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Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way

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One of Seedbed's 10 Notable Books from 2015

The gospel of Jesus has not always been good news for Native Americans. The history of North America is marred by atrocities committed against Native peoples. Indigenous cultures were erased in the name of Christianity. As a result, to this day few Native Americans are followers of Jesus. However, despite the far-reaching effects of colonialism, some Natives have forged culturally authentic ways to follow the way of Jesus. In his final work, Richard Twiss provides a contextualized Indigenous expression of the Christian faith among the Native communities of North America. He surveys the painful, complicated history of Christian missions among Indigenous peoples and chronicles more hopeful visions of culturally contextual Native Christian faith. For Twiss, contextualization is not merely a formula or evangelistic strategy, but rather a relational process of theological and cultural reflection within a local community. Native leaders reframe the gospel narrative in light of post-colonization, reincorporating traditional practices and rituals while critiquing and correcting the assumptions of American Christian mythologies. Twiss gives voice to the stories of Native followers of Jesus, with perspectives on theology and spirituality plus concrete models for intercultural ministry. Future generations of Native followers of Jesus, and those working crossculturally with them, will be indebted to this work.

272 pages, Paperback

Published June 9, 2015

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Richard Twiss

17 books14 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews
Profile Image for James.
1,493 reviews105 followers
July 18, 2015
The atrocities committed against Native Americans are well documented. What makes the story even more tragic is the way Christian mission was wrapped up in the story of western colonialism. The missionaries told the Indigenous peoples about Jesus; yet they also demeaned and destroyed native cultures. The city I live in Florida (Safety Harbor) is the site of early mission efforts and where the first missionary was martyred (Luis Cancer de Barbrasto). He died trying to reach a people group that no longer exists (the Tocobaga people). Many Native peoples were forced to live on reservations, had their land and livelihood taken from them. Others were treated cruelly or killed by an allegedly Christian dominant culture.

In Rescuing the Gospel From the Cowboys: A Native Expression of the Jesus Way, Richard Twiss (1954-2013) unfolds a vision of Christian Mission among Native Peoples which honors their culture, traditions and sacred symbols. Twiss was a cofounder of Evangelicals for Justice and NAIITS (North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies) and the founder of Wiconi International (a Christian ministry among First Nations). Twiss was a Sicangu Lakota. When he came to faith in Jesus, he left his tribal practices, only recapturing it later. For the last twenty years of his life, his project was the contextualization and decolonization of the Christian gospel for indigenous peoples.

Twiss begins with an affirmation. " There is only one Creator of heaven and earth. There are not "many" creators. Just one! All of human and non-human creation comes from this One creator" (17). As a Christian, Twiss upholds a biblical understanding of God but sought to follow Jesus in a manner that honored his native culture. This is not without challenges, as many conservative evangelicals see Native cultural practices as vestiges of pre-Christian paganism. Twiss writes, "For us First Nations people. following Creator-Jesus within our indigenous cultural ways without submitting to the hegemonic cultural assumptions of today's conservative evangelicals is tough" (17).

In his first chapter, Twiss explores the nature of his gospel contextualization, distinguishing it from mere syncretism (and pointing how the American missionary endeavor, and American culutre in general is also a counteractive syncretism). Twiss participates in pow-wows, sweat lodge ceremonies, and prays while burning sage and sweet grass. As a Christian, Twiss's understanding of the meaning of these rituals is somewhat modified from their traditional place, but he still sees it as a big part of his cultural identity as a Christian.

In chapter two, Twiss tells the sorid history of the effects of colonization on the Christian mission to the First Nations. Unfortunately the missionaries came to save souls but didn't see any redemptive aspects to Native culture. Their cultural superiority caused them to enact a strategy of training 'the Indian' out of converts. The movement of decolonization that Twiss and others are apart of, is a recovery of the Native identity they were taught to leave behind. In chapter three, Twiss tells his own story, and the stories of Christian, native friends who have recovered native practices and rituals. This is not a repudiation of their Christian faith, but something each of them has sought prayerfully, carefully, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Chapter four tells of the various movements and expressions of Christian-Native contextualization. Chapter s five and six describe the growing movement towards contexualization among Native Christians and some ongoing challenges.

