-life Indian burial ground—one that criminals parading as teachers, religious leaders and politicians took great care to cover up

By Alicia Elliott

photo above: The Mohawk Institute Residential School, referred to by former students as ‘the Mush Hole’ (Photograph by Alex Jacobs-Blum)

WN: This statement from the article highlighted below haunts me:

These acts were done on behalf of every non-Indigenous family who proudly calls themselves Canadians, because this is what its leaders deemed necessary to carve out this colonial, capitalist nation from the already occupied land it once was.

Years ago, I ceased “proudly calling myself Canadian.” I had persistently been disabused of imagining our country to be “righteous,” built, so the false narrative goes, upon “Christian” values–thought squandered in modernity–to which the “godly” of the land must call Canada back to save “our home and native land.” So as said the false narrative goes.

Our motto, finalized in 1921 along with a Coat of Arms, came about thus:

A Mari usque ad Mare comes from the Bible’s Psalm 72:8, which reads in Latin: Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae. The King James version puts it into English: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

On 29 September 1921, after viewing the final design, Joseph Pope, federal under-secretary of state at the time, wrote in his diary: “Our Arms are very handsome … everything that can be desired. The motto A Mari usque ad Mare, which is an original suggestion of my own, I regard as very appropriate.”

And “Dominion?”:

. . . the term dominion was chosen to represent Canada as a whole when the British North America Act was drafted in 1867 [the year of the birth of Canada as a nation, known as Confederation].

I bought in 1992 a T-shirt produced by my then colleague Menno Wiebe of Mennonite Central Committee Canada, that reads:

500 years ago the Americans discovered Christopher Colombus on their shores. What do you suppose they thought about that?

A few notes about the above history, and some theological context:

  • The word “dominion” is from fraught translations in Genesis 1:26 & 28 with reference to nature;  and in Psalm 72:8 with reference generally to people. In short, though tragically taken this way repeatedly over the centuries1, it should never have been taken as “domination.”We read in “Meaning of Dominion” by Ellen F. Davis, n.p. [cited 13 Jul 2021]:

    The common translation “have dominion over” is problematic, above all because “dominion” is so readily confused with “domination.” Since the Renaissance, Gen 1:26 has frequently been invoked in the West to support the project of “conquering,” “commanding,” or “enslaving” nature through scientific and technological means.Another difficulty with the common translation is that the Hebrew phrase (radah b-) includes a preposition that is in most cases not equivalent to the English preposition “over.”

    A more satisfactory translation of that crucial verse might be “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, so they may exercise skilled mastery among [or, with respect to] the fish of the sea and among the birds of the air.”  These are the same creatures that were specially blessed by God—“Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:22)—on the fifth day of creation, before humans were created.We fulfill our role in the created order only when we recognize our responsibility to help perpetuate other creatures’ fruitfulness. Although Genesis does not specify what exactly the exercise of skilled mastery entails, an important clue appears in the immediately following verses (Gen 1:29-30).

    The chapter is otherwise terse, but it goes into surprising detail as God describes the ample food available for every living being. There are grains and fruit trees for humans and herbage for the nonhuman creatures—vegan food chains in a world where no blood has yet been shed! We can infer that the human role is to live in such a way as to honor this divinely ordained, secure food supply. This is a sobering view of human “dominion,” in this age of habitat destruction and extinction, when countless species are dying off precisely because human activity has disrupted their food chains.

    In Genesis 1, radah is linked with the idea of ‘imaging God’, representing God, showing God’s characteristics, etc.

    So radah is not what we might think of as forceful, but the kind of authority that enables the ruled things to develop and open up as they should rather than that which uses them as resources for our own sakes. If God is love, then so should we be towards the rest of creation.–On the Interpretation of Four Hebrew Words: Radah, Kabash, Abad, Shamar, by Andrew Basden

    Then there is this by Christopher Brown, , Genesis 1:28, To “Subdue” and “Have Dominion Over” Creation:

    Now for the word “dominion” or “rule.”  In Hebrew this is radah.  It’s a royal word.  This is the dominating rule of a king.  But let’s pause and think of the kind of king that God desires.  The same word is used in Psalm 72, originally a coronation psalm for Solomon.  Verse 8: “May he have dominion [radah] from sea to sea . . .”  But now look at verses 12-14 to see what that dominion, that radah, looks like:

    He delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (NRSV)

    What is the kind of rule that God doesn’t want? Ezekiel 34:4 gives us an example.  In a tirade against Israel’s kings, God says through the prophet,

    “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”

    The dominion that God desires is one that protects the defenseless and gives justice to the oppressed.  Applying this to the command for humanity to exercise dominion over creation, we can see that while we rule over creation, we’re called to protect it.  As a king accepts tribute or taxes from his subjects, so too we receive a bountiful sustenance from the fruits of creation.  Yet also as a king should take care of the weak and poor in his kingdom, so too we are called to guard natural beauty, preserve endangered species of God’s creatures, and even to restore the places which we have too often ruled “with force and harshness.”

