The bright, hot desert sun bore down on me as we toured the top of the mesa where the Acomapeople have lived since the 1100s. As uncomfortable as the heat was, it was the deep ancestral shame I felt that caused my discomfort. My people, European Americans conquered the North American continent, killing and enslaving the people who already lived here. Worse, my people, those calling themselves Christians, often did so in the name of the Jewish prophet from Galilee. I am deeply ashamed of what my European ancestors have done, especially in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the early 1600s, in the name of the church, in Christ’s name, Friar Juan Ramirez enslaved the native peoples of the Acoma tribe in present day New Mexico to build a mission church on top of the mesa on which they lived. This meant the hauling of timber thirty miles in the desert and up the steep sides of the 367 foot mesa. Because there is no soil cover on top of the mesa, it also meant hauling sand, soil, and other building material up to the top. Many people died. In the name of Christ.
Is it any wonder that the kingdom of God on earth seems so elusive? The church, people who call themselves Christians, have a long history of heinous acts in the name of Christ. As a follower of Jesus, I hereby confess my ancestral sins and accept the shame. It is right to feel shame for actions such as those of Friar Ramirez.
While I know that the Divine offers me undeserved forgiveness, the shame remains as a reminder, that sin and evil are real. The shame remains as a reminder that I must guard against my own greeds, against my own arrogance in a world of many paths to the Divine. I seek guidance from the Holy Spirit that I might speak and act in ways that bring about justice and love in a fractured world.
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27 NRSV
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6: 8 NRSV