One of my Native American friends, considered a spiritual elder among his people, said recently, "We Indigenous people have to redefine ourselves. We have lost ourselves—who we are as Native Americans, as an Ojibwa, as an Apache, as a Hopi, as a Lakota.” I agree with him and expand it even further to say that most people, regardless of race or nationality, need to find who they are first and foremost in their roots, within their points of origin. We humans need to redefine ourselves if we want to get back into divine pattern, which is diversity within the universal absolutes of the law of God—unity, coordination, harmony, love, and selflessness.
I grew up on Native American reservations, spending much of my childhood and youth on the San Carlos Apache reservation. After getting my degree, I returned to San Carlos and lived and taught there for fifteen years. I felt very much in harmony with many Apache individuals, although I was born into a very different culture as a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a WASP. Even as a child I rejected much of the WASP value system and culture.
I grew up with Native Americans, going to a one-room school house in San Carolos, where there was grades one through six with one teacher. For a while my sister and I were the only white students in class, and we struggled with certain prejudices directed towards us. However, within a month’s time we sisters no longer experienced the separation of prejudice because all of us kids—Indian and non-Indian—had become friends, together building tree-houses and forts, roaming the mesas looking for peridots, swimming in the Gila River, roller skating on the few patches of concrete available, and bicycle riding the dirt lanes that connected our neighborhoods and homes.
What a blessing, to learn at a very young age how to befriend people not of my culture, race, or religion! Within a year of intermingling with my Apache friends and their families, I felt very Apache and very much a part of their culture and religion, even though I still retained much of the foundation of my race, religion, and culture. I enjoyed many of the Apache spiritual ceremonies, with my favorite being the Sunrise Ceremony, which is the coming-out ceremony for the Apache girl when she reaches womanhood. I always wanted my daughters to have something like that. It is a very beautiful three- to four-day ceremony.
As a child, I felt a great unity with and love for the people I lived with on three different reservations—the White Mountain Apache, Tohono o’Odham, and San Carlos Apache. For three decades we of Divine Administration have been actively involved in creating understanding, respect, and unity between Indigenous peoples and non-native peoples.
Due to the technology of television and the Internet, we humans live in a global village. We know what is happening across the world and thus are aware of the conflict and disharmony that is occurring all over the planet. Numerous countries are in turmoil within their boundaries, as well as continuous conflicts going on between nations. With the sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, tensions between the more powerful nations become even more terrifying, especially when considering nuclear arms and chemical and biological warfare. What if someone gets really angry who is in the position of pushing a button that can wipe out 500,000 or 6,000,000 people, or even half of humankind? Think of the aftermath of those weapons, which remain for many years after the initial blast. It is not just a sling shot or a club or a sword anymore, and so it is very crucial that every individual work for peace and unity in their own personal lives as well as in any other way possible.
Our responsibility as ascending sons and daughters of God is to continue to make choices to become more perfected in our goodness and compassion; that is part of God's absolute law. We humans are a family, sons and daughters of the Universe Father and Universe Mother. We are loved, but too many reject that love or are totally unaware of it. Our responsibility as children of God is to create unity wherever we can. It is a heavy responsibility, and we begin by looking at our own traits that contribute to disharmony within ourselves and with others.
During one of our annual events on May 5 at Avalon Gardens, one of the Native American speakers said, "You can never take someone else's language or their culture and incorporate it into your own. That will never work". I disagree with him; his thinking is fundamentalistic. I think you can take someone else's language and aspects of their culture and have it become part of your own life. Most languages have beauty to them—beautiful concepts, beautiful sound. Most cultures have something good, something that others can benefit from. If we are operating in the Creator’s law, we want to ascend, we want to get better. Part of that evolvement is learning from other people who are very different from us. We learn something from their culture or their ways. "That would work for me. That will help me spiritually in my own personal growth." I think it is good to take that on and add it and incorporate it, and weed out those things that no longer work for us.
English, by the way, is the language that has adopted words from many languages; that's why the English language has more words than most other languages. It is on its way to becoming the language of the world. But that does not mean that all these other beautiful languages should be lost, and, unfortunately they are being lost. Currently there are about 6,800 languages that exist in the world, but only 600 of those languages have speaking populations robust enough to ensure their survival into the future. Thousands of languages are disappearing as people do not learn them, so I understand why Indigenous people want to hang on to their language, because their language defines their culture, their point of origin. It helps define who they are. And you have to go back to the root of who you are before you can expand and grow and take on more.
Gabriel of Urantia stated in his talk during that May 5 event, "Indigenous people must today use technology for their people's advantage. Some modern inventions are needed to best serve their people's needs, like in artistic and career choices, so that they can best serve their own people." When he said that, I thought of the African band, Baba Mall, which incorporates technology and instruments of European and American origin with their traditional instruments. They sing in their own language, use their traditional dress and dance, but have all of this technical equipment and instrumentation in their wonderful productions. I also thought of Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, who served as executive director of the UN's Center for Human Settlements (Habitat) and is a member of Parliament of Tanzania. She was the first African woman to run an UN agency, something not at all traditional for the role of women in her tribe, or for most African women. But she rose out of traditions in her culture that no longer contributed to the progress of individuals and of civilization and became a powerful woman who is improving urban and rural living conditions all over the world by helping women pull their families out of poverty through access to education and control over their own lands and lives.
