2015 Sacred Circle: Bishop Mark MacDonald on the Doctrine of Discovery

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I want to take this opportunity to say a few
words about the Doctrine of Discovery. Because even though it affects every single one of
us here, not all of us understand it because they’re big words. We think of doctrine
as something that you believe about God that something that the church teaches but, this
is a little bit different. Paul when he was writing in 2 Corinthians
talked about how, “We aren’t at war,” he said, “With human and physical things.”
He says, “We do not wage war according to human standards,” he said, “For the weapons
of our warfare are not merely human but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
He says. “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle
raised up against the knowledge of God and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
What he’s describing as strongholds are ways of thinking, patterns of thinking, habits
of thinking that hurt people. That create division between people.
The Doctrine of Discovery is one of those strongholds. It’s an idea that has been
around for quite a long time. It begins as far as we know back when a number of Europeans
discovered the land of Iceland. Because it wasn’t known to be owned by anyone
the person who discovered that land was the owner and ruler of that land.
If you discover the land it becomes yours. You can do with it whatever you want. It’s
all yours, you’re the grand poobah, the king, the queen and everything else of this
land when you discovery it. When they moved to Turtle Island they couldn’t
say that they discovered this land because there were people already here, at least not
in the way that they normally had. What they did however is that overtime they said that
this land was terra nullius, meaning it was not inhabited. While you would say, “Our
relatives, our ancestors, our elders were here. How could you say that it’s not inhabited?”
Here’s where the Doctrine of Discovery becomes evil and where it begins to hurt people. Where
it becomes a stronghold against the people of the land. They say that the people of the
land are so primitive, are so savage they actually say that … some of the early documents
say, “They are like the beast of the field or the forest.”
You can discover these people because they are so primitive, so savage that they are
better off living in your civilized way. You have the right to take their land, to take
over whatever they’re doing and to basically take control. You can discover
the people and lots of time people will think that repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery or
putting down the Doctrine of Discovery is making people feel bad for using the word
discover. What we’re really talking about is this
stronghold of ideas of hatred, of prejudice, of bad feelings. That have been put upon the
people of the land here in Turtle Island for a number of centuries.
Even though it isn’t used in courts so much anymore it is still then referred to as recently
as the last court case in BC. It was used in the 1990s, it was referred to … over
and over again they will say that the people of the land here were so primitive that they’re
better off under the rule of the people from somewhere else.
It was the Doctrine of Discovery and the ideas around it, the stronghold that lead to the
residential schools. It was said that the people were so savage and so primitive that
they would be better off being schooled and separated from their families. So this idea
was used again. We see it also in the past when indigenous
people would move into urban areas. Quite often people would say, “Well you don’t
want to have a special church because the best thing for them is to fit in and to become
like us.” That’s a Doctrine of Discovery idea. Chinese people might come and we build
a church for them. People from Africa come and we build a church for them but, when indigenous
people come we say, “Fit in to our program, be like us, act like us.”
The Doctrine of Discovery is an idea that can influence and can impact and control people’s
lives quite a bit and has done quite a bit. It’s still in people’s minds today. We
never know when we’re speaking to somebody if they’re thinking in that way or not.
Because it isn’t’ something … people don’t say, “Well now I’m thinking in
the Doctrine of Discovery.” They don’t think in that way.
When they look at an indigenous person then they say, “Well that person is primate they’ll
be better off being like me.” That’s the Doctrine of Discovery and it is one of the
strongholds of spiritual wickedness that we can see has created misery and death for centuries.
When we talk about repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery we’re talking about all the
aspects of it. The way it’s been used in law, the way it’s been used in theology,
the way it’s been used in teaching, the way it’s been used in controlling people’s
lives. Sadly also in the way that the church is organized.
We are freeing ourselves from this Doctrine, from this stronghold and entering into the
freedom of Christ that’s what this is about.


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