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Arguing the Doctrine of Discovery’s Impact on LGBTQI Folk

In Doctrine of Discovery, Peace & Justice, Theology on May 7, 2017 at 10:00 am

During this last decade, the Doctrine of Discovery has become the underpinning on which to build an understanding of Indigenous history and modern reality.  Long in the coming—Vine Deloria Jr spoke to the need of academics and theologians to engage the Doctrine of Discovery nearly 50 years ago—the Doctrine of Discovery is a rubric to apprehend past genocidal practices and current Indigenous tragedy.

The full impact the Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) on the worlds Indigenous people is complex.  However, when it comes to the United States and Canada, the DoD caused a spectrum of hurt which effects Indigenous and non-indigenous people alike.  Recognizing the DoD impacts non-indigenous people raises the complexity of the DoD and alters the conversation.

While it is important to have a conversation on how the DoD has and does impact non-indigenous people in the United States (US) and Canada, it is equally important to say no group has known DoD caused hurt to the extent of Indigenous peoples.  Recognizing that reality is important to say when exploring DoD inflicted hurt upon non-indigenous people because some folk prefer to find arguments that might allow a community to ignore and forget past atrocities.  Developing such amnesia weakens and conceals the impact of the DoD in today’s context and ignores any though of Indigenous racism.  One such path toward forgetfulness is to create a construct where the DoD damages White non-indigenous people to the same extent of Indigenous peoples.  Therefore, it needs saying that while this writing explores the DoD’s damage to a community of people who are both Indigenous and non-indigenous, it is equally important to remember the genocidal impact inflicted by the DoD on the Indigenous people of the Americas is like nothing else.

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Similar to how the Doctrine of Discovery developed US racism, so is it the foundation on which homophobic mindsets—policies and laws—were constructed against Native and non-native LGBTQI folk of the Americas.  Recognizing homophobia plays out a little different in each region of the Americas, this writing focuses on its advancement in the early US.  The core of this proposal is when US homophobia is stripped bare, the remaining causation is the Doctrine of Discovery.

A simple explanation as to how the Doctrine of Discovery caused LGBTQI suffering in the United States is recognizing it influenced the development of 18th century US laws and legislation to benefit a specific ruling class.  That class in simple terms were white, free, Christian, landowning men.  The 18th century assumption was those men were (at least publically) heterosexual.  To appreciate this premise, it is important to consider Christendom’s colonization efforts leading up to the American Revolution and the first 100 years afterward.

As a Christian construct the Doctrine of Discovery is birthed in Christendom Europe in the 15th century.  Developed in a time when there is little separation between Church and Empire, the ethics of the Church naturally become the DNA of the Doctrine of Discovery.  For example, Pope Nicholas V’s 1454 bull Romanus Pontifex was written on behalf of King Afonso V of Portugal.  In his bull, Nicholas V

bestow[s] suitable favors and special graces on those Catholic kings and princes, who, like athletes and intrepid champions of the Christian faith, as we know by the evidence of facts, not only restrain the savage excesses of the Saracens and of other infidels, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations.

This bull gives King Afonso V’s empire a theological tool to know non-Christian people (Saracens/Muslims specifically in this case) as savage and less than human.  Thanks to Nicholas V’s Romanus Pontifex, 15th century Christian values become entrenched in Europe’s developing colonization effort.  The question therefore, is what Christen sexual values are embedded in those 15th century colonization efforts?

During the 13th century Thomas Aquinas writes his Summa Theologica.  As part of the Summa he writes about what he calls Natural Law, we he lays out and argument that becomes the Church’s normalized view on sexual ethics by the 15th century.  In Article 1 Of The Natural Law he writes, “that the natural law is something appointed by reason.”  On that base, he argues in Article 3,

“Therefore, since the rational soul is the proper form of man, there is in every man a natural inclination to act according to reason, and this is to act according to virtue.  Consequently…all acts of virtue are prescribed by natural law.”