A dozen years ago I had a conversation with Craig Smith, conservative native pastor and author who does not endorse Twiss's project (Twiss discusses his work in the book). One of Smith's concerns was that in practicing Native rites, Native Christians were falling back into animistic religion and Idolatry. He drew a parallel with the idolatry in the temple described in Ezekiel 8. As an outsider (non-native, anglo-Christian) I respect Smith's concern and I think there is a need for discernment. However I think Twiss is right to observe that many of the 'Christian' rituals were an appropriation of European culture and it is appropriate to look for redemptive metaphors in each culture that points to Christ's coming. I also filtered Smith's words through my context. I lived half of my life in Hawaii where every church I knew had hulu--a practice integral to Hawaiian religion, interpreting their sacred stories, used by Christians to worship Christ in Spirit and in truth. I am not Hawaiian but have many Indigenous Hawaiian friends and have been blessed by their rediscovery of their culture and how it has informed their Christian faith. Other First Nations cultures have gifts too and the whole church will be enriched by their rediscovery of who they are in Christ.

I recommend this book especially, though not exclusively, for Indigenous Christians. I think Twiss's cultural affirming and decolonizing message is good news for Indigenous people. I read this book as a 'cowboy'--white Christian and I have no desire to have my dominant culture impede my Native brothers and sisters from coming to Christ. Twiss's vision paves the way for the rich expression of the kingdom of God where every tribe, tongue and nation are represented. I give this five stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from IVP in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Joseph Hood.
7 reviews
July 9, 2020
When I was 16, I went on a mission trip in Shawnee, Oklahoma. We were housed by an indigenous church in one of the poorest parts of the country, and the fellowship hall had a mural of the last supper that I photographed. I took the picture because it was so different; the 12 disciples around Christ were Native chieftains. At the time, I thought it was strange that such an inaccurate representation of the last supper would be up in a church. Oh how wrong I was. I had never considered the fact that the last supper portraits that I took to be true were just as "wrong," showing all white men rather than brown-skinned, middle eastern Jews.

"Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys" is Richard Twiss's grace-filled work at tearing down the white-centeredness of American Christianity in the name of the truth of the Gospel. It is primarily a theological work about contextualization, the process of framing the gospel in terms that can be accessible and understood for the people in a given culture. He demonstrates how for centuries, White American Christianity has not contextualize the Gospel.

Rather, it oppressed, often confusing and maliciously imposing white ideas of being a Christian as essentially, being white. In the name of God, the church first justified the genocide of indigenous peoples and the taking of their land as manifest destiny, or the sovereign will of God. Indian agencies, often staffed by devout Christians and Christian organizations, sought to destroy first nations culture and language in the name of making them Christians. Then, children were ripped from their parents and sent to "Residential Schools," often ran by white Christians, where again in the name of Christ children were "reeducated" to white, European beliefs. It was cultural genocide.

I have a confession. I knew about this oppression- at least in part. When I read this book, I honestly expected some kind of justification for my faith. A "Look how powerful my faith is, that despite all these egregious sins committed against them, these people still choose to believe." I wanted, in a sinful way, for this book to affirm some of the culturally white parts of my faith. That despite the wrong done by my forefathers, I was still, somehow, in the right.

Instead, I had the blessing of sitting beneath the patient, kind, wise teachings of the late Mr. Twiss. He reminded me of Gospel truths; that Christ came to earth in a Jewish society as a Jewish man who honored every Jewish custom and taught in a way that was most culturally relevant to His Jewish and gentile audiences. As Twiss wrote, "the gospel is either making sense in local contexts, producing a better quality of life for the people in every sphere of their human existence, or it is not." We have done a great harm to those whom we have tried to force our own culture upon them rather than seeking to understand and share in a context that relates to their own lived experiences.

Too often, the white church confuses Christianity with its own culture. It is my fervent hope that over time, we as a church will move away from cultural promotion and toward gospel promotion. I am thankful for the many men and women everywhere who are doing this difficult work, and pray that I can faithfully be a part of it as well. Ultimately, the church is an amalgamation of its members as the body. Christ does not ask us to come to Him as anything other than how we were created in His image. That means with our own unique and beautiful cultures as well. To those of you reading, I would encourage you to take your own full selves to God, too. He has made you as you are for a purpose to ultimately know, reflect, serve, worship and be with Him.

