Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 7

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE removed from the category of human, so that the discoverer could only be Europeans. But if we look at the rationale of the decision, it says, “The tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages whose occupation was war and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country was to leave this country a wilderness.”2 So, essentially the rationale here was that, because Native peoples could not work the land, they were essentially not human. The ability to work becomes the thing that divides the human from the non-human. There were those whose work did not count, not just Native peoples but for instance black peoples—the work of slaves was not considered real work; it could not serve to actually acquire property; hence, black peoples could not belong to the category of human. And so with Native peoples: whatever they did would never be considered work, and hence they could not have the status of human. Now, it’s interesting, if you look at the status of Native peoples, you find that it’s often equated with the status of people with disabilities. For instance, in Lowe v. US, the Kickapoo had wanted to move to Mexico, and the Supreme Court said that Native peoples were not allowed to leave the country without permission of the United States. And the rationale was that the legal status of the Native peoples was “under disability.” Now, when you think about how much this contrasts with how Jesus describes the value of humanity . . . Matthew 6 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt 6:26abc NIV). “See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Mt 6:28bc–29 NIV). So what you see here in these passages is the opposite position. One, you don’t see this radical distinction between the human and the non-human. The non-human is equally valued. God loves the flowers. God loves the birds of the air. God loves all of creation. But, in addition, what’s noted is that they’re not loved because of the work they do or what they do. They do not labor. They do not spin. But that’s still considered splendorous and wonderful. Their inherent value is what makes them valuable. People are valued; all of creation is valued for what it is. It doesn’t have to work or do something to have value, which is a requirement under colonialism: you have to work to acquire the status of human and hence the status of value. So, we see already in colonialism an antagonistic relationship with what Jesus proposes is how God actually sees us. 2. Johnson v. M’Intosh, 21 US (8 Wheat. 543) (1823). 6