    So, in the spirit of a targum or paraphrase, here’s my take on how we should interpret Genesis 1:28: Be fruitful and have children, filling the earth with your life so that you can have power to fight against everything in it that leads to death.  Rule with care and fairness over the natural world, over the myriads of My beautiful creatures – from tropical fish to soaring eagles to dogs and cats – every creature that is a part of this living world.

So in the new creation, the second Adam (I Corinthians 15:45) picks up a basin and towel in John 13, and demonstrates just what such Edenic “dominion” actually looks like:

3Jesus knew that the Father had delivered all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was returning to God. 4So He got up from the supper, laid aside His outer garments, and wrapped a towel around His waist. 5After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that was around Him.

And we know that we in turn are also in Christ that new creation, as in II Corinthians 5:

17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.a The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Therefore, in the servant spirit of the new Adam and the new creation, we are to follow Jesus’ instructions to his immediate disciples in Mark 10:

42So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. 43But it shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Now one of our relatives dropped by recently and discussed amongst other things the horrific tragedy of Canada’s treatment of Aboriginals. She has no training in history or historiography, much less in (Canadian) Church History or Theology. This did not stop her once again–as has been her wont for decades–from making a sweeping generalized historical claim that “religion” is (almost) entirely the cause of the violence in Western history.

Alexander Pope wrote sagely:

A Little Learning

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
The eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way;
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

My relative could well learn from the wisdom of the above 18th-century poem. There is also a helpful Wikipedia article about Pope’s An Essay on Criticism. But she is not trained in reading literature either, and, to this observer, shows no obvious discerning ability. It seems that she puts on display rather a sadly oxymoronic all-knowing ignorance that “. . . from the bounded level of [her] mind/Short views [she] take[s], nor see[s] the lengths behind . . .”

Bluntly: it is a tired, discredited (though still oft-repeated) Enlightenment trope that Western Europe was hopelessly awash in religious violence, until the rise of the modern Western state that finally monopolized all legitimate violence (military, police, prison), and thereby brought an end to it, and . . .

Michel Foucault observed about the panopticon ideal: The major effect of the panopticon [is] to induce in the inmate a state of constant and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.

Wait a minute! In the 20th century (the world’s bloodiest ever!), just what was Stalin’s atheistic Russia about that saw up to 60 millions murdered; or Hitler’s atheistic Nazi Germany that murdered its millions and initiated a World War that estimates of those killed at least equal Stalin’s; or Mao’s atheistic Communist China with untold numbers killed and surveillance violence activated2 as I write that Hitler could only have dreamt about!; or; or; or; . . . . . ?

A brief essay on the sheer anti-religious arrogance of that Enlightenment cliché is: “A FIRE STRONG ENOUGH TO CONSUME THE HOUSE”: THE WARS OF RELIGION AND THE RISE OF THE STATE.

My relative never engages in discussion of any of this, however. Her academic background was in nursing. Yet she pontificates liberally about Western religious (read Christian) violence over the centuries being the ultimate scourge of the West. Sadly enough, she (her equally untrained medical doctor husband in lockstep) has very little clue about how much more complicated it is . . .

She and hubby also seem never to even think about their own moral epistemology: how they ever got their moral code in the first place–one simply unthinkable in the West without the advent of Christianity. So ironically, in the name of Jesus (all-unknowing), they actually disparage/reject Jesus and “religion.” Enter Alexander Pope (if only)!

If she would ever engage, I’d invite her to begin by reading three books, all by outstanding historians:

But while she and hubby have the intellectual capacity to understand, I’m not sure about willingness: or as the biblical prophets say repeatedly, one must have eyes and ears to see and hear. There is a related scholastic Latin saying: Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipiturWhatever is received is received according to the [willing] capacity of the receiver. Not unlike Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s comment, but in a different context:

The former apartheid cabinet member Leon Wessels was closer to the mark when he said that they had not wanted to know, for there were those who tried to alert them (No Future Without Forgiveness, p. 269).

