Christian Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473

(Ado)ration highlights several key differences between Christian and Native religions. One of Glancy’s major preoccupations as a poet is how the visible relates to the invisible; she suggests that tribal peoples have special knowledge of the tangible world in contrast to the European emphasis on the intangible and the metaphysical. In “Ledger Book Drawing,” for example, Glancy muses over an old Native American drawing of an Indian riding into battle: The artist draws the brave riding sidesaddle because he does not understand how to draw a leg on the other, invisible side of the horse. Glancy uses the ledger book artist to exemplify how the Native religious experience does not grasp the invisible. She later uses a poem about a conquistador riding a horse to exemplify how the Europeans do not respect the material world. In “You Know the Indian,” Glancy reimagines the Indian’s first view of a white conquistador on a horse. He seems to be a six-legged creature who can dismember himself. Glancy suggests that this violent separation of human from animal is emblematic of the European world and the “binary trail” of conflicting cultural and religious perspectives that Native Americans were ever forced to walk after the encounter.

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Glancy suggests that a second, essential difference between Christian and Native traditions is in how each tradition approaches religious scripture and myth as authoritative and fixed or as fluid and infinitely variable. The history of Christianity has been marked by bloody, violent conflicts over determining whose version of Scripture or whose religious practices are the “true” ones. By contrast, in Native American spiritual systems, the idea of constant change is essential. A written and fixed text is the opposite of authoritative, for ceremonies and religious stories must be constantly told and retold, and each reimagining of a mythic tale or a spiritual narrative adapts old traditions to new understandings. If a ceremonial text cannot be reimagined, then it is a dead text and no longer provides spiritual healing. Not surprisingly, Glancy’s religious poetry features images of journeys, travels, and transformations: a road trip across the Plains states taken by the narrator, Jesus as a street tough riding a Harley-Davidson, an Indian drawing a man riding a horse, a cross that is compared to a travois, a mind that is pushed along a road, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the tracking of footprints, and Jesus giving a sermon from a rocking boat. As the titular poem “(Ado)ration” notes, the Native convert to Christianity can adapt to a new religion, for a spiritual sensibility that believes in the power of transformation can accept the “Spirit-world moving the boundaries of its yard chairs.” But when the Christian faith insists on the Eurocentric and racist belief that the Great Spirit is “white as a sky on Sunday,” it loses all validity.

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