Over time, the church should more and more reflect the needs, cultures, and experiences of its members. To do otherwise would be to dishonor and ignore the unique image God gave to each of us, that as a whole ultimately reflects who He is. In part we are not representative of God, the white church is not God. But all of creation, one day, all "tribes and nations" as scripture tells us, will be united worshiping the one who gave us life (Revelation 7:9). Every tribe, every nation. Not a white tribe worshipping with European hymns. We must honor that in our work day to day, through the Spirit.

Twiss says this all much better than I- read his book. If you want to borrow my copy, let me know!
Profile Image for J. .
51 reviews7 followers
October 16, 2015
This is a powerful and dangerous book. Powerful because it highlights the legacy of the late Richard Twiss (and others) who worked so hard to break new ground in living out a discipleship to Jesus in the context of Native American lifeways. It's dangerous because it undercuts the assumptions and colonialism of Euro-American Christianity - calling into question the means and ways of historical missionary endeavors as they relate to indigenous peoples. In the same motion - it points a prophetic finger towards the modern church in the West calling into question our belief that we are practicing Christianity free from dominant cultural influences. I haven't finished reading this book yet but already I feel a strong call to repentance embedded in the text as the late author brings to light the pain we have inflicted and still inflict on native peoples in the name of Christianity. This book is not refuting authentic Christian faith but asking - how can Native American Christians faithfully practice "the Jesus way". This is a very dense read - but critical for all American Christians to hear.
289 reviews8 followers
January 5, 2016
This was interesting to read. I know most of the people Richard tells stories about, and knew Richard. A lot of the stories he tells I've heard before, from him or others.

I really enjoyed the imagined sweat lodge conversation in the middle. That was definitely my favorite part.

It suffers because it is so clearly an adapted dissertation, and there's so much jumping through hoops to satisfy the requirements of the program. Richard was a fascinating and brilliant man, and a great storyteller and joker (he especially loved fart jokes.). I have to think that if he had lived and been able to keep working on this manuscript,it would have been warmer, funnier, and had at least one fart joke in it.

Aa it is, I'm thankful for this book, especially as a way to introduce others to the long journey towards a fully Native way of expressing the good news of the Gospel and practicing faith.
July 17, 2015
Having known Richard and ministered together with him. I know his works are all excellent. Being a Native this work is so important. Love all of Richards works. I highly recommend this book as well.

Jerry Eaglefeather
Eagle Circle Drum Ministries
Profile Image for Stephen.
62 reviews2 followers
January 24, 2019
“It is out of this seedbed of honesty, forgiveness, and humility that an Indigenous Christianity can grow – an Indigenous Christianity that seeks the peer respect of the treaty-making native of Native people. This is a Christianity that seeks the least in its midst as having a legitimate voice. This is Christianity that listens like a brother and fights like a warrior for the vulnerable in its midst. It is a Christianity that is not afraid to laugh at itself and at the pretensions of leadership. It is a Christianity that believes we are stronger as a group and that humbly relies on others for support and correction.
The journey out of colonial abuse begins with the word “no.” No, I will no longer be a peon in your game. No, my identity is not given to me by you. No, you will not think for me and tell me how I should feel. We must embrace our history. To “do justly” we must tell our story and express all the pain of our history. You will hear our bright hopes and our painful deaths. Weep with us and sing with us. The pain will be so deep its only consolation is in our Creator. The great sin against our dignity is answered by a love that brings arrogant violence to its knees. This is the message of the blood of Jesus that speaks better things that that of Abel.”