The leading question then is, what is virtuous?  Aquinas answers, in part, by pondering what is not virtuous and non-natural (against nature).  For Aquinas, the “proper man” is one who is rational.  That being the case, sins are those acts which go “against reason [and] are also against nature.”  Taking that thought, Aquinas amps it up by reasoning there are a special set of sins that oppose nature—nature being that which are “common to man and other animals.”  Special sin(s), Aquinas argues, is that which is “contrary to sexual intercourse (male and female), which is natural to all animals, is unisexual lust, which has received the special name of the unnatural vice.”(1)  That sin which receives the special naming of being an “unnatural vice” is the polar opposite of virtuosity.  Aquinas’ unnatural vice, unisexual lust, becomes the Christian theological argument to condemn LGBTQI folk in the next century.  By the close of the Middle Ages this unnatural vice is the homophobic sexual value of Christendom.  Therefore, as Christian empires subjugate land and peoples, and develop new communities in those “new found” landscapes, the religious, political, and business mindset is based in a homophobic sexual ethic.

As American colonies develop in the landscape that will become the United States, they create laws which reflect Aquinas’ natural law construct.  Leaders of Massachusetts, for instance, asked the protestant Rev. John Cotton to consider what essential laws might govern the colony.  Cotton writes,

Unnatural filthiness, to be punished with death, whether sodomy, which is carnal fellowship of man with man, or woman with woman, or buggery, which is carnal fellowship of man or woman with beasts or fowls. (2)

His thoughts were not enacted as written at that time, but his death penalty thoughts are reflected when the Massachusetts legislature passes An Act for the Punishment of Buggery in 1697:

For avoiding of the detestable and abominable Sin of Buggery with Mankind or beast, which is contrary to the very Light of Nature;…That the same Offence be adjudged Felony…as in Cases of Felony: And that every Man, being duly convicted of lying with Mankind, as he lieth with a Woman: and every Man or Woman, that shall have carnal Copulation with any Beast or Brute Creature, the Offender and Offenders, in either of the Cases before mentioned, shall suffer the Pains of Death, and the Beast shall be slain and burnt.(3)

 

Laws threating the death of LGBTQI people continued after the American Revolution.  Virginia, who had not yet addressed homosexuality, did so with their 1792 Revised Code saying, “sodomy was made a capital offense ‘without benefit of clergy,’ that is, carrying a mandatory death sentence.”  These death penalty laws slowly went by the wayside over the next 81 years.  South Carolina has the distinction of being the last State to do so when in 1873 State law was changed to imprisoning the LGBTQI offender for up to five years.(4)

Recognizing the Doctrine of Discovery impacts many people and landscapes does not diminish the appalling impact it has had on Indigenous Tribes and people.  Rather, understanding this complexity helps for a better understanding of how government structure too often serves a few at the expense of many.  Delving into the complexity of the Doctrine of Discovery not only allows for a better understanding of the evil played out against Indigenous people, but also allows for thorough conversations that recognize the interconnected evils of US racism, misogyny, homophobia, and Indigenous genocide.   Should such conversations be risked, then the first steps on a path to end vile hurtful structures begins.

(1) The Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Volume II, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. 1952.
(2) Homosexuals and the Death Penalty in Colonial America by Louis Crompton, Ph.D, found and accessed on 3/17/17 at http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.648.7044&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
(3) ibid.

 

The Tussle of Blankets

In Reflections, Theology on January 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

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A dozen folk journey this Tuesday to gather at water’s edge.  Each have their own “why” to stand on the Missouri River bank at the border of the Standing Rock Reservation.  Their whys are as broad as their ages—teens to seventies—walking an expanse of personal to spiritual.  As vast as those reasons are, the bedding of most are in Creational relationship.

