Some news of note to start your week. Respecting (and Not Respecting) Native Culture: There seemed to be several stories in recent days concerning reactions to indigenous and Native cultures. Some of these stories were positive ones, like a New York Times profile of the new Denver Art Museum’s initiative to credit individual American Indian artists, instead of simply listing the tribe it was made by. However, this newfound sense of respect hasn’t carried over into all aspects of our culture, as the ongoing discussion over the wave of criticism from conservative pundits regarding a traditional Native blessing given by Dr. Carlos Gonzales at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona shows. Last week the Indian Country Today Media Network profiled several Native voices regarding the conservative media outcry over the blessing, and today, in a follow-up report, Rob Capriccioso notes that several blogs are weaving conspiracy theories about the one pundit, Power Line’s Paul Meringoff, who did retract his insensitive comments.
Top Story: The Awl investigates allegations that millions of dollars in United States government funding to Christian NGOs, specifically Samaritan’s Purse, is being used to directly fund aggressive and shameful missions to “evangelize to and convert the trapped, weak and suffering.” “…our research into the hush-hush tag team efforts of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse found millions of USAID dollars going to Samaritan’s Purse aid stations in Haiti. Their mission: a coordinated effort by BGEA chaplains to evangelize to and convert the trapped, weak and suffering.” Reporter Abe Sauer notes that Franklin Graham (president of Samaritan’s Purse), son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, is especially fixated and obsessed with eliminating Vodou in Haiti. “…in the case of Samaritan’s Purse, whose Haiti work is being heavily funded by the taxpayer-funded USAID, it could be to “take back their country from voodoo, despair, and sin,” one of the charity’s stated goals for the “Festival of Hope.”
Frank honesty from career politicians is a rare and refreshing thing. So let us breathe in the words of Robert Bentley, the newly elected Republican governor of Alabama. ”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.
A few quick news notes and updates for you on this Tuesday. Doctor Gonzales Speaks Regarding Native Blessing: Following the wave of criticism from conservative pundits regarding a traditional Native blessing given at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona last week, Dr. Carlos Gonzales, the Pascua Yaqui Indian who gave the blessing, talks to CNS News to give some context. “I was asked by the university to give a traditional Native American blessing,” Gonzales told CNSNews.com late Thursday. “This is the type of blessing that we give at memorial services to open up a ceremony. A medicine man will do a variation of it to open up a pow-wow. It’s basically a recognition of the powers of the seven directions and how they influence human beings–and how each direction has a certain characteristic; that when you pray to that direction, you ask for the inspiration that comes from that direction.”
Gonzales noted that the blessing should not be confused with religion, that is was “more of a way of appreciating spirituality,” and the Pascua Yaqui Indians have been predominately Catholic for generations now.
Yesterday, a memorial service was held in Tucson, Arizona for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting this past Saturday. While President Obama’s speech was almost universally praised for its heartfelt honoring of those involved, and “elevating the political debate,” other aspects of the evening were not received as warmly. Most notably, there’s been a wave of criticism regarding the opening invocation by Dr. Carlos Gonzales, a Pascua Yaqui Indian and associate professor at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine.
Some critiques of Gonzales’ traditional blessing were mostly puzzled and relatively mild, like Fox News anchor Brit Hume, who described the invocation as “peculiar,” and setting a strange tone for the rest of the memorial. Certainly the mood in that auditorium suggested that the sense of mournfulness that you might have expected and sobriety you might have expected was not to be found tonight.