[forthright] Navajo Nation / Gold Prison Bars

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 17:20:03 -0300
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COLUMN: Up for the Task

Navajo Nation
by Paul Goddard

   "I am amused to see from my window here
   how busily man has divided and staked off
   his domain. God must smile at his puny
   fences running hither and thither
   everywhere over the land."
                       --Henry David Thoreau

The Navajo Reservation (Dine' Bike'yah) covers
27,000 square miles of Arizona, New Mexico, and
Utah. With a population of more than 250,000, it
is home to the largest indigenous group of people
in the United States. Despite their disinterest in
a centralized government, the U.S. asserts plenary
control over the reservation.

This control started in 1871, when Congress
abolished the practice of treating indigenous
tribes as sovereign nations. Sixteen years later
this practice was strengthened by the Dawes
Severalty Act. The intent of this action was to
assimilate all "Indians" into the white culture.
This was done by banning polygamy, imposing limits
on men's hair, sending native children to boarding
schools, and dissolving tribal ownership of the
land. Once these goals were accomplished, an
allotment of one-hundred-sixty acres was given to
the head of a family unit, thus making the adult
owner a citizen of the United States. The
remaining seventy-five million acres of tribal
land was then released to white settlement.

This treatment was so draconian that the Dawes Act
was repealed in 1934 by the Indian Reorganization
Act. This legislation allowed the unsettled land
to revert back to the tribes, thus revoking the
previous provisions. Its design was to improve
conditions on the reservations and seventy percent
of the tribes welcomed it. Despite the benefit of
this reform, the Navajos rejected it. In doing so,
they proclaimed their self-determination and
cultural autonomy, declaring that they were a
nation within a nation.

Long ago near the trees of Mamre at Hebron, west
of the Jordan River, there lived a 99-year-old man
called Abram [exalted father]. God spoke to Abram,
and he made a promise, "No longer will you be
called Abram; your name will be Abraham [father of
many], for I have made you a father of many
nations (Genesis 17:1-8)." Years later, while
Abraham's grandson was in Egypt, the promise
became flesh, as the family developed into a great
nation (Exodus 1:1-7). It continued to grow and in
the fullness of time, it produced Jesus, the
Messiah (Matthew 1:1-7).

After the Messiah's death and resurrection, he
commanded some of the family to share the story
(Matthew 28:16-20). With this story of hope many
have been adopted into the family (Ephesians 1:3-
10), and it has become a great nation without
boundaries (Acts 2:1-12; Revelation 7:9-12). It is
indeed a nation within nations. Shall we continue
to share the family's story? Christian, are you up
for the task?

"May we be a shining light to the nations,
A shining light to the peoples of the earth;
Till the whole world sees the glory of Your name;
May Your pure light shine thru us!"
--Chris Christensen

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COLUMN: Heavenly Connections

Gold Prison Bars
by Tim Hall

The world recently rejoiced when two miners in
Australia were freed from the gold mine in which
they had been trapped for two weeks. One man had
died in the accident, and there had been little
hope of rescuing the others. Through determined
and creative efforts, however, the two survivors
were able to walk from their prison on their own
strength.

Some might have flippantly reflected on the
ordeal: "What a way to go!" To be surrounded by
such enormous stores of wealth, even in its
unrefined state, is heavenly for the materially-
minded. Never mind that these men had no way to
put this gold to work. Just the possession of
riches brings happiness, many apparently think.

But is that way of thinking correct? Stories that
occasionally appear in the news reveal the lie.
Those who are fabulously wealthy are not immune
from domestic strife, addictions, crime,
depression, and suicides. The problems of the rich
may not be the same as those who are poor, but
they do have problems. To be surrounded by gold
does not guarantee happiness.

Paul taught this idea. In 1 Timothy 6:9,10 he
wrote:

   "But those who desire to be rich fall into
   temptation and a snare, and into many
   foolish and harmful lusts which drown men
   in destruction and perdition. For the love
   of money is a root of all kinds of evil,
   for which some have strayed from the faith
   in their greediness, and pierced
   themselves through with many sorrows"
   (NKJV).

If this statement is true, then our cravings for
riches ("greediness") can lead to a kind of
imprisonment.

A man named Gehazi confirmed that this principle
is true. A servant of the prophet Elisha, Gehazi
saw an opportunity for personal gain. After Elisha
passed on Naaman's offer of lavish gifts, Gehazi
lied to obtain the gifts for himself. His lies,
however, didn't deceive the man of God, and Elisha
pronounced upon him a curse of leprosy for the
remainder of his days. Gehazi, through his
greediness, pierced himself through with many
sorrows. The gold he gained became prison bars.

Then what, if anything, can lead to the happiness
we all desire? Paul addressed that question in the
passage noted above: "Now godliness with
contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6). Great
gain doesn't come through wealth, Paul argued. It
comes by being godly and by learning to be content
with whatever our heavenly Father sees fit to give
us.

Those two men in Australia are blessed to have
escaped their prison. How many more of their
contemporaries, though, will never realize their
imprisonment? Thankfully God offers rescue for all
who see their endangered situation and cry out to
him for help!

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