Deloria, Vine, Jr. Robert C. Nelson - Essay

Robert C. Nelson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Christ Jesus' guidelines have been judged impractical because difficult to obey. The falterings of his followers have been taken as proof enough that the Sermon on the Mount is too lofty to apply to real people.

But Christianity persists, in spite of its abusers. It survives all the perilous times. The Kingdom of God is not conquered, damaged, or displaced. It is always safely within—as Jesus said it would be—within consciousness centering more on God, less on self.

Thus Vine Deloria's indictments [in "God is Red"] are not new; his alternatives are. He finds American Christians bumbling and hypocritical; cruel, inane, and rootless. Rootless. That's his key. American Christians have no spiritual unity with the land on which their religion is practiced. American Indians do. Their religions will lead the way out of empty Christian worship, he maintains….

How this reformation of the Christian in America is to be accomplished is not spelled out. Perhaps that is because Mr. Deloria is not yet sure how—or whether—to blot out what he has learned of Christianity, so that what he feels as an Indian can dominate his being.

Thus this skilled writer, practicing lawyer, forceful spokesman for American Indian rights, speaks on two levels—one philosophical, one personal.

The insights into his country's Indian religious heritage are important reading. The barbs against Christianity are misdirected and flawed.

But we cannot afford, as a nation, to overlook our roots. Nor can those who are Christians afford to overlook their follies. This book nags on both scores—not as sensitively or tellingly as it might—but well enough just the same.

Robert C. Nelson, "Christianity Is Too White in American Indian's Eyes," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1974 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), January 2, 1974, p. F7.