Above is a quote from Adrian Jacobs that the book Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys rightly ends with. There are a lot of good tough things in this book, but two in particular stand out to me.
First, this books argues for the acknowledgment that God has worked in First Nation cultures all over the world long before people from Europe arrived there. (Think Amos 9:7) Instead of assuming that everything that is not Western must be evil/less than, Twiss argues for an approach that acknowledges the good found in First Nation culture, and incarnately lives out the Gospel in that culture. That can be as simple as using a traditional drum, dance, burning sweet grass, having prayer in a sweat lodge, or acknowledging new ways to look at the Theology of the Cross through the lens of the Sun Dance or as a Two Spirit Messiah. Twiss is not arguing for just a simple change in missiological approaches or methods, but instead argues for an acknowledgment that First Nation voices are an important part to the body of God that deserve not to be cut off or treated as if they really should be like another body part. This not only applies to First Nation cultures, but also to decolonizing the way of following Jesus for our world. There are some great, tough, and powerful things here.
Second, this book is an introduction, at least to me, to the diffusion of innovation. Basically, how a new idea spreads, gets traction, and then becomes the norm. Twiss in particular looks at this in regards to First Nation theology and practices, as they have begun to get more acceptance through different people and exposure. However, this idea works on a lot of different levels for a variety of things in Christian thought at the moment, and tied into that the greater shifts in culture in our world. Again, a lot of good things.

I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Mookie J.
88 reviews7 followers
December 11, 2020
The book was interesting, but not what I thought it would be. And it took a long time to read. Thought-provoking, left me longing for more, but left me longing for more.

As I started reading, it felt very scholary & heady. Then it felt more like a resource book, telling me where to go to find out information. At last, I realized it was more of a history book documenting The Native American Church attempts to decolonize and establish a contextualized Christian community.

I think I would have enjoyed having a conversation with the author, who passed before the book was published (or near publication). He appears humble, admitting to his bias and willing to engage in conversation about his conviction.

This book however didn't go into the whys of his conviction or explanation- at least not in a way i could understand clearly.

He brings up syncretism and liberalism without going into why the contextual elements they use honor God other than they felt close to Jesus.

This made me think about culture and worship. Often contextualization is used in ministry context, but he does point us to more than that- as expression of worship and identity.

Some of the contextual elements seem obvious liek using drums or langauge or dances. But I still have questions about sweat lodges and sage grass elements in worship.

Perhaps I buy into a western system too much.

But, as he mentioned that many of the main antagonists to his philosphies and tactics are other native Americans, I feel like because of my understanding of my family rejecting certain elements of Indian culture relevant.

Now, perhaps my family went too far- i think many would admit to it- but still saw it as necessary for them.
In East Asia, I asked a Tibetan believer how she could bring elements of her culture into her worship and faith and she said she couldn't because it was all tied to Buddhism. I'm not Tibetan or Buddhist so I didn't (and still don't) know the answer but encouraged her to think about it.

There needs to be a way for us to worship God in our unique cultural experiences and expressions. And yet there also needs to be recognition of other spiritual forces, of the idea of renunciation even of culture and family in order to follow Jesus. These must go hand in hand and i wish the author of this book would have gone into that more.

But that was not what this book was about.
Maybe others would appreciate this book more, and gain a lot from it. I wouldn't discourage the book or denounce it. There is a lot of good it. But it was hard for me.

I guess i like simple books and short chapters. This book doesn't have that. But if you are looking to understand history, get an overview of the native American expression of Worship, and your more intelligent than me- you may like this book more.
Profile Image for Sarah.
34 reviews14 followers
April 11, 2022
Reading theological works from various perspectives is, I think, an essential practice for Christians. It’s far too easy to find ourselves in echo chambers, reading works only from those who look and live and think exactly as we do. Over the past few years, I’ve begun reading works from BIPOC, womanist, feminist, etc, religious writers. And it’s blown my mind…

Richard Twiss’s book is an important reflection on the significance and beauty of culture, heritage, and tradition on faith; an argument that the Christian religion does not have to be divorced from tradition, art, and indigenous practices. In fact, the traditional expressions of indigenous tribes and people groups are worthy of preservation, often providing opportunities to better enter spiritual realms and contemplate the divine from alternative perspectives.

Twiss argues for a decolonized faith, one that embraces the diversity and nuances of the world rather than promoting assimilation to dominate white culture and white ways. It’s a poignant and important look at traditions like sweat lodges and pow wow dances, a reminder too that native cultures have known of and worshipped Creator for centuries. Twiss digs into the history of residential schools that stripped native children of their identities and languages and forced them to assimilate under threat of horrific abuse. These are complex and brutal histories, centuries of harm and violence far too often perpetuated in the name of missions and Christianity.

