Lenten Services that Lament the Native American Genocide, Slavery, and Acts of Racial Injustice

For Christian churches wrestling with racial justice issues, including the churches leading role in the assimilation and genocide of Native Americans, check out the website Lenten Lamentations: Preparing to Participate in God’s Mosaic Kingdom.

The first two lenten services lament America’s twin original sins: Native American genocide and slavery. Hopefully these prayers, scripture readings, and historic reflections give leaders in Christian communities ideas for future services.

The service for the first day of Lent (March 1 this year) focused on lamenting the Doctrine of Discovery, the legal and religious justification used by European explorers to take indigenous lands and enslave indigenous peoples. (It is based on a series of Papal edicts, and continues today in U.S. law.) In fact, March 1 this year coincided with the day after the anniversary of landmark U.S. Supreme Court case McIntosh v. Johnson (1823), which made the Doctrine of Discovery a part of U.S. law.

Here is the opening prayer. (Click on the link above for the full service.)

Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.

The Day 2 of Lent service laments the slave trade.

(Thank you, Dominique Gilliard and Erina Kim-Eubanks, for creating the site and to Philip Arnold for sharing this link.)

Here is how the website describes its purpose:

During the Lenten season, a season of facing our humanity and journeying with Jesus toward the Way of the cross, this devotional is meant to be a resource for helping Christ-followers live rightly by remembering rightly. While many American Christians have engaged Lent by remembering the death of Jesus solely as an act that initiates individual salvation, we want to assert that Jesus didn’t just die. He was put to death- brutally crucified and executed by the Roman Empire for resisting the status quo and inaugurating God’s mosaic kingdom. We also acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus is always tied to the re-crucifixion of God’s people throughout history, and so we hope that elevating historic stories of injustice, resistance, and state-sanctioned violence will lead the Church into holy lament and identification with the subversive power of the cross of Christ.

Other services remember more recent acts of racial violence, notably from California. For instance,

  • Day 3 of Lent service remembers the Rodney King beating
  • Day 4 of Lent remembers Violence against people who are perceived as Muslims in Elk Grove, CA.
  • Day 5 of Lent remembers the “East L.A. Blowouts,” where in late 1967, “the Mexican American community rallied to combat the systemic injustice inherent to the East Los Angeles school system.”
  • Day 8 of Lent remembers the trumped up charges against Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked for the University of California at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was fired for allegedly mishandling classified information and the FBI tried to charge him with espionage for China. (“Lee’s arrest and treatment exposed both historic and ongoing anti-Asian sentiment within the U.S., paralleling the historic representation of Asian immigrants as a type of ‘Yellow Peril.'”)

Churches interested in replicating these services could use some prayers and scripture readings, but find more relevant local stories for exposing and “remembering rightly” racial injustices, lamenting them, and opening the possibility of healing. Locally, here are possible laments for lenten services using this format:

  • The murder of Philando Castille
  • The violence against water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • The cruelty shown during the recent immigration crackdown.
  • The stress and burden placed on the Prairie Island Indian Community when the government sited a nuclear waste storage facility right next to it.

Doctrine of Discovery Film Screening

Thursday, March 16: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code will be shown at Centennial United Methodist Church in St. Anthony Park, 2200 W Hillside Ave. It is free and open to the public. There is an optional meal at 5:30 p.m., with the film starting at 6:30 p.m. Panel follows.

For those still learning about the Doctrine of Discovery, this is a great opportunity. Filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), other members of the local Native American community, and Methodist leaders will join the post-film discussion about what this means for us today.

Click here for Doctrine of Discovery Flyer.

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