When Jesus walked this earth, most of his people, the Jews, were very fundamentalistic and thus closed to his progressive and expanded teachings. From The URANTIA Book we are told,
By the times of Jesus the Jews had arrived at a settled concept of their origin, history, and destiny. They had built up a rigid wall of separation between themselves and the gentile world; they looked upon all gentile ways with utter contempt. They worshipped the letter of the law and indulged a form of self-righteousness based upon the false pride of descent. They had formed preconceived notions regarding the promised Messiah, and most of these expectations envisaged a Messiah who would come as a part of their national and racial history. To the Hebrews of those days Jewish theology was irrevocably settled, forever fixed.
The teachings and practices of Jesus regarding tolerance and kindness ran counter to the long-standing attitude of the Jews toward other peoples whom they considered heathen. For generations the Jews had nourished an attitude toward the outside world which made it impossible for them to accept the Master's teachings about the spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. They were unwilling to share Yahweh on equal terms with the gentiles and were likewise unwilling to accept as the Son of God one who taught such new and strange doctrines.
The scribes, the Pharisees, and the priesthood held the Jews in a terrible bondage of ritualism and legalism, a bondage far more real than that of the Roman political rule. The Jews of Jesus' time were not only held in subjugation to the law but were equally bound by the slavish demands of the traditions, which involved and invaded every domain of personal and social life. These minute regulations of conduct pursued and dominated every loyal Jew, and it is not strange that they promptly rejected one of their number who presumed to ignore their sacred traditions, and who dared to flout their long-honored regulations of social conduct. They could hardly regard with favor the teachings of one who did not hesitate to clash with dogmas which they regarded as having been ordained by Father Abraham himself. Moses had given them their law and they would not compromise. (Paper 121, Section 7, Paragraphs 1-3)
These circumstances rendered it impossible for the Jews to fulfill their divine destiny as messengers of the new gospel of religious freedom and spiritual liberty. They could not break the fetters of tradition. . . . (Ibid., Paragraph 5)
. . . And so a different people were called upon to carry an advancing theology to the world, a system of teaching embodying the philosophy of the Greeks, the law of the Romans, the morality of the Hebrews, and the gospel of personality sanctity and spiritual liberty formulated by Paul and based on the teachings of Jesus. (Ibid., Paragraph 6)
So many individuals and groups are still making the same mistake that many of Jesus' people did, thus creating and maintaining a form of superficial uniformity within their group but no genuine unity with each other or with those who are different. In Paper 195, Section 10 of The URANTIA Book are strong words about Christianity and how it has failed so far to fulfill its destiny as messengers of a religion of Jesus. In other words, so far Christianity that professes to follow Jesus has not become Jesusonian though it does contain "enough of Jesus' teachings to immortalize it."
Christianity suffers under a great handicap because it has become identified in the minds of all the world as a part of the social system, the industrial life, and the moral standards of Western civilization; and thus has Christianity unwittingly seemed to sponsor a society which staggers under the guilt of tolerating science without idealism, politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without restraint, knowledge without character, power without conscience, and industry without morality. (Ibid., Paragraph 20)
Christianity is seriously confronted with the doom embodied in one of its own slogans: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The non-Christian world will hardly capitulate to a sect-divided Christendom. The living Jesus is the only hope of a possible unification of Christianity. The true church—the Jesus sister-/brotherhood is invisible, spiritual, and is characterized by unity, not necessarily by uniformity. . . . (Ibid., Paragraph 11)
In closing I again use words from The URANTIA Book. "The great hope of Urantia [Earth] lies in the possibility of a new revelation of Jesus with a new and enlarged presentation of His saving message which would spiritually unite in loving service the numerous families of His present-day professed followers." (Paper 195, Section 10, Paragraph 16) "A new and fuller revelation of the religion of Jesus is destined to conquer an empire of materialistic secularism and to overthrow a world sway of mechanistic naturalism." (Ibid., Section 9, Paragraph 2)
Religion does need new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings. If Christianity persists in neglecting its spiritual mission while it continues to busy itself with social and material problems, the spiritual renaissance must await the coming of these new teachers of Jesus' religion who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men and women. And then will these spirit-born souls quickly supply the leadership and inspiration requisite for the social, moral, economic, and political reorganization of the world.
The modern age will refuse to accept a religion which is inconsistent with facts and out of harmony with its highest conceptions of truth, beauty, and goodness. The hour is striking for a rediscovery of the true and original foundations of present-day distorted and compromised Christianity—the real life and teachings of Jesus. (Ibid., Section 9, Paragraphs 4-5)
-Niánn Emerson Chase