God’s Work?

Here is another reflection paper written for my seminar class. Enjoy, and tell me what you think!


Religion is often discussed as a tool of togetherness and gratitude. However, when one studies history, it is clear that religion has often been the key tool for manipulation, warfare, discourse, suffering, and separation. In this country, whenever religion has been used racism has not been far behind. Europeans used religion as a tactic to mold Indians into the white civilized people they were thought to have the potential to be, and religion was used to convince slaves that their abuse served God’s purpose therefore it was necessary. History clearly shows that religion was a societal weapon used to push forward a dangerous agenda.

Religion played a huge role in what Robert A. Williams calls a “midievally-derived assumption of European cultural superiority [that] justifies the diminished legal status of American Indian tribes under United States law.”  When Europeans intruded upon Indian land, the Indians were perceived as “heathens and infidels”, according to J.H. Parry. Europeans viewed Indians as savages who needed saving from themselves. Religion was used as a favor and tactic to manipulate Indians into white civilization, which would go directly against their need for the land that Europeans wanted to conquer. Robert Williams, Jr. stated that the Indians had to either accept Christian missionaries or be annihilated. However, Europeans quickly realized warfare was not the smartest route to take because Indians were extremely skillful and appeared to be quite useful for trade and helping build American civilization.

Instead of using religion as a direct source of violence, unlike slavery, it was used as a business tactic because the Indians were needed more than they were hated. The Johnson v. McIntosh opinion states that the Europeans “bestow[ed] on them civilization and Christianity, in exchange for unlimited independence.” However, it is apparent that there was a catch to that unlimited independence.  Francis Paul Prucha stated that the United States was having issues with determining the authority of the states and of the national government in managing Indian affairs, especially because they were allies of the British. However, their fear did not keep the United States from “fulfilling the responsibility that the Christian whites had to aid the savage pagans along the path toward civilization.” That “aid” included several provisions. Three that are most prevalent are protection, provision, and promotion. Protection included Indians’ rights to their land by setting up boundaries, and restricting whites from entering the area except under certain controls. Provision included punishment of crimes committed by members of one race against the other. Lastly, promotion of civilization and education among the Indians, in the hope that they might be absorbed into the general stream of American society. The overall compromise that Indians had to make was their rights to choose what happens to the land, including their right sell and use for cultural preservation. That was the silent term of the imbalanced proposition that convinced most Indians to yield to Christianity and white civilization.

In recognizing religion’s role in race relations, especially in manipulating Indians that “white is right”, I am not refuting the value that it holds. I am aware that religion is also being used to promote love and peace in today’s culture, but it is imperative that we study the use of religion as it relates to race relations. Religion was used to include American Indians into white civilization as a tactic to falsely build trust and partnership. It was also used as a direct source of terror for slaves. No matter how vast, the stain of abuse caused by the misuse of doctrine for governmental gain is still here; hence, the concepts of the “black” church and the “white church”. It is no wonder that many in today’s society are refuting religion and the concept of the church by leaning more towards spiritual awareness and using their relationship with self as the compass to heal generational wounds and social division.

Chasity MatthewsComment