Twiss advocates for a better way forward, one that preserves heritage, language, and the arts while also following what he calls “the Jesus way.” Parts of the book are very academic and a bit hard to read (hence the 4 stars), but the message is important and vital for all believers who need to be cognizant of harm done in the name of Christ and the decolonizing we all must do in moving forward in a faith that has a storied past.
Profile Image for Tyler Brown.
245 reviews1 follower
June 23, 2022
I didn't really enjoy this book. It was an absolute labor to finish, while there were some helpful ideas scattered throughout. I found many of Dr. Twiss' ideas in need of further refinement. I entered this book convinced for the need of appropriate contextualization in cross-cultural missionary encounters and a better awareness of our own cultural baggage. Twiss' stories showed the great damage that can be done when this isn't done. His prolonged discussion of Native men seeking to encounter Creator in a sweat-lodge ceremony was very thought provoking and brought up some important nuances that I hope have nuanced my 0wn thinking on the topic.

More critically, first, I think Dr. Twiss has a distorted view of common grace and general revelation: while God is surely known, in a sense, by all people, a conversion to Christianity, in my opinion, is always a radical break with the idols of other religions. His discussion of Creator's work among the Native Americans prior to the horrors of colonization seem to deny this. Second, I longed for some distinctions to be made that would help separate definitional aspects of Christianity from Western cultural baggage. For example, in discussing indigenous worship, I really wish there had been something like the Reformed distinction between the elements of worship (Word, prayer, sacraments) and the forms and circumstances of worship. I believe pressing this distinction deep will both increase cultural fluidity while guarding the essence of uniquely Christian worship. Third, there were several points where it seemed that Twiss would summarize the Christian message as "how to live a good life" (131). If that is all Christianity is, then yes, we should expect all world religions to teach morality informed by natural law. But special revelation brings good news of grace, atonement, forgiveness, justification, and the Holy Spirit which feel missing in Twiss' understanding of the core of the message of "The Jesus Way."
Profile Image for Adam Shields.
1,646 reviews83 followers
January 14, 2019
Short Review: Christianity is not a culturally constrained religious experience. Both Acts and many places in the Pauline letters detail the conflict between those that wanted Gentiles to become Jewish before they become Christian and those that wanted Gentiles to become Christian without forcing them to adopt a new culture. This is a conflict that has happened repeatedly throughout Christian history.

I think one of the reasons why books like this are so important is that if we are culturally isolated we do not understand ways which our Christianity is cultural. David Platt had a quote recently (my paraphrase) that most American Christians cannot tell the difference between their christianity and their Americanism.

This is harmful for those of us in majority White culture, but it is more harmful to those that are in minority cultures. It not only creates internal conflict within the minority Christian but also harms their evangelism to their family and friends because it associates their culture with opposition to Christianity.

I think this is a book that is also very relevant to the recent John Chau controversy. Evangelism and colonialism are linked because of history and if we want to sort out the issues we have to directly confront the history. Ignoring it is not solving the problem.

My full review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/rescuing-the-gospel-...

I really only read this once, but I can't figure out how to delete the second reading without deleting my highlights.

Profile Image for Katie.
11 reviews
March 13, 2022
I knew nothing about Indigenous Christianity before but a friend recommended it to me and I'm really glad I read it. It's pretty academic in the beginning which makes sense as it was originally Twiss' doctoral dissertation. There are some really heavy topics in the first half that I wish he would have spent a bit more time on but overall I think it's quite thorough. This book also led to some good discussions with people who asked what I was reading.
Profile Image for Caity Gill.
140 reviews
December 26, 2020
Written in a very academic style, almost like a textbook, so it’s not an easy read. But so informative. I see many themes in this book that I have seen elsewhere in the church. The fear of being liberal or unbiblical leading to major rejection and hurt of many people. Also, the effects of hundreds of years of injustice still being very much felt today.
Profile Image for Jonathan Puddle.
Author 4 books24 followers
October 12, 2020
Incredibly helpful and insightful unpacking of the history of Indigenous Christian experience and challenges, and a hopeful vision of the future. Also simply contains some absolutely brilliant theology in its own right. Highly recommended reading.
Profile Image for Elicia.
415 reviews7 followers
January 18, 2022
I learned so much about contextualization, honoring Native traditions and practices and Creator/Jesus.

