Monday 3 August 2015

Embedded Stories and Repudiating Doctrines

One of the really important decisions we made at the Uniting Church Assembly a few week's ago was to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Now, if you are anything like I was when I first read this proposal, you are probably responding with - what? I had never heard of the Doctrine of Discovery, let alone understood why we were being asked to repudiate it.

After some reading and listening, I began to understand something of how this story came together. A papal decree by Pope Nicholas V in 1452, gave Christians permission to invade non-Christian lands, to dominate and take the people into slavery. This is just one example of how the church, in the past, has used its power to overcome indigenous peoples. This, of course, is not an isolated case. All over the world, people have used religion to justify actions which are shocking.

But why was it so important for the Uniting Church, who seeks justice for the First Peoples of our land, to repudiate this Doctrine. Well, I think it has to do with how stories can be forgotten, but are still embedded in our collective unconscious. Like many others at Assembly, I did not know about Pope Nicholas V and his papal bull. I cannot even imagine being part of such an appalling violation. The story has been passed down, however. It may not have been recorded so much in books or in oral tradition, but the attitudes are still alive in our communities.

I was so pleased that this proposal was brought to our attention. The story of oppression that has been hidden underground for so long, known only to those who experience it day after day, has been raised to my consciousness. It is not so much about a papal bull made over 500 years ago, but about the way that story has lived on in our unconscious. I have seen evidence of it in my own backyard only this week. We will continue to remain blind to these prejudices unless we have the courage to face the stories which have made our societies who they are.

Thank you to Congress for taking away the scales from my eyes!

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