Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, April 17, 2015


What she told me--and what I never forgot--was how what she was taught affected what she was. Her parents were pure Zuni, in thought and culture and religious practice. Therefore, going to a Christian school meant she had to unlearn almost forcibly what her Christian teachers taught her.

And that was difficult. It was, in fact, traumatic, not because she had to shift priorities and allegiances (that too!), but because she simply loved her parents. Furthermore, her parents were widely acknowledged as leaders in the pueblo, important folks because they were good people. They may have worshiped in traditional ways, done the dances, run the races of her people; but they were neither impure nor immoral. They were good, good people, and every one said so, said exactly that. She was blessed to have such good parents, but the Christian school in her life made it clear--chapter and verse--that her parents, despite their goodness, were flat wrong. 

What's worse, that condemnation, no matter how sweetly communicated, had this positively eternal dimension because the perception wasn't simply for this life but for the life to come, which is to say, forever. Her teachers played the God card because God cards were, by contract and conviction, the hands they played. School intended to make the kids Christians; no one was shy about that, and there was, after all, the Devil to pay. Stakes were high. Stakes were forever.

She is Zuni and she is Christian today, but that doesn't mean that she's forgotten what her education, a half century ago, taught her. That's why she told me the story. She wanted me to know.

She was a victim of what we might call "unintended shaming." I'm sure that her teachers in that little Christian school didn't mean to make her ashamed of her parents. I'm sure, if they knew her parents, those teachers too might have understood that the whole pueblo looked up to her mom and dad as leaders. I'm sure those teachers wouldn't have held up her parents for ridicule or mocked them in any way, shape, or form.

But they did. By definition, they made it clear to her that her parents were dead wrong, dead-and-in-sin wrong. 

That was a childhood story she'd never forgotten. Today she's a grandma multiple times, but she hasn't forgotten, even though she believes in the risen Lord.

It's almost impossible to be an evangelical and not be guilty, somehow, of some measure of "unintended shaming."

All of that is not a reason not to preach the gospel--there is, after all, the Great Commission. But there is cause, great cause, for at least being thoughtful and measured about rhetoric. 

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