At times my eyes would glaze over a bit as the list of who was at which conference was recited over and over agin, while I think that information is important, but was when I would skim.
Profile Image for Victoria.
123 reviews29 followers
December 14, 2022
This rating is not really for the content, which I found very interesting, but more for the format. This is actually a published dissertation, and reads accordingly. Sometimes this book just becomes a laundry list of people, places and things. It also becomes repetitive in a very -am-proving-my-thesis kind of way. However I did really enjoy learning more about the Native American Christian experience and the conflicts therein.
Profile Image for Megan.
23 reviews2 followers
July 22, 2020
I took a star off because it read like a theology textbook and I wish he could have dumbed it down for the working class (me) but that is the only complaint I have to make of it
Profile Image for Patrick Shuman.
61 reviews1 follower
February 16, 2023
Great perspective shifter, especially for someone like me who has had limited interactions with Native Americans
Profile Image for Spencer.
144 reviews21 followers
September 13, 2018
I needed to read this book. I think every Christian in North America needs to read this book.

Twiss offers an account of what Native North American Christianity looks like when Native individuals and communities are at liberty to follow Christ using the resources of their culture.

The book has many facets to this. One part charts the theology of colonialism that caused Europeans to demonize and subjugate Native North Americans. Sadly this theology is still all too present in our churches. I admit that I held to some of these convictions at one point. The book continues on to tell Richard Twiss's story of growing up part on reserve, part in the city, being involved with protests, and eventually finding Jesus in a time of personal darkness.

Twiss goes on to tell story after story of Native individuals finding and following Jesus, where individuals and communities pray to Christ with burning sage, powwows, sweat lodges, worshiping with native music and dance. These practices have been demonized by white conservative evangelicals (he shows the emails he has received!), so, Twiss gives an extended theory of how contextualization works and why it is essential to all Christian mission. He even points out how a lot of conservative evangelicals (those often most opposed to his group), often engage in the paganism of nationalism and consumerism that native people find deeply immoral. In the remaining chapters, he catalogues the developments of this growing movement and set of organizations where Native Christians explore and celebrate their faith in Christ. Meanwhile, Twiss outlines the prospects and challenges this movement faces for the future.

For me personally, this book was eye-opening and paradigm-shifting. I have known many indigenous people of faith, but was never quite sure how to navigate their culture and faith as a pastor. I resolved to be gentle and continuously tell the story of Jesus and give them the freedom to respond as the Spirit led (I try to do that with everyone, actually). But I was uncertain what to think at times. This book gives a body of theory, practice and life experience that was kind of a lightbulb moment.

This book is a great challenge as well as an encouragement. The days are coming - and I suspect they are already here - that those rejected by establishment churches will be raised up by the Spirit moving powerfully to show us - us who live in apathy - they will show us what following Jesus actually looks like.
243 reviews2 followers
April 5, 2021
Twiss, a Native American Christian leader and founder of Wiconi International ministry, wrote this book to emphasize the importance of enculturating the Christian message to Native American culture - in contradiction to how past missionaries and pastors, in his view, have unfairly denigrated that culture.

As a Christian myself, I enthusiastically agree with him that enculturation is important. We shouldn't needlessly alienate people from the church. But, I would feel more reassured if he displayed some awareness of the dangers on the other side. He thinks that "syncretism" is an unfairly denigrated word - very well, but the concept behind it is still dangerous. Christians should preach the Gospel, not a merge of the Gospel plus some other religion. I don't see why playing drums or even burning sagegrass in church puts Twiss in danger of this, but given all the opponents he describes accusing him of syncretism... surely some of them have explained why? But Twiss doesn't interact with his opponents' explanations, which make me wonder if some of them have more basis than I'd expect. Plus, some of the things Twiss says in the book do disturb me - e.g. refusing to use pronouns for God, or describing approvingly Christians joining in a sweat-lodge ceremony led by a pagan medicine man. I can imagine defenses of these points that might reassure me, but he doesn't give them.

Perhaps he did write that better book interacting with his critics. He hints that his earlier book One Nation, Many Tribes might contain more of the theoretical foundation I'm looking for. Maybe I'll read it someday.
Profile Image for Carol Blakeman.
234 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2020
It was written as a doctoral dissertation and it mostly reads a such.