We read in David Cayley’s Ivan Illich:

“Christianity,” Illich says, “brings something new into existence,” and this novelty was so radical3 that it took considerable time to grasp and assimilate.

This “digestion and penetration of Gospel truths [in Western Europe],” in Illich’s view, produced many glorious results as well as the perverse effects that are emphasized in his corruptio optimi pessima [the corruption of the best is the worst].4 (p. 366) The story that Christianity can simply be forgotten and forsaken has prevailed in the modern mainstream since the eighteenth century, when Christianity became a convenient scapegoat for all the ills that enlightenment promised to banish . . . Today much enlightened opinion continues to see Christianity in the same light–first as preeminently blameworthy and second as capable of being “extirpated [Voltaire to Frederick II of Prussia in 1767],” thus restoring the innocent hope proper to a liberal society, when uncorrupted by religious obscurantism and repression. Illich challenges this story and shifts discussion onto a new ground. According to him, the entire ground plan of modern society is best studied as an “extension of church history.” Voltaire and his successors only “criticize Christianity with Christianity,” in René Girard’s words.5 Illich asks for a more searching geneaology that unearths the roots of modern institutions and allows us, if only dimly, to discern John Milbank‘s “unknown future” that still awaits us in the past. [Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, p. 433] (p. 387)

I have personally felt several times vituperative anger against me in Christian circles for daring to challenge their reigning (so-thought “biblical”) retributive paradigm in response to crime.6 Those experiences are akin to the invective my relatives and others direct towards Christianity, well aware of my continued Christian commitment. It is a kind of scapegoating fundamentalism. Perhaps all forms of fundamentalism have in common a scapegoating dynamic that would do violence to–even crucify–those outside whatever set of beliefs is at play–religious or secular.

Gifted anthropologist René Girard spent a career researching and writing about scapegoating. There is much on my website about this. You may click on his name for that. Girard has inspired ongoing enormous interdisciplinary research. on his Mimetic Theory as it has come to be known. You may click on that website too: Colloquium on Violence & Religion.

And while a book by brilliant Irish literary critic Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, might be instructive, I’m not so sure about humility enough to take it in. It’s always felt like a kind of (misbegotten) superiority-complex hubris. Sigh . . . 7

I go into greater detail on all this in my post: Easter Song and Reflections on the Resurrection.

Moving on: consider this American painting done by Edward Hicks (1780 to 1849). We read:

About 1820 the Quaker minister Edward Hicks began to make paintings, enlisting his earlier training as a painter of coaches, houses, and signs to produce devotional images. Most of Hicks’s works were interpretations of Isaiah’s biblical prophecy of a peaceable kingdom, in which benign animals and trusting infants coexist in an Edenic setting.

This painting is one of about sixty by Hicks depicting the prophecy. In the background, William Penn executes his treaty with the Lenape, representing the earthly realization of a peaceable kingdom. This scene is based on a painting by Benjamin West (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; emphasis added)

Hicks built his vision on Isaiah’s (11:6) words about the Peaceable Kingdom in which benign animals, trusting infants and disparate peoples coexist in an Edenic Paradise.

The above vision could not be more at odds with the following vision, by American Painter, John Gast: “American Progress/Spirit of the West,” under an appalling Monroe doctrine of “Manifest Destiny.”8

Historian Martha A. Sandweiss, Amherst College in John Gast, American Progress, 1872, demonstrates how John Gast’s painting, which was widely disseminated as a commercial color print, conveys a range of ideas about the frontier in nineteenth-century America. She writes:

Finally, after a discussion of the larger cultural ideas embodied in this image, we move to a discussion of Frederick Jackson Turner’s celebrated 1893 essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Students quickly perceive that while Turner had a way with words, his argument was not wholly original. He distilled ideas already present in American popular thought and many of them are present in this painting, painted some two decades earlier.

As students begin to describe what they see, they quickly realize that they’re looking at a kind of historical encyclopedia of transportation technologies. The simple Indian travois precedes the covered wagon and the pony express, the overland stage and the three railroad lines. The static painting thus conveys a vivid sense of the passage of time as well as of the inevitability of technological progress. The groups of human figures, read from left to right, convey much the same idea. Indians precede Euro-American prospectors, who in turn come before the farmers and settlers. The idea of progress coming from the East to the West, and the notion that the frontier would be developed by sequential waves of people (here and in Turner’s configuration, always men) was deeply rooted in American thought.