When it comes to engaging the tussle of blankets under which Creation playfully crafts relationship and imagination, it is apparent we Church folk have failed to aspire high enough.  Rather than birthing wonder, we people of this era have segmented creation.  In that segmentation, we have separated ourselves from creational wonder in as real a way that the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson segregated people.  Unlike our (great) grandfolk at the turn of the century who knew a deer track, the turn of soil, the back of a horse, walking a mile to visit a neighbor, or the location of the countryside’s water holes, our children seldom know the taste of dirt, and afternoon of catching pollywogs, or spending a night under the stars with only a sleeping bag.  When one losses the taste of dirt or the feel of a tadpole squiggling in hand, so do they lose the imagination and the revelation that one is not alone.

To lose the earths saltiness is to know loneliness and loss of community, which only leaves the air of individualism.  Mindsets settle into believing “I am the only one who can…” and the absolute need of neighbor is relegated off to some bygone era.

Life is much easier when putting the idea of rugged individualism off to the colonial settler rather than this era.  However the rugged individual was of books and folk lore, which served the power structure of government, business, and Church well.  But seldom true.  Rather than fools of individualism, settlers were families of communities.  However, their lives might have served the wealthy and powerful, they were not wholly unlike their ancestors or the people on whose land they were occupying—these folk were far from individualistic in nature. Read the rest of this entry »

Loosing Wildness

In Doctrine of Discovery, Theology on October 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

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If you were to go back two hundred and eleven years ago last Saturday (October 22) and stand on the bank of the Columbia River at Celilo Falls, you would watch hundreds of fishing families hoop-netting the salmon fall run.  Mid-day arrives and with your kin, you sit and eat in as unending mist rises from the falls turning waters.  The sound and constant mist is a wonder, but that wonder deepens as a group of folk portage the falls—the only place needing portage on this river of Canadian birth.  Word came weeks ago about these people headed by Lewis and Clark traveling west on the river.  However, you have lived long enough now to know what you hear, what you see, and what you experience seldom are a match.

Some two hundred miles upstream from the river’s mouth, these fishers are folk of subsistence. The falls are a natural barrier to returning salmon.  As more and more arrive on their journey to mate, lay eggs, and die in their spawning streams and creeks of birth, the pools below the falls fill.  As they leap and hurdle themselves ever forward over the falls toward embodied spawning grounds men with large hoop nets stand firmly on long-ago constructed family platforms pulling salmon from the river.  Youth gather fish and carry them to women who work carving meat away from bones and hanging it to dry.  Children help where they can, but most run about and play games as children do.  The value of those fishing, gathering, fileting, or drying is the same.  The work is natural work.  Honorable work.  The righteous work of community.

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Until the 1930’s, the Columbia did not know a dam. A century and a quarter after Lewis and Clark portaged around Celilo Falls, that all changed.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fair Day

In Animals, Reflections, Theology on June 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm

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March 27, 2016

Each fall we take time off and head to the Central Washington Fair. Less than an hour from the farm, it is a great place to have a family day. There is a little something for everyone. You cannot go to the fair and not meet a neighbor or two. And we’re always sure to take any visiting friends; it is a nice way to get an overview of the farming and ranching in the county, all in one place.

If nothing else, you’ll get your daily walk in at the fair. From barns to the commercial building, we make our way from one end to the other. All the while being astonished by how gifted our county people are. Not far into the walk and it soon becomes clear folk across the county have many interests and they learn them well. A favorite of mine is the quilting barn. Quilting is something I have no interest in learning or taking up, but you have to give it to quilters. Quilts are where art, mathematics, and skill combine to expose just how wonderful and detailed our imagination is. Quilting is also one of those crafts which bring the elderly and the young together. Hanging from walls is the most carefully stitched quilt of an arthritic elder next to the first quilt of young smooth faced girl. Quilting is certainly family-neighborly art.

