I've just returned from the Navajo Nation and I'll be writing about the experience in a future post. Today, though, I'm concentrating on an experience from the Zuni Pueblo. My travel mate, Audra, and I stayed in the city of Gallup, New Mexico, while the group we worked with stayed in a house outside of Thoreau. Audra and I are high maintenance women, I guess, but the thought of staying in a house with 14 other people and sharing two bathrooms wasn't appealing to us. Because we stayed in Gallup, we were very close to the Zuni Pueblo and on Monday during the day, we headed to Zuni to check it out.
Zuni Pueblo is a very traditional place. No photographs are allowed unless you purchase a permit and you can't visit the actual Pueblo without a guide. We didn't buy the photo permit, but we did pay for the guide to take us to the Pueblo. Our guide, Sherry, was very pleasant and informative and I enjoyed meeting her and hearing about the Zuni culture and traditions.
We actually visited the Spanish Mission in the middle of the Pueblo. A mission, which is no longer used and in fact was de-consecrated many years ago. What has stuck with me about our visit to the Pueblo is the things the Catholic missionaries did to try to convert the Zuni to Christianity. I want to be very clear - I'm not bashing the Catholics because it could have been the Methodist, Baptist, or any other Christian denomination that would have tried to impose their beliefs and ideas on the Zuni in an effort to win them to Christ. In this case, it just happened to be the Catholics.
The Zuni have different beliefs, especially when it comes to entering graveyards. They don't go into areas where the dead are buried. For most of us this is something we don't understand. It may seem silly or superstitious, and that's fine for us. However, for the Zuni, it is important. They actually have a non-Zuni person who somewhat maintains the graveyard, at least this person decorates the graveyard on Memorial Day.
When the Catholic missionaries came into Zuni land and built the mission, they made the entrance to the mission in such a way that the Zuni had to march through the graveyard in order to enter the church. And this is the thing I'm so troubled by. If you're goal is to win people to Christ, why must you trample all over people's beliefs?
I don't believe like the Zuni. I don't think it matters if you walk through a graveyard. But, I'm not Zuni. I can't begin to know how God feels about these things because I'm not God. I know He isn't happy with false gods and the worshipping of false gods, but in the grand scheme of things is God displeased with the Zuni because they don't go through graveyards? And if, this is something that displeases God, don't you think He would press upon a Zuni convert's heart to move away from the superstitions that displease Him?
I think He would. I believe the Holy Spirit would inform any person of things they should and shouldn't do once they accept Christ. We, Christians, don't have to impose our rules of right and wrong on other people. If you look at the history of our nation and the way Christians have dealt with the American Indians, it's a sad and disturbing story. I, for one, feel such an enormous burden for the many lost American Indians, who may never know Christ because of the terrible things Christians have done to them. Things that had no Biblical basis whatsoever. Nowhere in the Bible will anyone find that in order to be a Christian, you must talk, dress, and live like white people. It's not there.
I realize each person is responsible for himself or herself, but white people drew a line in the sand when it came to converting the American Indians - a line that said you can't be who God made you to be and be a Christian. You must be assimilated and act like we do or you can't be truly saved. And, this unloving spirit so grossly shown to our native peoples keeps thousands and thousands of people from being able to open their hearts to the only One who can save them so they can have an eternal life where they are accepted as the beautiful people God created them to be.
I'm not a Biblical scholar, and these are just my thoughts and feelings. All I know is God created American Indians and He loves them as much as He loves any other persons He created.
The link below will take you to a website with photos of the Zuni Pueblo.
Zuni Pueblo pictures from the Zuni people