Then, of course, there is that “beautiful and charming female,” as Crofutt described her, whose diaphanous gown somehow remains attached to her body without the aid of velcro or safety pins. On her head she bears what Crofutt called “the Star of [American] Empire.” And lest viewers still not understand her role in this vision of American destiny, he explains: “In her right hand she carries a book—common school—the emblem of education and the testimonial of our national enlightenment, while with the left hand she unfolds and stretches the slender wires of the telegraph, that are to flash intelligence throughout the land.” The Indians flee from progress, unable to adjust to the shifting tides of history. The painting hints at the past, lays out a fantastic version of an evolving present, and finally lays out a vision of the future. A static picture conveys a dynamic story.

The Indians flee from progress, unable to adjust to the shifting tides of history.–And of course, they not only fled. They were ruthlessly hunted down, slaughtered, and relocated to tiny tracts of land.9

The ideas embodied in this painting not only suggest the broad sources for Turner’s essay about the importance of the frontier in American life, they suggest that his essay reached an audience for whom these ideas were already familiar.  (Emphasis added)

  • The Coat of Arms is fully military in its meaning: representing violence to the core. And that is, I ask, notwithstanding its 800-year history, tragically, the supreme emblem by which Canada is known? A moment’s reflection on the profound militarism implied, the subjugation of peoples, the sheer brutality demonstrates a profound nation-state sickness10.

    And “Arms” became hereditary by the end of the 12th century, in England under King Richard I, during the brutal Third Crusade (1189–1192). (Coat of Arms, Wikipedia.)

    So please read–and weep, I suggest–with a sense of some historical context, the article highlighted below. For yes indeed, Canada is haunted . . .  And this history was repeated and persists in some legislation to this day, throughout the British Empire, and all colonial Western European Empires, under the utterly wicked Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.


    Alicia Elliott is a Mohawk writer and author of the award-winning book, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground.

    A mere 15-minute drive from where I now type this in Brantford, Ont., is the Mohawk Institute, one of the oldest residential schools in Canada. It’s a building whose purpose—which, in Sir John A. Macdonald’s words, was to withdraw Indigenous children “as much as possible from parental influence” so they could “acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men”—had been established for 36 more years than Canada as an independent nation had even existed. Remember this.In 2016, I went to an art and performance installation on the grounds of the Mohawk Institute, otherwise known to the hundreds of Indigenous students who were trapped within its walls over its 139 years as “the Mush Hole.” They called it such because, despite the students working on nearby farms without pay as soon as school was done, thus furnishing the staff dining table with fresh, delicious produce, the children themselves had nothing more to eat than mush. Sometimes the mush had worms crawling in it. It didn’t matter. That was what they were fed. Remember this, too.

    The art exhibit was called The Mush Hole Project. Survivors of the school acted as tour guides, leading us through the still-standing building—the places where the children bunked, the places where they were “taught.” Our tour guide was a woman from my reserve, Six Nations of the Grand River. Her daughter and granddaughter were on the tour with us. This was the first time either of them had heard their mother/grandmother speak of her experiences. She spoke in few words about the physical and emotional pain of having her language beaten out of her. Her daughter later spoke of how she and her own daughter were learning Kanien’kéha. The woman who had attended the school said nothing. It was as if, along with English, she had been taught the Christian tradition of silence. These days, I’m recognizing it’s also a Canadian tradition.As soon as the tour took us into the boiler room, I felt physically sick. My stomach dropped and my head started to hurt and I focused on the words coming from our tour guide’s mouth: that this was where many Indigenous children were taken by staff to be abused, because the sound of the boiler would better mask their screams. Don’t even bother trying to forget this.Before that moment, I had always wondered whether ghosts were real. I’d watched horror movies about angry poltergeists slamming furniture around old houses and Ouija boards whose planchettes seemed to move by themselves, spelling out otherworldly knowledge. But there, in that room, as my chest got heavy with breath that felt barricaded in my lungs, I was certain: this place was haunted. The pain those Anglican priests and teachers caused those children—many from my rez—lingered thick in the air. Like the criminals they were, the priests and teachers found the room most likely to help them hide their crimes. Remember this most of all….

    And yet, once the haunting starts, we’re not supposed to empathize with the nameless Indigenous people whose bodies were buried beneath these homes. We’re not supposed to even think of them. We’re supposed to empathize with the white families being terrorized—the very people who decided it was okay to build their lives atop Indigenous death….As we’re seeing more and more every day, this entire country is a real-life Indian burial ground—one that criminals parading as teachers, religious leaders and politicians took great care to cover up. However, unlike the nameless, often nationless Indigenous people whose deaths are used to clumsily explain hauntings in the movies, the children whose tiny bodies have been unearthed on the grounds of residential schools across the country in recent weeks had names and nations and communities. They had families who ached for their return, who asked after them and were deliberately told nothing.

