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Whiteman's Gospel by Craig Stephen…
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Whiteman's Gospel

by Craig Stephen Smith

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It has been over 500 years since the first Europeans came and settled in North America. While the early immigrants were from a mixture of cultures, including Spanish, English, French and Dutch, they all carried one thing in common in that they were predominantly Christian in their religious practices. As time passed and these immigrants and their descendants spread across the continent they did so at the expense of those people who were already living there, the various tribal groups of Native Americans.

The history of the past 500 years is replete with acts of injustice as these disparate cultures collided. This includes instances where the church was complicit with the government and established policies towards Native Americans. From a Christian perspective one of the side effects of this history is that even today there are many Native Americans who reject Christianity out-of-hand, viewing it as “The Whiteman’s Religion,” and considering it to have no positive value whatsoever.

Speaking into this clash of cultures in an attempt to bridge the gulf between Native Americans and the Christian message is Craig Stephen Smith, a Native American who is also a pastor, with his book, Whiteman’s Gospel (Winnipeg: Indian Life, 1998). As a Native American and raised on a reservation, Smith writes with an insider’s knowledge of both the Native culture and the Good News of the gospel. He is passionate to bridge the gap between them, having both a desire for the salvation of individual Native Americans and a desire to serve and strengthen the church.

Smith does a number of things in his book. He begins by showing how the Whiteman’s Gospel, as perceived by Native Americans, is genuinely different from a Biblically informed view of Christianity. He surveys the history of the church among Native Americans and offers a ministry model shaped by the way the church was established in Antioch. He probes the intersection of Christianity and Native American culture, showing that there are places where interaction is possible, so that becoming Christian does not imply a de facto rejection of a rich cultural heritage. And he points the Native American community as a whole towards the future, a future that he believes holds three choices.

This last chapter is perhaps the strongest of the book, as he revisits the similarities between the Israelites of the Old Testament and the modern Native Americans, showing the possibilities for the gospel to move forward in ways similar to the growth of the early church. Smith is passionate for both his Lord and Savior and the people of his cultural heritage, concluding his book with this question: “Will the Native American community be willing to put aside misconceptions about the gospel of Jesus Christ that are not based on the facts, and finally give consideration to the message of the gospel, regardless of the past methods that were wrong and shrouded the truth from us?” (153)

Overall I thought this was a good book, being of particular value for pastors, missionaries or lay people who are working with people of any differing culture. The biblical task is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. S8:19) and Smith provides wisdom for that task, wherever the place may be that God is calling you to serve may lie. ( )
  BradKautz | Apr 26, 2013 |
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