I totally agree that many early missionaries did great harm in trying to force cultural assimilation on America's native peoples. The Apostle Paul said "I have become all things to all people, that by any means I might save some." Jesus Christ came to live on this Earth as a person that looked no different than anyone else. Thus, it is the missionary's duty to learn the ways of the people, the language, the rhythm of daily life, not to force the people into the ways of the missionary.

Yet Christ himself put division between light and dark in his own culture. In any culture there will be a difference between believers and unbelievers. Old ways will be done away with and all will be made new.

What I noticed about this book was an obvious lack of Scripture. In a book about Christian living, the word of God should be foremost in our reasoning as to why something should or should not be done. I think I counted three scripture citations. There were few indirect quotes. Jesus was mentioned little except as a name, not the concepts he taught.

I got the feeling that unless a native uses his own native customs to worship the Creator, he is a sellout and is not authentic. In a philosophy that demands being true to yourself, why is one person's "true" less true than another's. To be consistent, each person must worship in a way he believes is right, and no person can say that the native that worships in a "Western" way is less than the one that incorporates the old ways.
Profile Image for Phil.
333 reviews27 followers
February 27, 2022
This is actually one of my wife's books, but I wanted to pick it up because I do think I need to diversify my theological reading. I'm glad I did because this takes an interesting approach to a critical question, that of acculturation. The perspective, of course, is an indigenous one and is taking on the heavy hand of Western conceptions of Christianity within indigenous communities. Twiss brings an abundance of experience in finding a new way to worship Christ within a specifically indigenous context, adapting such practices as drumming, singing and sweat lodges (to name a few) to a Christian one.

The main point of the book is the argument that this kind of incorporation of various indigenous practices into Christian worship is not only acceptable practice (contrary to those who argue that only the Western concepts are free of idolatry etc), but is preferential. His point that Christianity has always acculturated itself to the cultures it encounters is, for me, pretty transparently obvious- any look at Christian history such, for instance, the patristic era, will make that clear enough. However, I also recognize that the Western prejudice towards its own acculturated practices is so prevalent that the point has to be made and argued. And Twiss does that quite clearly.

This is a valuable book and, I think, an important one in order to understand what indigenous Christian spirituality contributes to the mosaic of Christian expressions.
Profile Image for Joel Wentz.
978 reviews60 followers
December 17, 2015
As someone who has lived squarely in the middle of Anglo-European expressions of Christianity, this book was quite an eye-opener. Twiss makes an impassioned and compelling case for "critical contextualized" gospel ministry to Native peoples. In theory, this seems like a no-brainer: of course Native people should be able to express their Christian faith in a way that makes cultural sense! And before reading this book, I had no idea that such a sharp debate, even within Native evangelical circles, exists around this subject.

I am inclined, and deeply saddened, to agree with Twiss' assessment that Native peoples have internalized much self-hatred for their culture, and therefore believe that to convert to Christianity is to "put away" their past (much like many new Christians in the 70s and 80s were burning their collections of rock music). Reading this work convinced me that contextualization needs to happen to meaningfully read Native peoples, and many other cultures outside of White, Western Christianity. I walked away from this book with a much higher sensitivity to this conflict, and I can definitely recommend this to anyone with interest in multicultural, multiethnic ministry strategies.
Profile Image for Mark.
202 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2021
I have a deep sympathy for Native Americans. The more I read about their history the more saddened I am but no longer surprised. This really puts an excellent (and accurate) perspective on sheer prejudice to the point of imposing drastic change to another's culture and religion. This makes an excellent point about the Puritans and the whole idea of the USA being founded as a "Christian nation". Would authentic Christianity do what was done to the Native peoples in this country? I don't think so.

In my own life, I've experienced a small taste of this (religious prejudice), some of which I endure to this day.

Very intelligently written. A bit verbose for my tastes, but is arranged in a way that is easy to navigate if you wanted to skim through sections, which is what I did, and has end of chapter summaries and blocked off passages so there's many ways one could read this and get the effect.