    Just like those white families in horror movies, though, non-Indigenous people of Canada seem to believe they are innocent. If they don’t acknowledge the violence that’s been done historically on their behalf to Indigenous children via residential schools, if they don’t acknowledge the violence being done today to Indigenous children via the foster care system, then they can continue their lives, unencumbered by inconvenient guilt. They lean into the silence that’s expected of them, hoping that the nationalistic myth of Canada—polite, multicultural, consistently more tolerant and humanitarian than the United States—will overcome the gruesome facts of how this country was actually forged.

Please click on: This Entire Country Is Haunted

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  1. See on this discussion about the famous controversy occasioned by Christian historian Lynn White Jr.’s 1966 paper, that claimed Christianity “bears a huge burden of guilt for the devastation of nature in which the West has been engaged for centuries.”[]
  2. See: Ross Andersen‘s The Panopticon Is Already Here. However at the time of the birth of the modern penitentiary in 1790, British philosopher Jeremy Bentham imagined a panopticon whereby every prisoner at any one time could observe the imprisoned. This became the great American ideal. We read:

    The penitentiary house, built in 1790, is considered to be the first in the United States, as it was built to use individual cells and work details. The word “penitentiary” came from the Pennsylvania Quakers’ belief in penitence and self-examination as a means to salvation. This was made a new and permanent form of combating crime through the practice of solitary confinement, which was later adopted at the Eastern State Penitentiary.

    Much more, as Michel Foucault demonstrates in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and others observe, the idea of the modern penitentiary caught on like wildfire worldwide, and ushered in a whole new era of brutal social control.

    And today, by far the greatest surveillance network in the world is by the five Anglo-Saxon countries: Five Eyes (FVEY) In short, FVEY is worldwide in scope, and makes recent revelations about the Israeli NSO company’s Pegasus spyware by comparison pale into insignifance . . .[]

  3. We read in distinguished European historian Sir Larry Siedentop‘s Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (Chapter Four: “The World Turned Upside Down: Paul”–pp. 51 – 66) that,

    At the core of ancient thinking we have found the assumption of natural inequality. Whether in the domestic sphere, in public life or when contemplating the cosmos, Greeks and Romans did not see anything like a level playing field. Rather, they instinctively saw a hierarchy or pyramid.

    Different levels of social status reflected inherent differences of being. The paterfamilias, priest or citizen did not have to win or justify his status. His superior status reflected his ‘nature.’ It was self-justifying. And so entrenched was this vision of hierarchy that the processes of the physical world were also understood in terms of graduated essences and purposes–‘the music of the spheres.’ (p. 41; emphasis added)

    [The Apostle] Paul’s conception of the Christ overturns the assumption of natural inequality. Paul wagers on human equality.

    Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus amounted to the discovery of human freedom–of a moral agency potentially available to each and everyone, that is, to individuals. (p. 60, emphasis added)

    In another book, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time,

    Classicist Sarah Ruden explores the writings of the evangelist Paul in the context of his time and cultureto recover his original message of freedom and love while overturning the common—and fundamental—misconception that Paul represented a puritanical, hysterically homophobic, misogynist, or reactionary vision.

    Her training in the Classics allows her to capture the stark contrast between Paul’s Christianity and the violence, exploitation, and dehumanization permeating the Roman Empire in his era. In contrast to later distortions, the vision of Christian life Ruden finds in Paul is centered on equality before God and the need for people to love one another. Her book recaptures the moral urgency and revolutionary spirit that made Christianity such a shock to the ancient world and laid the foundation of the culture in which we live today. (The above from a description of the book found by clicking on it; emphasis added.)

    Yet I heard hubby relative once, during a long take-down of the New Testament, begin his rant about Paul with: “Paul, damn him!” . . . Hubby too had no interest in dialogue, only pontification. I would have asked, in light of the above, just what exactly about Paul’s message are you “damning”? But no question was ever invited–then or since. Indeed: Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.