It isn’t a fair without visiting the canned goods barn. Just as artful as quilting it is good to know canning is making something of a comeback these days. I hope to trend continues to increase and there is some evidence of that in the barn. Bottles of pears, peaches, rhubarb, apples, strawberries, string beans, peas, and corn line one shelf after another. 4-H and FFA Youth, as you might expect, have their jams and preserves on display for folk to wonder over. Yet there are also jars from children and youth who are not in an organization. It might be conjecture, but I believe more grandparents are finding canning with their grandchildren a time to expose them to the wonders of good food and good storytelling. Whether it is prepping beans or slicing peaches or water bathing, canning is a time to tell the old stories and develop a few for tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

Bettering Structure By Stepping Back

In Reflections, Theology on April 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

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April 24, 2016

We had a busy afternoon last Sunday.  The Democrat’s came to town to work out the next level of delegates for the State and national convention.  Since we were delegates for this first round, Belinda and I figured we should show up.

I am a Hilary guy and argued on her behalf with my neighbors, for a number of reasons.  Foremost, because she is a woman.  It is a simple arguments, but one which has governed other conversations this last year.

In 2017, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will vote for a new General Minister and President (GMP)—think of the GMP of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) like the Pope for Catholics, but a much, much smaller organization.  When 2017 roles around, Disciples will have lived with their first woman (ever) for twelve years.  Moving toward the next GMP takes years and the search is on.  I find my arguments for the next GMP are the same for Clinton.

My argument begins with that calendar like poster on the wall in my second grade class.  Flowing from left to right and top to bottom were pictures of US presidents starting with George Washington.  The poster, other than with a few more presidents is the same that hung on the wall of my children’s class wall, and I assume one can be found on elementary school class walls today.  There is really only one difference between the poster on my wall and the poster today.  My day had pictures of white man after white man after white man after white man after white man, whereas today instead of ending with a white man it ends with a black man.  If Disciples had a similar church poster it would look much the same, white man, white man, white man, white man, white man, white man, ending, today, with woman. Read the rest of this entry »

Gold in Them Thar Commodes

In Reflections, Theology on March 13, 2016 at 8:00 am

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March 13, 2016

I never notice it during the summer. Well, maybe never is a little strong, but for the most part I do not. When I think of it though, how does one walk pastures and not notice it? After all, folk who know a lot more than I say that for roughly every thousand pounds of weight, a steer produces close to 9.8 tons of manure.

Let’s see now, we have roughly eight or nine thousand pounds of steers on the farm. 9.8 tons times 8 and you have…well, a lot of shit. Just imagine what must be going on with urine.

With those numbers, one would think mountains of manure would cover the farm. However, the moment manure hits the ground it begins its work of fertilizing. During irrigation season or rain season or when snow melts, cow pies break down fairly fast. The break down is best though during the growing season. This stuff is full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—combined you get roughly twenty pounds per ton of manure—and the pasture soil and plants eat this stuff up.

Recognizing that whole circle of life thing, it is nice to know the soil gives grass the will to live, the grass does the same for the steer, and the steers manure in turn enhances the wellbeing of the soil. Makes one rethink the value of shit.

Manure is more than steers, goats, and chickens though. You would think healthy humans naturally know this truth with their daily bowel movement. However, I imagine few folk living with modern bathrooms give it much thought as they push the toilet handle. Gene Logsdon gives a reminder in his book Holy Shit that this was not always the case. At one time, the worth of human manure for fertilizer was very valuable in China. So much so, that when your neighbor invited you to their home for dinner, the neighborly thing to do was to visit the bathroom before you left. Really! You can’t make this shit up! Read the rest of this entry »

The Sentient and Soulful Landscape

In Landscape, Theology on February 28, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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February 28, 2016

She was nailing it! Speaking on how the Federal and State government were dealing with an environmental issue in northern California, she told stories of her family, earth, and water. Yet, many folk in the room of predominantly non-Indian middle (more or less) class folk were not getting it.

A problem with being middle (more or less) class in the US, is to have made it out of poverty and subsistence living, folk did it by obtaining and accepting a western education. While this education has served us well in obtaining a good money-earning job, it has done a shabby job of having us maintain relationship with the spirit of the landscape.