I know plenty of people personally and in general who would benefit from this, and if you want to know more truths about Native Americans from their personal experiences, you could too.
Profile Image for Bob Wolniak.
629 reviews8 followers
January 7, 2016
Twiss defends a contextualized indigenous ministry model, but the book is so much more. Take for example the chapter on colonization to contextualization which challenges even our understanding of progress of the Gospel in helpful ways. Not only is this provocative reading relevant to Native ministry in the US but to anyone seeking to understand racism, the spread of the gospel, Urban Indian migration, a theology of Creator and land, and the European missionary movement in the Americas. A bold, breathtaking and ultimately hopeful book which will certainly jar your understanding of the themes in a good way.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
273 reviews9 followers
December 14, 2015
This is not a "light read" by any means (the title might lead you to believe that) but if you are looking for a fully-explored treatise on the validity of contextualized worship for First Nations / indigenous Christians, you are looking at a masterpiece of theology that is accessible to laypeople, and in my humble opinion, makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Richard Twiss passed away a couple of years ago. I am not sure who is carrying on the anthologizing of leadership and advancement in all areas of this work.
Profile Image for Matt Root.
265 reviews7 followers
October 24, 2015
This was a disappointing book, far more a lay of the land of Native American Christianity than it is a "Native American Expression of the Jesus Way." Decolonizing indigenous Christianity is critically important work and I'm very glad it's being done. This book just wasn't quite what it advertised.
Profile Image for Amanda.
321 reviews18 followers
June 30, 2017
I continue to be amazed by Richard Twiss' wisdom and count myself blessed to be able to learn from him through his book. It is well worth the read. Here's a great review from the blog The Well.
Profile Image for Ruth.
Author 15 books182 followers
July 20, 2018
This book gave me lots to chew on. I hope to come back and write a more complete review within the next few weeks. For now, I'll just say that I'm glad I read it.
Author 3 books9 followers
September 19, 2022
I agreed with the author about a lot of things. The idea that what my white ancestors did was good because we "brought Christianity" is horrendous. We whitewash history and justify it with God's providence and act like atrocity is favored by him so long as we do it in his name. Our "Christian" history and founding is not what my group makes it out to be.

I also agree with the author that we use the term "syncretism" too lightly, and often in order to steamroll our white culture over other cultures. We're ethnocentric. Dancing, smoking, drumming, and creating your own songs and beats that break away from European traditional hymns is not syncretism in a way that's deviating from Christianity, while putting up your local spirit idols and images would be. But culture and compromise are two very different things that my group often conflates.

I also resonated with a lot of the stories of those who endured overbearing, controlling, and legalistic churches. It's heartbreaking that there isn't more openness and seeking of reconciliation and inclusion. So, there's really a lot I agree with. But there are two major areas where my disagreement is very strong that it keeps me from rating this book any higher.

First, it bugs me when someone like this tries to lump the idea of truth in with European culture. Maybe I just don't know enough about what this author means, but the idea of objective truth being a European idea just irks me. Now, I can agree that the evangelical and European desire for certainty is extremely problematic. Truth may exist and we may approximate that more closely on some points than others, but arrogant certainty is terrible - and this idea of the existence of objective truth is often conflated with the idea of certainty. I could also agree if what is meant is that Europeans tend to bring in Positivism or Empiricism, and that we only accept logical syllogisms and our senses as evidence. We often have little place for the mystical. I would wholeheartedly agree with that. There are other forms of coming to truth besides the ways European culture tends to accept. But at least as presented in this book, the dismissal of, or wishy-washiness of truth just irks me to no end.

Second, while I completely agree with the overuse of syncretism, one of the stories that was cast in a positive light here was doing a sweat lodge (great! do that!) with drums and native music (awesome!) where they call a bunch of spirits in to join them (what!?!?). That story indicated to me that while I don't agree with my culture's overuse of syncretism, I also don't think the author understands that there is such a thing as syncretism which contradicts with God's ways. God should change some things about us, including some things we may hold culturally dear. Yet the author seems to use a history of oppression and inculturation by outsiders to justify an "anything-goes" so long as it's got native roots.

Perhaps my criticisms are off here. My SCRIBD book skipped around a bit (and I contacted customer service) so I may have missed some important pieces, or I may be unfamiliar with the author's nuance in some of his other works. But these are my two cents for the moment.
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