    We read of Dr. Siedentop’s book:

    The roots of liberalism – belief in individual liberty, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, that equality should be the basis of a legal system and that only a representative form of government is fitting for such a society–all these, Siedentop argues, were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early church. It was the arguments of canon lawyers, theologians and philosophers from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, rather than the Renaissance, that laid the foundation for liberal democracy. There are large parts of the world where other beliefs flourish – fundamentalist Islam, which denies the equality of women and is often ambiguous about individual rights and representative institutions; quasi-capitalist China, where a form of utilitarianism enshrines state interests even at the expense of justice and liberty. Such beliefs may foster populist forms of democracy. But they are not liberal. In the face of these challenges, Siedentop urges that understanding the origins of our own liberal ideas is more than ever an important part of knowing who we are. (Emphasis added)

    Now I believe that faith is always a gift. There is no compulsion whatever to receive genuine Christian faith–else it ceases to be a gift. My relatives once seemed to have had it. To see it squandered based on a false narrative is however very sad. Our English saying for that goes: There are none so blind as they who will not see . . .[]

  4. Search David Cayley’s website for much more discussion of this.[]
  5. He also says emphatically: “Christianity” in the academy is the “last politically correct scapegoat.” (Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G., ed. (1987). Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994, p. xi) Again: “The intellectuals and other cultural elites have promoted Christianity to the role of number one scapegoat.” (I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, New York: Orbis, 2001, p. 179.) [David Cayley, The Scapegoat: René Girard’s Anthropology of Violence and Religion; see here for transcripts.][]
  6. One such story may be found here: Why I Oppose the Death Penalty: “The Talking Place: Discussing the Death Penalty” Forum on the Death Penalty, Fairbanks Alaska, March 22, 1997[]
  7. In the book review of the above, I write:

    My [relatives] ignore testimonial about this “abominable” Church like the commencement address by noted Canadian journalist Brian Stewart of the Canadian Broadcasting Commission (CBC), “On The Front Lines.” Stewart remarks:

    I’ve found there is NO movement, or force, closer to the raw truth of war, famines, crises, and the vast human predicament, than organized Christianity in Action.”; and again: “I don’t slight any of the hard work done by other religions or those wonderful secular NGO’s I’ve dealt with so much over the years… But no, so often in desperate areas it is Christian groups there first, that labor heroically during the crisis and continue on long after all the media, and the visiting celebrities have left.

    In a world violently opposed to scapegoating, Christianity has become the last acceptable scapegoat, the one institution about which nothing good ought to be said.–David Cayley in Ivan Illich, p. 404.

    My [relatives] likewise disregard any observation like columnist Barbara Kay’s (in the National Post: Befriend the Sinner, Banish the Sin):

    The Christian faith, uniquely among the world’s religions, has inspired an awesome tradition of ministering to the lepers most of us cannot bear to look at.

    That said, there is also a desperately wicked self-righteous and violent dark side to the Church, which for instance both the book and movie Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History by award-winning Christian novelist and social commentator James Carroll presents. Another instance is The Death Penalty: An Historical and Theological Survey, by Christian historian James Megivern.

    If Christians do not read and weep about such stories we are not worthy of the name.

    As said, Ivan Illich cites such as examples of corruptio optimi pessima–the corruption of the best is the worst.

    And so,

    In this way, there arises a race of super-Christians [amongst whom my relatives take their stand] who have renounced Christianity but have no basis for their fantastic hopes and their extreme sensitivity to injustice than the Gospel that they consider to be entirely superseded. This creates an extremely confusing situation, in which what Illich considers obvious, and is obvious from his point of view, is far from obvious to those who take their own good will for granted and believe themselves to be the authors of their own “values.”–Cayley, Ivan Illich, p. 404


  8. Manifest destiny was a widely held cultural belief in the 19th-century United States that American settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to manifest destiny:

    • The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
    • The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of the agrarian East
    • An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty–Manifest Destiny, Wikipedia[]
    • We read, for instance:

      The national parks are sometimes called “America’s best idea,” and there is much to recommend them. They are indeed awesome places, worthy of reverence and preservation, as Native Americans like me would be the first to tell you. But all of them were founded on land that was once ours, and many were created only after we were removed, forcibly, sometimes by an invading army and other times following a treaty we’d signed under duress. When describing the simultaneous creation of the parks and Native American reservations, the Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Black Elk noted darkly that the United States “made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller.”

      The national parks are sometimes called “America’s best idea,” and there is much to recommend them. They are indeed awesome places, worthy of reverence and preservation, as Native Americans like me would be the first to tell you. But all of them were founded on land that was once ours, and many were created only after we were removed, forcibly, sometimes by an invading army and other times following a treaty we’d signed under duress. When describing the simultaneous creation of the parks and Native American reservations, the Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Black Elk noted darkly that the United States “made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller.”–David Treuer, The Atlantic, Return the National Parks to the Tribes[]



Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.