I grew up with an Okie neighbor who told stories. Those stories kept him in relationship with folk, told much about him, and spoke to his outlook on life, land, the future, and the past. Most often peppered with words most folk would find inappropriate for children’s ears—and many adults for that matter—they were the racy stories that kept a young teenagers attention from beginning to end. From him I learned stories spoke truth and were much easier to remember later than, say, the historical dates being taught to me in school. His stories also helped me know there is life and ways of being different from my normal. Which meant later in life I heard other stories as truthful rather than fantasyful.

Another friend, a Yakama, told me stories of her and her family’s life growing up in landscape of ancient people. Her stories walked a path that before too long intersected with a rabbit trail. Not one to walk away from an adventure, her story wandered the rabbit trail, many times finding and taking another trail. Often, but not always, a trail would be found leading back to the original path. Whether the story found the original path or not, each story found its way to a natural truth needing telling. Read the rest of this entry »

Herd Teachings

In Landscape, Theology on February 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

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February 14, 2016

The mamma cow nudged her calf away as I and the dog neared. On down the fence line another yelled at her calf for hanging out near the fence. As we walked, another pushed three calves until they followed her into the field. Mid-winter walks mean most calves are birthed and on the ground learning what it means to be calf.

Being herd critters, cows teach calves how to be herd members. While cows take care of their own, they are not above nudging another’s calf into attention. Instinctively, they know the wellbeing of the herd is dependent on knowledge gained by their neighbor’s calf as well as their own. Herds survive only if they know and engage this simple principle—the wellbeing of my calf is dependent on the survival knowledge my neighbor’s calf. When this principle is not learned, the herd suffers.

Thursday morning, I arrived at the local coffeehouse—a time to catch up with folk, meet new folk, and get a little work done. A friend shared a full-page ad in the Seattle Times taken out by The Greater Good Campaign—coffeehouse mornings mean I don’t have to read every paper to get insights from the local paper, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal. The ad noted that 20,000 Washington students will not graduate high school this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Fathers-In-Law

In Chores, Landscape, Theology on January 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

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January 24, 2016

A fog storm settled in around us as we worked the rail fence. We started setting posts in the last moments of autumn hoping to beat the winter cold. We didn’t make it. The cold barreled in and uncritical chores became critical and the remaining post and railing took a seat. Those chores ended just in time for winter days who freeze nose hairs as you step out of the house.

Cattle are a curious bunch. So there we were trying to lag rails to the few posts we’d set weeks ago, with steers breathing out great buffs of fog as we worked, each settling a foot above our heads. Before you knew it, it was hard to see Belinda at the end of a sixteen-foot board. You think it an exaggeration? Well, perhaps a bit. Just the same…

I could hear Belinda’s dad scoffing at us as we worked. “Four below zero? Well, let me tell you. I was returning home from school one day when mamma stopped and picked me up. ‘Buddy,’ she said, ‘Don’t you know it is 43 below!! You’ll freeze before you ever get home.’ Four below, …hmpff.” My figures numbed inside unlined leather gloves.

My response was non-verbal, Dad has been gone for nearly three years now, “Yeah, well Bud, that’s what you Swedes and Norwegians get for choosing North Dakota when you arrived in this landscape. Some of us had the good sense to head straight to warm land, like, say, south Texas and California.” The trouble with having in your head conversations is you start countering your own arguments and it is no longer Bud but myself saying, “Oh Yeah, then why the hell are you here at the end of a board in below freezing weather? Damn!” I continued bickering with Bud and myself until the last lag screw is twisted in. We packed up the tools and took them to the shed. Then headed up to the house, the woodstove, a cup of coffee, and verbal conversation—I’m sure I will pick up the conversation with Bud another day. Read the rest of this entry »

Belief of Everything

In Poetry, Theology on January 17, 2016 at 8:00 am

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